FLORISSANT, Mo. – A warning in the woods. Coyotes are now lurking in neighborhoods near Florissant and going after people's pets. In the past month, the St. Louis area has seen a sharp rise in urban coyotes.

As temperatures drop, many wooded areas where coyotes typically take up residence, freeze. So, the animals are forced to move elsewhere.

A long-time Florissant resident said her dogs are a part of her family.

“I couldn’t go a day without my dogs,” said Nicole Harris.

Harris has three dogs – Gadi, Layla and Smokey, all pit bulls. On Sunday night, Harris noticed something terribly wrong when she let her dogs in from the backyard. Smokey had been attacked. And there were prints to prove it.

“He did walk up to the back porch and came inside and plopped down on the kitchen floor and started bleeding excessively,” Harris said. “It was to the point that he was dropping clots."

“I cried so much that I couldn’t cry no more,” she said.

Harris and her husband wrapped Smokey in a blanket and took him to the vet, where he remains in the ICU. The culprit was a coyote, trying to make it through the cold winter.

"In a situation when the water is frozen and the food source is rare, then they are going to have to go farther to find it,” explained Dan Zarlenga, the St Louis Regional Communication Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Zarlenga said that the lack of resources stresses coyotes out.

“If they see anything that’s going to be competing with them for those resources, like a canine, then they're going to tend to be more aggressive,” Zenga said.

Meanwhile, Nicole had to explain to her kids, and her other canines, what happened to their beloved Smokey.

“Let’s go get Smokey,” she said to Layla and Gadi. “Where’s Smokey, where’s Smokey?” she asked them.

Thankfully, Smokey’s condition is improving each day and his family is anxiously awaiting his arrival home.

The Department of Conservation recommends pet owners remain outside with their animals and watch them carefully. If you do happen to see a coyote, though, you’re told to do anything to harass the animal.

For example, by yelling, screaming, throwing rocks or sounding an air horn – anything to create a negative association between the coyote and your property.