JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Families in a Mandarin neighborhood believe Coyotes killed their pets after some disappeared and others were found dead.

They don't typically cause much of a problem, but wildlife officials say coyotes are attracted to things left outside like trash cans, grilles and even fruit trees.

Su Numbers, a resident of the neighborhood, used to leave food out in her yard overnight for her five cats. It's a mistake she's learned from. She said as her cats began disappearing one by one, she's convinced coyotes have killed them.

"We've encroached on their environment with our building, and they are now encroaching back on ours," said Numbers. "They are known for eating and killing small animals to feed their own families."

A coyote was found dead Monday afternoon on the side of Old St. Augustine Road, not far from Numbers' home. She believes there are many more in the surrounding woods.

Numbers said other neighbors have had issues, too.

"We live on a cul-de-sac and there's actually a large population of feral cats, and the population has dwindled to maybe a dozen down to two," said Numbers. "My neighbor who lives at the end of the cul-de-sac has two small dogs and one of those dogs was found in the woods the week that the second cat of mine went missing, and they did find that dog and his throat was ripped out."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said coyotes can be found in all of the state's 67 counties, and prefer smaller prey. They advise people to watch their pets, and not be afraid to haze a coyote.

"Immediately use a noise maker or shout at the coyote and wave your arms," said Karen Parker with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. "Because nine times out of 10, he'll run away."

Parker also said a solid walking stick or a golf club is a powerful deterrent to use at close range.

Numbers said she's talking with neighbors about the problem, and she hopes to adopt some new cats down the road.