A suspected coyote attack in Annandale killed a woman's Maltese Sunday night, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Mary Trice let her Maltese "Rufus" out in her fenced-in backyard on Bradley Circle Sunday afternoon.

A few minutes later, Trice whistled for Rufus, but he didn't come. She stood on her balcony overlooking some woods that connect to Broyhill Park. She saw what she thought looked like a small German Shepherd.

"I had a really bad feeling when I saw that animal," said Trice.

She could not continue looking because she had to go to church to sing in the choir. When she got back, she got in a her car and searched the neighborhood. Nothing. The next day, the animal shelter told her to search the woods.

"I had to kind of hop the fence and go beyond that and looked around and there I found him dead. And partially eaten. It's terrible," said Trice.

She has another Maltese, Charlie, who was Rufus's brother. Charlie looks forlorn staring at Rufus's empty bed.

"He's never going in the backyard again, alone," said Trice.

"They could be really anywhere. Coyotes are extremely common across Virginia including Fairfax and surrounding counties," said Virginia wildlife biologist Kevin Rose.

He said the reason people don't realize coyotes are here is because they're so secretive.

"The best idea for protecting your pets from coyotes is, number one, to not have them out of your sight. If you have cats, keep them indoors for their own safety. Small dogs should be supervised when they're outside," said Rose.

Wildlife officials say their has been an increase in coyote reporting in recent weeks in the Fairfax County area.

Wildlife officials released the following precautions:

  • Never feed or attempt to “tame” a coyote.
  • Place garbage and compost in an animal-proof container, such as a metal trash can with latches on the lid or secure with bungee cords.
  • Keep trash inside until the morning of trash pick-up whenever possible.
  • Do not feed pets outside or store pet food outside.
  • Pick up ripe, fallen fruit and do not let it accumulate on the ground.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting small rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Trim shrubbery to ground level to remove hiding cover.
  • Close up all openings under porches/decks, crawl spaces or out-buildings where animals might establish dens.
  • Keep small pets inside and do not leave unattended when outside.
  • Keep dogs on short leashes (less than 6 feet) while walking outside.
  • Provide secure shelters for poultry, rabbits, and other vulnerable animals.
  • Be alert at dusk and dawn. Coyotes are most active at night and early morning hours; however, they may be active during the day in search of food or denning sites.