The eastern coyote population in some parts of northern New England is growing based on the animals’ increased appearances in residential and urban areas, including those in Maine, wildlife experts have said.

Coyotes have even been spotted in Portland, although a wildlife preserve on the outskirts of the city could be the source for city interlopers, said Mark Latti, a spokesman for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“They are going into areas that they weren’t before,” Latti said.

Eastern coyotes, which weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, first infiltrated New England in the 1800s. They are not known to attack humans, and in the past have only attacked pets and gotten into garbage and pet food.

But the animals are becoming more brazen and will not leave urban areas unless they become scared, a problem more keenly felt in populous areas, Latti said.

A Massachusetts state biologist reported last week that more coyotes have been seen across the state, where new hunting laws prohibit the use of padded jaw traps to catch them, said biologist Chrissie Henner.

“What I tell the public when I talk about coyotes is that humans are their only predator, and when we stop fulfilling that role, coyote numbers will increase,” Henner said.

Henner said coyotes first arrived in Massachusetts in the 1950s. Now coyotes have been seen rummaging in trash containers and pet food bowls in Boston.

Sheryl A. Parker, an animal control officer in East Brookfield, said she had received many complaints this spring from residents concerned about the animals.

“People would call and tell me that coyotes were coming up on their decks and porches, and they’d go out and try to scare them off, and in some instances, the coyotes held their ground,” she said.

While most states do not keep detailed statistics on the animals, Henner’s report on burgeoning coyote populations is based on anecdotal evidence suggesting more coyotes in both Maine and Massachusetts.

AP-ES-09-12-04 1310EDT

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