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Resident: Coyotes a problem

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A pack of coyotes has lurked in the shadow of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration for a few years, one Lawrenceville resident says, and the wild canines are starting to get bolder.

Sightings of coyotes have been increasing in the area just outside of downtown Lawrenceville over the last "two or three years," resident Tom Cannon said Wednesday, and have gotten particularly bad in recent weeks.

"Last week I was coming up the street in my car, and there were two on the other side of the street," said Cannon, who lives on Culver Street, on the east side of GJAC. "One had a neighborhood cat in its mouth, and the other one was literally trying to tear it apart."

"There were kids in the yard across the street. They don't need to see that."

Cannon said the area has been no stranger to coyotes over the last four years or so -- but it wasn't until last summer when "a lot of neighborhood cats disappeared" that residents really started growing concerned.

"The coyotes will actually look at you, they won't run or anything," he said. "Saturday afternoon I was on top of my house painting, and there are three across the street.

Within an hour, there's another that's huge that came across.

"Monday afternoon, that huge one was right out beside my garage."

Any coyote problem doesn't fall on the shoulders of animal control, Lawrenceville police spokesman Capt. Greg Vaughn said, but is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources.

The police have acknowledged the animals' presence in the area, and have authority to take care of any situation that may arise.

"Animal control pretty well tells us that it's OK to destroy them," Vaughn said, adding that the last officially reported sighting was three weeks ago.

"But I'll be honest with you, if you put that out there that hey, let's take these coyotes out, somebody's dog will get shot."

It's also illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits.

Don McGowan, a biologist with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, said the best way to stay clear of coyotes and avoid any confrontation is to make sure pet food and garbage are properly stowed away, and realize that they will go after small pets.

It's the already brazen nature of these coyotes, though, that has Cannon and his neighbors concerned.

"If they're doing that this close to homes, it's just a matter of time before a person gets attacked," Cannon said.

While that seems like a logical progression, McGowan said the chances of an attack on a human being are "slim."

"Really it's not abnormal to see them in developed areas, neighborhoods, cities, towns," McGowan said. "We don't consider that as anything that needs immediate attention."

"To my knowledge, none of them have been threatening in any manner," Vaughn said. "One that did get shot (by a citizen in Lawrenceville three months ago) apparently just came into the backyard, kids were out there and the man just didn't like it."

McGowan said his office has suggested that residents attempt to trap coyotes themselves, or shoot them if they are in an appropriate area. Another option is to hire a professional trapper, a list of which can be found at www.georgiawildlife.com.

There have never been any documented cases of coyotes attacking people in Georgia -- only "a few out west," McGowan said.

"Not to say it never could happen," he said, "but just judging on past history, it's not anything people really need to worry about."