James Forgione planned to grab a quick breakfast with a friend before heading over to snap some photos March 14 at Florida Botanical Gardens. "I was driving down Missouri Avenue, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw an animal in front of the Walgreens,'' he said. "At first I thought it was a big dog, but then I realized it was a coyote.''
Forgione grabbed his camera and started clicking away. "The coyote seemed calm, but he definitely had moved closer to a wooded area on the side of the building (at 1604 S Missouri),'' he said. "I had been hearing of coyotes coming into the area, but I couldn't believe I saw one so close to the road.''
Thanks to Forgione, who e-mailed his photo to the St. Petersburg Times, Largo readers have the evidence that the animals — symbols of the wide open West — are making themselves at home in urban Pinellas County.
Greg Andrews, director of Pinellas County Animal Control, confirmed the photo was indeed of a healthy coyote, and he is not surprised someone was able to snap one in the Clearwater-Largo corridor.
"They've been in Pinellas County for quite some time now, and they are here to stay,'' he said. "That coyote probably was standing near his den, probably in that wooded area.''
Coyotes travel via the Pinellas Trail or by using streams and canals, Andrews said. "They've got their own system now of highways and byways.''
Andrews reminds people to be diligent when it comes to all wild animals. He stresses the importance of securing outside food waste and to keep cats and dogs from roaming free.
"Also remember coyotes come out at dawn and dusk. I know a lot of people don't have a lot of choice because of work schedules, but if you can, try to walk your dog at a different time,'' Andrews said.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.