Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Coyote migration puts yacht club residents on alert

A coyote can be seen just beyond a fence in Gulfport. The Pasadena Yacht & Country Club neighborhood has hired a private trapper to try to get rid of the animals. So far, no luck.

Special to the Times

A coyote can be seen just beyond a fence in Gulfport. The Pasadena Yacht & Country Club neighborhood has hired a private trapper to try to get rid of the animals. So far, no luck.

GULFPORT — The dog was going nuts. Each time Jo Hastings tried to calm her muscular Staffordshire terrier, it would lurch madly at a fence bordering mangroves.

Finally Hastings squatted down, peered through the fence and discovered she was only inches from a coyote, who returned her stare before skulking into the woods.

"There ended up being two of them, and they kind of looked at me like I was bothering them,'' she said. "It's not like they were skittish or anything. They were kind of like, 'Yeah, whatever.' "

The uneasy standoff in the manicured confines of the Pasadena Yacht & Country Club is growing evidence that coyotes seem to be spreading into virtually every nook of Pinellas County, from the north county woods to the southern tip. Their arrival is often joined by reports of missing pets, like Hastings' cat, Buttercup.

The coyotes' migration is not likely to change, said Pinellas Animal Services operations manager Greg Andrews.

"The more pressure you put on these guys, the more a survivor instinct kicks in," he said.

Action Animal Services, a private trapping company, has recorded a two-fold increase in coyote calls from a year ago, with confirmed cases in Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park and Seminole, including inside the Bayou Club.

In most cases, state law requires that captured coyotes must be destroyed, whether caught by trappers or private citizens with proper hunting licenses.

"Coyote relocation doesn't work," said Pat Behnke, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson. "There's many reasons why. They won't stay. We don't know where they come from, and you could reintroduce them where it could be worse. And they carry disease into new areas."

Andrews said coyotes use everything from secluded waterways to the Pinellas Trail as southbound superhighways. They are prevalent throughout much of Florida, but in recent years have migrated into south Pinellas County.

That's a disconcerting notion for Hastings, whose back yard abuts a conservation area.

She called several local authorities only to learn state agencies do not remove coyotes unless they have attacked humans or pose "a serious threat to public health and safety," Andrews said.

"It's like they have more rights than I do," Hastings said. "I am in a residential area. If I am in the middle of Manatee County I could understand that. Now we're terrified of letting our animals out."

Hastings believes it was a coyote that took her beloved Buttercup, a mixed breed cat that disappeared in early June.

Apparently, security guards of the 900-resident community had seen coyotes as early as May but did not alert anyone, angering both she and her husband, David, president of the homeowners association.

After two weeks of searching for their missing cat, a neighbor notified the couple upon finding blood and a small skull near her front porch. The couple believes the skull belongs to Buttercup.

Within days, David Hastings received an e-mail that included a local photograph of a coyote. He heard from people who had seen the coyotes. And the couple found a cat flea collar in coyote dung. That collar did not belong to Buttercup.

While his wife "wants to buy guns, bazookas" to avenge Buttercup, David Hastings understands the animals deserve space.

But he also believes they'll take it.

The neighborhood association voted recently to hire Action Animal Services, despite a 50 percent advertised success rate with coyotes.

"In the worst case, we didn't want an attack on a resident or a child or anything else," David Hastings said.

So in went the traps, with live rabbits as bait.

Jo Hastings, who has a pet rabbit, hasn't been able to bring herself to look inside a trap, though one was moved close to the perimeter of her property after the recent encounter.

So far, only an opossum has been nabbed.

But word continues to spread. Signs warning residents of the new predators are going up around the neighborhood. And David Hastings stops residents walking their pets at dusk to advise prudence.

While coyote attacks on humans are considered unusual, East Lake residents began carrying sticks and golf clubs after the disappearance of several small dogs last spring.

"Hopefully," Andrews said, "these kinds of things won't happen if people learn the do's and don'ts."


Coyote tips


• Avoid walking small pets at dusk

• Carry a club on walks through wooded areas and make lots of noise if confronted

• Fence yards

• Keep garbage cans covered


• Allow pets outside unattended

• Walk pets off a leash

• Stoop to the coyote's level to defend a pet if it's attacked

• Feed coyotes

Sources: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Coyote migration puts yacht club residents on alert 07/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. U.S. economy gathers steam in second quarter


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by strong consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

    A government report released Friday showed economic output picked up in the second quarter. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. What you need to know about Bucs training camp


    Bucs training camp is here.

    This morning was the first of 13 practices that are free and open to the general public, so we have all the details to answer your questions about where and when and so on.

    Dirk Koetter is nothing if not precise, with practices starting at 8:45 a.m. and running until 10:27. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back


    TAMPA — Welcome to the proving ground.

    Bucs training camp begins today.

    Hard Knocks and flop sweat.

    Work and more work.

    "We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Old dog's lucky day: Video shows firefighters rescuing 12-year-old Shar-Pei mix from bay


    MIAMI BEACH — Junior spent Thursday night lounging on a pillow, too tired to move.

    Jose Ruiz takes a selfie with his dog named Junior after Junior was rescued from Biscayne Bay. [Photo courtesy of Jose Ruiz via Miami Herald]