Beware of wily coyotes. No, really.

Everyone, including me, figures that our cat Abou was killed by coyotes last week. City coyotes. It turns out they are around.

The coyote theory is supported by the evidence at the scene. No need for detail.

Also, there were piles of strange droppings around the yard. Again, no detail needed.

Also, lots of people have seen them around. This is at the southern tip of St. Petersburg, which is in a county of nearly 1-million people.

A neighbor saw one in his yard. Another saw one in his headlights heading home one night. The woman who served us breakfast the other day saw lots when she lived down toward Pinellas Point.

They like cats. Small dogs, even. One of our neighbors a few weeks ago found what was left of a puppy, down in the marsh by the bay, not a place where an alligator would hang out.

They are blamed for taking several cats over time in the Lakewood area of St. Petersburg, near the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, which seems like a likely hangout. Last month, the paper had an article about coyotes killing cats in Hillsborough County, too.

Here are some other things I learned. Coyotes made their way to Florida (like us), and then made their way south. They have been seen in every county in the state.

This is not a big crisis. It happens all the time. If you call Animal Control, you will learn that the coyote patrol does not show up at your house with siren and traps.

Instead, you might be reminded, as we were, that cats aren't supposed to be free outdoors in the first place.

This is true, of course. It also is true that cats tend to live longer if they are confined to their house. You would, too.

Abou, like the coyote and like us, was an invasive species. He did his share of damage to the Florida ecosystem.

He also charged Dobermans. He once grabbed our pond catfish, bigger than he was, and chomped off its tail. The fish lived. More than once we had to rescue dog owners from Abou attacks in the street. Afterward he would curl up in your lap, purring.

I was with him from the moment of his birth almost 10 years ago. Here is a coincidence. On the morning he didn't come home, the puppy knocked Abou's food bowl, the one that said "Attack Cat," off the shelf and it shattered.

We have adapted to this new coyote awareness. The other two cats are confined to quarters at night. Even the puppy on his leash does not get to stray into the shadows. Faraway nighttime yelps sound like yips to us.

It turns out that coyotes have done well at adapting to their surroundings. We all have to make do in Florida. Ospreys nest on cell phone towers and light poles.

A few weeks ago a raccoon came in through the cat-rip in the screen of the back porch and walked up to where I was reading. All I could think to do was look down and ask, "What are you doing?" He calmly walked back out. Another time an osprey dive-bombed through the top screen and we found him and one of the other cats in a standoff, each sizing up the other.

So we always worried that something like this would happen. Abou was not a cat destined to die of old age in his sleep, on his favorite pillow, in a sunbeam. I do not figure that he backed down.

Part of me hopes the coyote knew he had been in a fight. But oddly enough, part of me does not really hold it against him, either. He, too, finds himself in a strange land.

Beware of wily coyotes. No, really. 07/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 20, 2008 7:58am]

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