The owners of a Jack Russell terrier got a serious scare Friday night when their dog was attacked by a coyote in their Golden Valley yard.

The coyote had the dog in its jaws but dropped it when the owners came outside and frightened it off, said officials, who on Monday issued an alert to city residents because of the aggression shown.

It's just the latest coyote sighted in the Twin Cities. Edina issued an alert to residents earlier this month after coyotes were seen at the northern edge of the city. The animals have also been seen in Bloomington and Richfield.

Golden Valley Police Department crime analyst Joanne Paul said this is the first time a coyote has shown aggression. Police knew they were in the city because residents had reported seeing them in the past year. This summer a coyote was hit and killed by a car on Hwy. 55.

"With it getting dark early and Halloween coming up, we wanted people to know," Paul said. "They can scale fences. Just because you have a fenced yard, don't assume your pet is OK."

The terrier was attacked between 9 and 10 p.m. in a yard that had an invisible fence, Paul said. The owners discovered the coyote when they went outside after the dog did not come in. The dog got emergency veterinary care and should be fine, Paul said.

Edina animal control officer Tim Hunter reported two weeks ago that coyotes had been seen along Merilane, a street north of Interlachen Country Club near the border with Hopkins and St. Louis Park. None of those animals have been aggressive, Hunter said.

"People should be alert, but they shouldn't interfere," Hunter said. "They need to supervise their pets and be alert. These animals are omnipresent."

According to Paul, coyotes generally weigh up to 30 pounds and stand about 2 feet tall at the shoulder, with a long pointed muzzle, bushy tail, large ears and long legs. They generally sleep during the day and are most active between dusk and dawn.

Paul advised that pet owners keep small dogs on a leash and watch them when they're outside. Pet food should not be left outside, she said, and garbage containers and compost piles should be covered.

According to the state Department of Natural Resources, coyotes inhabit every corner of the state and are increasingly common in the metro area.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380