A combination of coyote sightings and reports of missing pets have created a public safety concern for the Mobile Police Department, which offered some quick guidance for affected residents Tuesday.

According to MPD, residents in the Lainfair and Yester Oaks neighborhoods have reported sightings of coyotes in the area and on their respective properties. Others have spotted the varmints roaming the streets, backyards and ditches.

Police say there have been more than two dozen reports of missing pets in the area as well. While coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food, they have been known to take advantage of whatever is available including things like garbage, pet food and even domestic animals.

“Some of these urban coyotes have lost their natural fear of humans and are increasingly entering into the backyards of residents and killing small family pets, such as dogs and cats,” Public Safety Director James Barber said.

One resident, Katie McCarter, told police she heard one of her cats being attacked and has two others that have been missing since June. She said the cats had lived outside in her backyard since 2011, adding that one was part of her family for nine years, the other for 12.

“I am terrified for my children,” McCarter said. “My 10-month-old is smaller than a baby deer. That’s my concern now. Should I be letting my children play in my backyard?”

Although attacks on humans are relatively rare, the possibility of an attack on a child or an adult who may come into contact with a coyote cannot be ignored, according to Barber. He urged residents to keep a comfortable distance away from coyotes, which he noted are known carriers of rabies.

According to unspecified coyote studies, the footprint of coyotes has expanded drastically over the past decade. With litters up to 19 pups, coyote numbers increase every year, according to the MPD. And, because they have to feed themselves and their pups, coyotes are effective hunters.

The MPD recommended the following tips for discouraging coyotes from entering properties:

— Secure pet food (including bird feeders). If you must feed your pet outside, bring dishes in when your pet has eaten.

— Keep small pets indoors or in an enclosure at night.

— Store trash in covered, tightly-closed heavy-duty containers and place the container where it cannot be easily tipped over.

— Report coyote sightings to the City of Mobile Animal Shelter at 251-208-2800. A private wildlife control and trapping company will respond.