A half-dozen coyote attacks on dogs and cats in the Mesa Verde area have prompted officials to issue an advisory to residents.
Costa Mesa Animal Control supervisor Robert Bork suggests taking precautions to keep pets safe.
"To prevent them from becoming prey, it's wise to keep them indoors during the early-morning hours and the evening," Bork said. "It's just the urban wildlife, and we have to learn to live with it."
Particular attention should be paid by residents near the Talbert Nature Preserve. Orange County Animal Control has been patrolling the preserve in search of coyotes, particularly a large one weighing about 40 pounds. Coyotes typically weigh 25 to 35 pounds.
"If this one's as big as they say, it could be a cross breed between a coyote and a domestic dog," said Lt. Brian Frick of Orange County Animal Control. "He's quite a bit bigger than other coyotes. We've been out there. We've gone looking for him."
Most of the other coyotes sighted in the area are younger and considerably smaller.
Frick said most of the coyotes in the Talbert area feed chiefly on rabbits and rodents. A few, however, favor cats because they are easier prey. The animals rarely attack anything larger than themselves, he said, and humans are rarely at risk.
To protect property from coyotes, Costa Mesa and Orange County Animal Control suggest the following precautions:
* Fence off or fully enclose animal areas, such as rabbit cages and pens.
* Keep small pets indoors or in the company of an adult.
* Feed pets indoors.
* Store trash in covered heavy-duty containers.
* Keep yards free of thick brush and weeds.
* Enclose the bottom portions of porches and decks.
* Eliminate potential feeding and drinking sources, such as fallen fruit, standing water and excess pet food.
* Do not feed coyotes.
Information: (714) 754-5188.