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Coyotes spotted in Va. suburban neighborhoods

Wednesday - 10/16/2013, 6:37am  ET

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Officials say coyotes may be migrating from Prince William Forest Park, which is closed because of the government shutdown. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

DUMFRIES, Va. - Local national parks may be closed because of the government shutdown, but that has not prevented the coyote population from looking for food in nearby neighborhoods.

A number of coyotes have been spotted in the Dumfries, Montclair and Triangle area around the Prince William Forest Park over the last few days, according to officials.

"If you do encounter them, we encourage people to make a lot of noise to scare them off," says Prince William County police officer Jonathan Perok.

He says coyotes, which are usually spotted in the evening or early morning hours, shy away from people. But they have been known to prey on cats and small dogs.

Perok recommends pet owners keep an eye on their animals, especially if their property borders on a wooded area.

"We are still a rural community and we do have those sightings of wild animals like that," he says.

Coyotes are known to frequent the huge national park, which borders on Montclair, Dumfries and Triangle along the Route 1 corridor. Ironically, the park is closed now because of the government shutdown. There's no clear evidence why there have been so many sightings of coyotes this year.

So far, animal control officers have not had to deal with any dead dogs or cats or attacks by coyotes.

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