KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Here's a warning for the next time you decide to take a stroll.
Wildlife experts say coyotes are making their annual movements into neighborhoods like yours -- and the wild animals have been spotted on the Country Club Plaza within the past year.
It isn't that coyotes are coming to us, so much as we've gone to them. Missouri Department of Conservation biologists remind us wild animals owned areas like the Country Club Plaza before people moved in.
Coyote sightings are common during cold weather months, according to Joe DeBold, MDC urban wildlife biologist. Coyotes feed on small rodents, such as mice and squirrels, and when those critters become scarce in colder weather, coyotes look for other things to eat.
"They're out there, but it should not bring panic," DeBold said Monday.
DeBold said a coyote was spotted on the Plaza during the past summer. He recommends that owners of small dogs and cats to keep an eye on their pets when they're outdoors. Debold said it's rare for a coyote to prey on those animals, but it's not out of the question.
"We should not be extremely concerned because they are not uncommon. A lot of people see them for what they feel is the first time, and they feel that is abnormal. But it's actually not. Because they are such a nocturnal species, usually, the most of what they're doing right under our laps is at night time -- in the darkness while we're in bed sleeping. We don't actually see them until we get winters like this and they come out more prevalently," DeBold said.
Animal owners on the Plaza that FOX4 spoke with said they're not overly concerned about their pets' safety around coyotes. Country Club Plaza managers had no comment.
"People don't really have a concept what coyotes do, as far as taking the things we don't want in our homes. Mice, voles, rats, squirrels, things like that can eventually get into our homes that we don't want. That's about 80-90 percent of their diet -- small rodents with the occasional birds or rabbits," DeBold said.
DeBold also recommends that homeowners keep their trash in cans with tight lids. If a coyote doesn't see your home as a place where they can find a meal, they're less likely to come around.