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      Conservation officials issue coyote warning

      The animals resemble German shepherds and prefer open spaces such as parks and golf courses rather than dense forests.

      UPDATE: July 10, 2014, 4:55 p.m.

      Missouri conservation officials are reminding pet owners to be on the lookout for coyotes this summer.

      A Columbia woman had a close encounter with one of the wild predators.

      Melinda Odum was watering her plants with her dachshund ??Gus?? at her Columbia home on Sappington Drive when she got an unwanted visitor. A coyote wanted to make meal out of her pet.

      Odum said, ??If he would have been out here by himself, there may have been a huge problem because he would have continued to try to go after the coyote. I??m concerned that the coyote, then, would have responded.??

      The Missouri Department of Conservation reports a recent spike in calls from people in the Columbia area who have spotted roaming coyotes.

      Conservation agents said having coyotes in your neighborhood is not always a bad thing. These predators can get rid of some unwanted pests.

      Coyotes can be good neighbors because they feed on smaller animals including mice, squirrels, rabbits, moles, and groundhogs. If you don??t want their help with pest control, fear is the best tool.

      Wildlife Regional Supervisor John George said, ??If you see a coyote, make it feel unwelcomed. Throw stuff at it. Try to scare it off. Coyotes are creatures of habit. If they learn to be afraid of people, they will remember that and honor that. If they learn that they can get food from people, then they will want to be closer to people.??

      Odum said she??s more afraid of coyotes than they are afraid of her.

      Odum said, ??I was extremely scared. I thought my dachshund was going to be killed. It took me several hours to feel better and calm down. It was a stress response from being worried that he was going to get eaten, I guess.??

      There are no guaranteed ways of keeping coyotes away. Conservation agents encourage homeowners to remove bird feeders from their yards and securely cover all trash cans.

      ORIGINAL STORY:

      Missouri conservation officials are reminding pet owners to be on the lookout for coyotes this summer.

      The Missouri Department of Conservation reports a recent spike in calls to its Columbia regional office from citizens who have spotted roaming coyotes. The animals resemble German shepherds and prefer open spaces such as parks and golf courses rather than dense forests.

      Wildlife officers encourage homeowners to remove food sources from their yards and to cover all trash cans. Bird feeders should be removed at night to keep away squirrels, which in turn can attract coyotes.

      The Associated Press contributed to these stories.