By Laura Haefeli

CITRUS HEIGHTS (CBS13) — Officers say a coyote is likely responsible for the series of dead animals being found with “suspicious” injuries in Citrus Heights recently.

Citrus Heights police say they are aware of several social media posts in some local community groups about animals being found dead. With the animals having suffered suspicious-looking injuries, there was some concern from community members about who or what was responsible.

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An investigation by the city’s Animal Services Officer has found a much more mundane likely culprit: a coyote.

Police say the case is a good reminder for residents that they do share some neighborhoods with wildlife.

“My dog was bit by a coyote and we actually didn’t think she’d survive,” Anastasia Sctefanitsa said.

Her dog Chloe has since recovered from the coyote encounter, but the scars are everlasting.

“She even has a little bump on her side,” Anastasia said.

Citrus Heights police say they’ve received reports of coyote attacks in recent days, one more gruesome than the next

“My cats, they sleep outside,” Anastasia said. “They’re potentially in danger.”

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife told us coyotes eat food that’s available to them.

“In a natural world, their preys look like rodents, birds, and unfortunately, domestic pets,” said Alexander Heeren, with Fish and Wildlife.

Alexander explained that when coyotes kill, the aftermath can be messy.

“They’ll be attacking small pets to eat and they’re messy eaters, removing skins or the guts. It may look very gruesome,” he said.

Wildlife in Citrus Heights isn’t uncommon. Back in June, CBS13 covered a mountain lion roaming the streets.

So why are wild animals so attracted to Citrus Heights? Fish and Wildlife says there are two problems.

During the pandemic, people are at home and more likely to spot animals in their neighborhoods. Also, wildfires and drought are pushing animals away from their environments in search of food and water.

“Natural areas and green spaces, which are one of the great reasons why people want to live in Citrus Heights. That’s also a great area habitat for wild animals as well,” Alexander said. “Living in those areas around creeks and water people want to be careful. The goal is to figure out a way for humans and wildlife to coexist.”

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Still, police urge people to report dead or injured animals to the Animal Services Unit online.