SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains police have issued tips for dealing with coyotes. (Not bears, coyotes.)

"Please take heed that coyotes are to be considered dangerous and they have been known to attack small animals and in some rare instances, they have attacked humans," said Captain Ted Conley in an email warning about the coyotes.

"We have posted some tips on steps to take in case you come across a coyote, but the main point we want to get home is do not try to approach them, stay a safe distance away and call the police if you feel threatened by them."

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Eastern coyotes, the type commonly found in New Jersey, are wild members of the dog family, and resemble small German shepherds with the exception of their long snouts and bushy tails, according to the Dept of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). 

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food, but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals that are left unattended, the DFW warns.

Coyotes are generally wary of humans, according to the DFW, but their behavior can change given access to food and garbage, causing them to lose caution and fear.
In order to keep yourself and your pets safe, the DFW offers these tips to reduce the likelihood of a conflict with a coyote:

• Never feed a coyote.
• Feeding pets or feral cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey on the cats.
• Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
• Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
• Bring pets in at night.
• Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
• Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.
• Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
• Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
• Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings; this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits.
• If coyotes are present, make sure they know they’re not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.

The following tips are provided by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. 
• Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk.
• Feeding pet cats and/or feral (wild) cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats.
• Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
• Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
• Bring pets in at night. 
• Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
• Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.
• Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
• Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards.
• Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
• Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings – this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated like woodpiles.
• If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.