LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Coyotes have become a part of the wildlife landscape in Florida but with mating season about to be underway, experts warn to be prepared.

“This is a great habitat for coyotes. They could be out there right now watching us and we wouldn’t even see them,” said Dustin Hooper, owner of All Creatures Wildlife Control, in a wooded area adjacent to a dense residential area.

Hooper said he has seen an increase in calls recently about coyote sightings, even during the day. One killed a client’s cat last week.

“A coyote is very smart. That’s why it’s almost impossible to trap one in a live trap,” he said. “If a pack of coyotes just decide, ‘Hey we’re gonna attack this human’, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

He advises people to not leave food outside for animals, which can attract coyotes and to keep their pets indoors at night.

Pets were also a concern for Lorenzo Echevarria, who said he heard what sounded like a pack of dogs outside his large apartment complex on Shepherd Road in South Lakeland on Sunday night.

“Looked outside, I couldn’t see anything but I just did a quick Google search on coyotes, on what they sound like. Same exact cry, same exact howl,” he said.

He alerted his neighbors on the NextDoor app, so they could protect themselves and their animals.

“I’ve seen stories about coyotes attacking animals so I just wanted people to be aware of their pets that are outside, dogs, maybe some people that let their cats outside,” said Echevarria.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says mating season begins in the winter and coyotes denning with pups can become protective and defensive.

The agency recommends people who encounter coyotes to “haze” them by waving their arms, shouting, and increasing their size by waving a golf club, umbrella or stick above their head.

The FWC says coyotes have been documented in all 67 counties, in rural, suburban and even urban areas.

“The construction is going up everywhere. We are pushing them out. They’ve gotten very little places to go nowadays so they’re coming into the cities, they’re encroaching on the cities. All the neighborhoods being built and it’s not their fault,” said Hooper.

To learn more about coyotes and how to avoid conflicts, click here.