By Tom Mustin

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Residents in Highlands Ranch are growing concerned after an increasing number of coyote attacks on neighborhood pets.  There have been at least six attacks reported in the past two weeks.

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Wildlife experts say during this season, coyote pups are just learning to hunt on their own.

The hungry animals are finding pets to be easy targets in the suburban area.

Katie Hughes is still grieving after a coyote attacked and killed her dog “Rocky.”

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“He was a really great dog and we really miss him,” Hughes tearfully explained to CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

Two weeks ago the Highlands Ranch mother let the 6-year-old Miniature Pinscher outside before bed. After a few minutes, her husband David grew concerned.

“My husband went outside. And he looked around the corner… and I’ll never forget, he said there’s blood out here,” Hughes said.

The family lives nowhere near an open space. The coyote had been strolling through the neighborhood, when it leapt over the family’s six foot backyard fence, and took Rocky.

Her neighbor saw the large animal running down the street carrying Rocky in its mouth.

“She thought it was over 100 pounds,”  said Hughes. “The coyote jumped that fence no problem and had no fear of coming straight into our yard, and that’s the story over and over again,”

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Rocky’s story is one of a growing number of coyote attacks on family pets in Highlands Ranch over the past few months. Neighborhood message boards have exploded with similar stories, including an attack on Nathan Poffenbarger’s dog Enzo, last week.

“I’m not sure what the solution is but I would like to see the powers that be get involved — the government or even the HOA,” said Hughes.

Residents have posted pictures of coyotes strolling across the Links golf course in broad daylight, mere feet from golfers.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife says coyotes need to be hazed, and frightened  to leave an area. Without a healthy fear of humans, household pets left alone are easy targets.

Pet owners are advised to kept dogs on leashes, at all times, and be vigilant. Hughes agrees.

“It sounds crazy to me , but it is what you need to do if you want to protect a member of your family.”

Meanwhile, Hughes and her family are hoping their story will spare other families the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet like Rocky.

“At least he saved other dogs hopefully by his story.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says if you see a coyote, make as much noise as you can. The goal is to make the animal feel scared and  unwelcome.  Also, never leave a pet outside alone, especially after dusk.

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Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.