It seems you can't step outside your front door these days without spotting a coyote running down the street. Lack of food and extreme drought conditions in the Angeles National Forest are forcing wildlife further down the mountain and into town, alarming residents who are unsure of how to protect themselves and their pets.

"The problem is everywhere," says Don Nelson, Warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), of the recent coyote sightings. "Anywhere there is open space, even a small amount of open space where they can find food and somewhere they can get up and under for coolness in the daytime and seclusion from predators."

Two weeks ago, COURIER publisher and owner Peter Weinberger and his wife lost their beloved chihuahua Rudy to a suspected coyote attack. The animals have been seen frequenting their Claremont neighborhood in recent weeks, particularly on trash days, in search of food.

"The thing about coyotes, all wildlife really, is they don't look at people as food," says Mr. Nelson. "They don't think, 'There's my next meal.' They're naturally scared of people but when they are given access to human food, like garbage, their behavior changes. They lose that caution and fear."

Dorothy Eminhizer is the owner of two dogs, a 3-year-old chihuahua named Coco and a 4-year-old Shih Tzu, Chloe. The north Claremont resident knows all too well how brazen and quick coyotes can be after Chloe ran out the front door and was later attacked in her own yard.

A quick-thinking neighbor witnessed the attack and came to the dog's rescue.

"The coyote had Chloe in his mouth and my neighbor got close to it and clapped his hands. Thankfully, the coyote dropped her and ran off," she says.

Although Chloe survived and appeared to be okay, further inspection once she was inside the house proved otherwise. "I dug into her fur and saw she had serious bite wounds to her back where the coyote had grabbed her," Ms. Eminhizer said. "Because coyotes have so much bacteria in their mouths, the vet didn't want to suture her so they cleaned the wound and gave us antibiotics."

Time and medicine have healed Chloe's physical wounds says Ms. Eminhizer. but the scars of the experience have stayed with her. "She doesn't like big dogs now. She's more apprehensive. She's scared."

The coyote experience changed Ms. Eminhizer too.

"We got lucky that my neighbor was there to save her. I won't let Chloe or Coco even go into the backyard if they aren't together now," she says. "We like the wildlife. but we don't like them attacking our pets."

Unfortunately, there isn't a real solution to the coyote problem. Relocating coyotes is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else's neighborhood. What residents can do is be proactive in making their yards and neighborhoods less appealing to wild animals in search of sustenance by addressing attractants such as fallen fruit and compost piles.

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food, but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals. The CDFW offers the following recommendations to deter coyotes from visiting your home and neighborhood:

- Put garbage in tightly-closed containers that cannot be tipped over.

- Keep trashcans away from your fence-line, as they can act as stepping-stones for coyotes to gain access to your backyard

- Remove sources of water and do not leave pet food outside.

- Bring pets in at night.

- Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other prey.

- Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.

- Install motion-sensor outdoor lighting so coyotes don't feel secluded.

- Secure crawl spaces under homes and sheds where coyotes could shelter.

Ask your neighbors to follow these tips.

"Another great tip is soaking old T-shirts and towels in ammonia and placing them in an area where the coyote has been," recommends Mr. Nelson. "It's not a permanent solution but it will deter the coyote from returning to that location again, at least temporarily."

If you're in an area where you may see wildlife, even if it's your own neighborhood, the CDFW recommends that you carry a walking stick or a golf club, even a Maglite, and be sure to make lots of noise so they know you're coming. "Coyote Whistles," which are free to residents and available at the Claremont Police Department, are also an easy way to protect yourself and your pets.

"If you do encounter a coyote in your path, make a lot of noise and pick up your pet if you have one with you," says Mr. Nelson. "He may come at you but will break off about 10 to 15 feet in front of you. He'll move on. It's just what they do."