Monmouth County Health officials have been warning residents that coyotes have been spotted in the coastal areas, but the creatures are not new to New Jersey.

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Coyotes have been documented in 409 municipalities across the state, but sightings have drastically declined over the past decade according to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

"I think people have gotten so used to seeing coyotes that they stopped reporting sightings," said Andrew Burnett, Principal Wildlife Biologist with the Upland Game and Furbearer Project with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take precautions if you know they are in your area.

"When people don't treat wild animals with the respect they deserve, almost anything can happen," said Burnett. "If you know you have coyotes in the area, the one thing you don't want to do is let your cat out of the house. You want to keep an eye on small children. If you actually see the coyote, you want to make yourself as large as possible, be aggressive to try to scare it away. Whenever I see them in the wild, if I stop my vehicle, they usually take off like a shot."

Burnett added that if a coyote is spotted, not much can be done except to try and scare them off.   "Basically, you should take the same precautions you would with many animals in the wild. Don't feed them, don't leave food out, don't have garbage accessible so they can get into it."

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