The number of coyote sightings in Hamilton is up from last year, according to animal services.

By this time in January of 2013, there were a total of 11 reports, while this year, the Hamilton animal services have received a total of 18 sighting reports.

“It’s all about food sources,” say Calum Burnett, supervisor at the Hamilton animal sources. “If food sources become scare they’ll become more active.”

Burnett explains that the freezing temperatures we’ve seen in the past weeks could be making harder for coyotes to find food. Coyotes normally feed on rodents and smaller animals, and with the cold weather, those animals are in hiding.

“Be responsible. Keep your dog on leashes and keep small dogs and cats inside,” Burnett warns.

With other food sources harder to find, coyotes may see small pets as a viable alternative. Putting pet food outside or improperly disposing of garbage could also likely attract coyotes.

Despite the increase in sightings this year, Burnett says what they are on the look out for is unusual behaviour.

It is actually common for people to report seeing coyotes more often in the winter because of a lack of foliage and snow on the ground, he says.

“In the winter, people are not outdoors as they used to be. Coyotes take advantage of that and come closer and become a little more bolder.”

Coyotes stay away from residential areas because of a natural fear of humans. It would be abnormal behaviour for a coyote to approach a person while walking their pet for example. This are the kinds of incidents Burnett is on the look out for.

'Be responsible. Keep your dog on leashes and keep small dogs and cats inside' - Calum Burnett, supervisor,

Hydro lines, railroad tracks, trails, wooded areas and outskirts are places coyotes like to tread.

So far, there are no reports of coyotes attacking or approaching humans or pets.