GREENWOOD, Ind. (WTHR) -- Greenwood police are warning about a dangerous predator - not targeting people, but rather their pets.
Coyote sightings and attacks have gotten so bad in Greenwood, that officers are taking new action to protect cats and dogs.
Walking through Freedom Park, terrier Max isn't afraid of much. He'll go up to and bark at about anything.
But his owner, Jon Sutton, knows there's a real danger close by.
"It does concern me. I hope they can do something about the coyotes," Sutton said.
When the sun sets, and many times even before, predators come out in Greenwood. Coyotes are attacking and killing people's pets. They've become right at home in backyards, prowling for victims.
"Coyotes have figured out that residential neighborhoods make easy hunting grounds for them," explained Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth. "Literally, coyotes are scaling a six-foot privacy fence with absolutely no effort."
The danger has grown so much in Greenwood, that police are trying a new tactic. They've posted warning flyers at veterinary clinics all across the city. Plus, they've introduced a new online mapping system on the police department's website. There's not only a place to report sightings and attacks, but also a map that tracks incidents sent in by neighbors.
Already, there are more than 60 reports pinpointed by address on the map. They're all over the city, some even near Greenwood Park Mall. Veterinarians say people are making it easy for the predators.
"As a matter of fact, we're going, 'Here's a snack, come eat it'," said Dr. Erica Himes, Academy Animal Clinic. "Yes, that's horrible, but that's the way the coyotes look at it because there's nothing bad that happens when they get an easy bite to eat. It's very important to educate people because we don't want to lose our pets to something like that."
Dr. Himes has treated several dogs injured by coyotes. She fears others, listed on posters around town as missing, could be victims, too.
That's why she's urging caution. She suggests that pet owners don't leave their dog or cat alone, especially at night, even in the backyard.
Use a flashlight and if you hear something strange, go inside.
"Definitely, if you walk out with your pet, they are deterred by that, by humans a little bit and if you see something or hear something that sounds scary, that's the time to take your pet back in," Dr. Himes said.
Police say the awareness campaign and new mapping system are a matter of public safety.
For pet owners, it's protection for the friends they love.
"We've been here two-and-a-half years and haven't spotted any coyotes yet. But hopefully never will," Sutton said.
Right now, Greenwood police are collecting the mapped data to see where the worst problem spots are in the city. They also hope by educating the public, they'll reduce the risk and ultimately the food source for coyotes, which would send them elsewhere.
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