Wild animal sightings rise in Vestavia Hills

VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - Sandy Phillips was enjoying her weekend when around 2:00 Sunday morning, she got a fright.  "I heard something walking and I looked over and saw this coyote."  She was sitting on the back porch of her Vestavia Hills home.  She ran inside to get her camcorder and when she returned, she found, not just one, but two coyotes.  Phillips says the second was at least 30 pounds larger than the first.  "I think it was the female meeting up with the male.  And they didn't seem to care I was there.  That this was just as much their property as ours," Phillips said.

Phillips lives in the new Cobble Hill subdivision, about half a mile from where the new Vestavia Hills Public Library is being built.  James Taylor, the animal control officer for the city says for years, that area has served as the perfect breeding ground for not just coyotes, but raccoons, possums, foxes and deer.  "Through all that construction and a little dynamite and all that, it done up rupped the area," Taylor says.  "So now the animals are trying to find another location to either roam, feed or breed."  He says since construction on the library has begun, he has gotten twice as many calls about coyote sightings.  The animals are searching for food in people's backyards, garbage, even in pets like cats and small dogs.  And, he adds, if their food supply becomes extremely limited, the coyotes may even try to feed on small children.  "Yeah, you have to protect them.  You're living in the kind of environment."  

He says he's used traps to try to catch the coyotes, but he hasn't had much success, saying the animals are smart enough to avoid the traps.  He also says the city hired an outside professional company to help catch the animals.  But he says in three weeks time, they only caught one.  And Taylor says, because they have been in the area so long, there is no way to totally get rid of them.  That's a concern for Sandy Phillips.  She had just let her dog, Harper, out before she spotted the coyotes.  Now she says when she lets him out, she will take her gun with her. "I don't want to eradicate creatures that have been here longer than we have.  I just don't want them to eat my dog."