STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ) – Coyote sightings are on the rise in Sterling Heights — and officials are putting out a word of caution to suburban residents.

According to authorities, the change of season may be to blame for an increase of coyotes out and about in the area in search of food, primarily in the 14 Mile/Schoennher Rd. and Dodge Park.

Sterling Heights Police lieutenant James Belmonte urges those who encounter the dog-like creatures to keep their distance.

“It’s not just coyotes, but it’s all wildlife,” he told WWJ’s Dave Ramos. “Mother Nature teaches this animals how to survive, and letting a human being walk up to them is not part of with Mother Nature usually does. So that’s a sign for you to stay away from them.”

In light of the number of recent calls to Animal Control from concerned Sterling Heights residents, city leaders on Monday posted some tips regarding this phenomenon.

In urban areas, coyotes are attracted to garbage, garden vegetables, and pet foods; so residents are urged to secure any possible food sources, put out the trash only on pickup day, and never to feed coyotes. Another good idea: Clear out wood and brush piles; they are good habitat for rats and mice and may attract coyotes.

Officials noted that coyotes will prey on unattended small dogs and cats if given the opportunity.

“We haven’t had any problems here in Sterling Heights when they’ve taken any animals that I’m aware of. By all means, they could. Coyotes are a wild animal, but they’re looking to stay away from humans as much as we’d like to stay away from them,” Belmonte said.

People are most likely to see coyotes during their breeding period, which occurs in Michigan from mid-January into March. Coyotes are active day and night; however, peaks in activity occur at sunrise and sunset.

Belmonte said Sterling Heights residents who encounter a problem with a coyote should call police or Animal Control.

Do not try to trap the animal or shoot it. Discharging firearms within the city is against the law.