BELLEAIR — Six furry, unregistered guests at the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel have a new temporary home after being rescued by a local wildlife trapper last week.
The coyote pups were rounded up by Vernon Yates of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Seminole. The litter has four males and two females that appear to be about 6 weeks old, Yates said.
He did not find an adult.
"I think something happened to mom, or they would've still been in the den," he said.
Yates picked up four of the pups from the Belleair Police Department, which had already collected them from the closed hotel, he said. He found the other two near the hotel's golf course.
Yates said he located a couple of spots near the hotel porch where it appears the little ones were denning.
The pups are being treated by veterinarian Don Woodman of the Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor.
"We tried them on the bottle, but they were pretty much off the bottle and ready to go onto dog food," Woodman said.
The goal is to get the pups ready to be adopted out to zoos or wildlife education centers. Though coyotes are generally skittish creatures, the pups have responded well to human interaction, Woodman said.
"These guys have been really handleable," Woodman said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, coyotes started returning to Florida decades ago after the decline of the state's population of red wolves, which are natural predators of coyotes.
When coyotes encountered urban areas, instead of being deterred, they thrived. That's because coyotes are adept scavengers, Woodman said.
While coyote attacks against people are rare, they have been known to feed on small pets, causing consternation among many in densely populated Pinellas County. Residents from St. Petersburg to East Lake have reported pets killed by coyotes over the past few years.
According to the Pinellas County Animal Services' tracking map, there were three coyote sightings reported northeast of the hotel in February. In January, an adult with two smaller coyotes was seen eating a small animal, and on April 11, two adult coyotes were seen "trotting through neighborhood," according to one report.