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Help with injured coyote in Seminole is slow to arrive

Barbara Chango was running late for work at her cleaning business last week. She was hurrying out the front door of her Seminole home about 9:40 a.m. when she noticed something.

Blood was dripping down the front of her house.

About 10 feet away, a coyote was lying near a cactus, barely breathing. At first, she thought the coyote must have killed something, but then she could see it was badly injured.

"I was shocked by seeing the blood, the coyote, kind of freaked out that it was so close to my door," said Chango, 47. "Then it was, who do I call?"

It took nearly five hours to find help for the suffering animal.

When it comes to coyotes, it's hard to pin down whom to call.

As encounters between coyotes and humans increase in the East Lake Woodlands subdivision and throughout Pinellas County, residents have not been sure where to go for help. The agencies they turn to often are the wrong ones. And even when they do call the right agency, poor communication can hinder response.

The county's brochure on coyotes says to call Pinellas County Animal Services when coyotes threaten people. Chango was afraid the injured animal might hurt someone, so that's what she did.

Chango said she and her husband called Pinellas County Animal Services three times to say she had an injured coyote in her front yard. They were told the agency was short-staffed that day, but would try to send someone. They also called SPCA Tampa Bay, which was closed that day.

Finally, her husband called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and 10 minutes later, a deputy was there. Animal Services arrived shortly after that, at the Sheriff's Office's request.

Animal Services officials said the call had initially been recorded as a loose and aggressive dog call. That type of call gets a lower priority. It's hard to catch a loose dog.

The office was short-staffed that day: six officers to pick up dogs and cats in the entire county.

"We get over 900 animal complaint calls in a day," said Greg Andrews, shelter manager, so the shelter has to prioritize calls. "At one point, we had the wildlife officer, but that was cut a few years ago."

Linda Britland, the field operations manager, said the animal was not entered into the agency's computer system as a coyote or as injured. So that was a surprise when the field officer arrived at the home.

"If we had known that, we would have tried to have responded," Britland said. "We don't want any animal to suffer."

Chango said the officer said it looked like the animal had been shot in the chest and also possibly hit by a car because it couldn't stand on its hind legs.

The officer took the nearly dead coyote to Animal Services, where it was euthanized because of its injuries.

The irony of the situation is that Animal Services does not normally handle picking up injured coyotes. And that's what someone at Animal Services told Chango on one of her many calls.

"We don't really have the staffing to handle wildlife," Britland said.

The Humane Society of Pinellas and the SPCA Tampa Bay share the work of picking up injured cats, dogs and wildlife in most cases.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Fast facts

Where to get help

For pickup of injured stray pets or wildlife:

North of Belleair Road

Call the Humane Society of Pinellas at (727) 797-7722. The shelter does not pick up injured raccoons, so for raccoons in North Pinellas, call Pinellas County Animal Services at (727) 582-2600.

South of Belleair Road

Call the SPCA Tampa Bay at (727) 586-3591. A series of prompts will direct you to the animal emergency line to leave a message. Response may be slower when the shelter is closed on Mondays, but the SPCA has someone on call for emergencies.

For other help

Wildlife alert hotline: To report a wildlife attack, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement toll-free at 1-888-404-3922.

Technical information on coyotes: Call (863) 648-3200 and ask for Breanne Strepina, a commission wildlife biologist.

Help with injured coyote in Seminole is slow to arrive 04/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:01pm]
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