Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Coyote influx fuels growing concern in Hernando neighborhood

Coyotes are growing increasingly common in Florida, such as this one in Pinellas County. Experts say attacks on humans are extremely rare, but pets can be vulnerable.  

Special to the Times (2009)

Coyotes are growing increasingly common in Florida, such as this one in Pinellas County. Experts say attacks on humans are extremely rare, but pets can be vulnerable. 

SPRING HILL — Jeanette Sprague said she didn't pay much attention when she first heard the heavy rustling of leaves across the street. Probably one of the many feral cats that skulk in the darkness through the woods near her home on Meredith Drive, she thought.

But night after night, she kept hearing the same sound. Then, one late afternoon about a month or so ago, she glimpsed a shadow.

What she thought was a dog turned out to be a coyote heading toward her neighbor's house. Sprague hurried into her house, grabbed her BB pistol and fired it at the animal before it was able to attack her neighbor's two cats.

"It didn't seem to faze it one bit," Sprague said recently. "He just stood there and looked at me."

Coyote sightings are becoming more common in Hernando County's urban areas. Experts say pups born in the early spring that are now old enough to leave their parents' den are looking for hunting territory of their own.

That has been bad news for the feral cats in this quiet neighborhood. On evening walks, Sprague once noted about 20 cats in the woods near her home. She says their number has dwindled to less than five.

Tim Makley, who lives down the street, said he has seen coyotes for the past three months. At night he often hears them growling behind his house.

"It's aggressive sounding," Makley said. "Almost like they're fighting or something. It will wake you up from a sound sleep."

Lately, the coyotes have become the talk of the neighborhood, Sprague said. And no one seems to know quite what to do about the growing problem.

Neighbors have turned to the government for help but to no avail. County Animal Services officials have told her they don't trap coyotes and suggested she hire a private trapper.

Although no one can say for certain where the animals came from, most neighbors think they live in culverts somewhere south of Horizon Drive between Melville Avenue and Meredith Drive.

Her recent encounter with coyotes chasing her neighbors' cats means the animals are becoming more aggressive, she believes. And that worries her.

"We have a lot of people that walk with their dogs and small children in the evening," Sprague said. "If someone gets attacked it will be too late."

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist Breanne Strepina, coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare. In fact, her agency has never documented an incident in Hernando County.

However, coyotes will attack a small pet on a leash. Strepina said the best way to prevent such an attack is to keep the leash short. If a coyote is seen, the owner should grab the pet and hold it while in a standing position.

"They recognize that people are bigger than them," Strepina said. "But it's not a bad idea to carry pepper spray or club. Actually, a loud voice will pretty much do the trick in driving them away."

Strepina said coyotes hunting for food are just doing what comes naturally. Although they feed mainly on small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and birds in the wild, they often turn to pets in more urban settings.

"The best thing that you can do for these animals is to not encourage their staying around," said Strepina. "That means not leaving cat food and garbage out that will attract them."

If coyotes become too persistent, Strepina recommends homeowners hire a professional trapping service. But even that option has its drawbacks, according to Nathanael Pauly of Allstar Animal Removal in Hernando County.

The animals are difficult to trap, and the service can cost about $500.

"The best way to get them is by using a foot-hold snare," he said. "But they're smart animals, so it can take awhile. You have to check the trap all the time. That gets expensive."

Sprague said she and her neighbors aren't considering hiring a trapper. But she is eager for the coyotes to move somewhere else.

"Having them around is very unnerving," she said. "Once they've finished killing the feral cats, what are they going to go after next?"

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com

Coyote influx fuels growing concern in Hernando neighborhood 11/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 8:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Protectors of Confederate statue readied for a battle that never materialized

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Big Dixie flags were waving. County employees had erected a barrier around the Confederate soldier statue at Main and Broad streets. Roads and parking areas were blocked off. Uniformed local officers and federal law enforcement patrolled.

    Police tape and barricades surround the Confederate statue in Brooksville.
  2. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'

    Blogs

    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  4. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light

    Florida

    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  5. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling

    College

    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]