After her dog, Coco, was killed by a coyote in December, Blendon Township resident Lyn Saari is hoping to help other small pets avoid a similar fate.

After her dog, Coco, was killed by a coyote in December, Blendon Township resident Lyn Saari is hoping to help other small pets avoid a similar fate.

Coco, a "dorky," was a 3-year-old Yorkshire terrier-dachshund mix. When Saari let her out one night at her house on Madrid Drive, she didn't come back.

The family and their neighbors searched for Coco and found her body toward the back of the property near a field. They found coyote tracks nearby, Saari said.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, we were out with her," she said. "In the summer, we had a pair of hawks in the back field, so we would watch her. She's not much bigger than a squirrel -- she was that tiny."

Though the Saaris live outside her jurisdiction, Westerville Animal Control Officer Kim Stambaugh said she wasn't surprised to hear of coyotes in the area. She hasn't had any recent reports, but they have been seen in the city in the past.

"Never say never when comes to wildlife, but it depends on circumstances," she said. "We're coming into breeding season, so that's the time of year where coyotes are much more aggressive with their territory. A dog would be considered an intruder in their space."

Saari said she's been trying to spread the word to neighbors. Whenever she sees a dog -- especially a small one -- she tells the owner not to let it outside alone.

"(Some) said, 'Thank you so much for letting us know.' They said they had no idea," she said. "But then I talked to a few other neighbors who said they had seen them. I wish someone had told us."

Stambaugh said Westerville residents can call animal control at 614-901-6863 for help with a coyote or other animal. Central Ohio residents who don't have an animal control team in their community can contact a private company that specializes in animal removal.

Stambaugh advised homeowners to make sure they're not accidentally welcoming the animals onto their property.

"The big thing is to not invite them to your property with leaving trash out or feeding wildlife and smaller animals," she said. "Even people feeding birds can unintentionally attract them because it attracts rodents."

Saari isn't sure whether she's willing to risk another small dog again, but said she'll definitely find a new companion.

"We thought, 'What do we do?' We're animal lovers," she said. "So do we go for a bigger dog? Do we watch? I would love another small one, but ... I would literally have to go out with her all the time, which I would do."

While Stambaugh sympathizes with Saari and others who have lost pets, she said coyotes and other animals such as foxes are here to stay. The best course of action, she said, is to be educated.

"It's always devastating to a pet owner to lose their pet; it's not anything anyone would expect," she said. "But there are enough of these animals around that it's good for people to take time to understand their wild neighbors a little bit and learn to live around them. You're never going to remove them from the area. People have been battling coyotes for 100 years. They always win."