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Call of the wild in Beacon Woods

Maggi Kosuda manages the civic association that serves one of Pasco's biggest subdivisions: Beacon Woods. It has more than 2,600 homes, situated in a triangle off U.S. 19 and State Road 52.

She's lived in the community since 1987. She's never seen anything like this.

Every day, she takes more calls from residents. She marks the location on a map, which now has X's in virtually every corner of the community. Just this week, a woman called to say an ambulance went by with its siren blaring, which caused a wailing in the woods just beyond her home.

Coyotes.

I've lived in Beacon Woods since 1982. Obviously we like it. It's safe, friendly and pretty; a bird sanctuary. We've enjoyed hawks and herons and cranes, foxes, otters and armadillos. Just lately, wiley dog-like critters have been showing up. On Thanksgiving day, we ate on the back porch and on the other side of Bear Creek two coyotes walked through our neighbor's yard in broad daylight.

A week earlier, I was teeing off at No. 14 on the Beacon Woods golf course when a healthy-looking coyote stood 50 yards away in the middle of the fairway. Animal experts say coyotes are smart. This one must have known my group of hackers wasn't likely to hit him if he stayed in the fairway.

A few days later, golfers on the practice range plopped wedge shots all around a fearless coyote as it dined on the carcass of some unidentifiable animal.

One woman recently stopped her car to rescue what she thought was a lost German shepherd. She held the door open and called for it to come. It growled. She drove away quickly.

The civic association issued an alert in its monthly newsletter. It posted warning signs at the community's entrance and hired a professional trapper. After a week of baiting, the coyotes were winning. The trapper's company declined to let me tag along. I'm guessing that has something to do with the question of what happens to the pups after they're caught.

Still, you can't blame the civic association for reacting to the proliferation of wild animals that are getting so bold. There have been no reports of a coyote biting a person in Florida, but they do get into garbage, and they do eat small animals, including cats and dogs.

John Malley, the county's animal services manager, acknowledged an increase in coyote sightings in urban areas. A pack runs free on property off Ridge Road where the county once operated a garbage landfill. Last year, nearby Chasco Middle School secured its campus after the principal came face to face with one.

Malley said the Beacon Woods coyotes likely moved in when their habitat outside the community was breached. Some of the amenities that make the subdivision attractive to homeowners — lots of woods, water and a golf course — also appeal to coyotes. They are prolific reproducers, Malley said, and awfully difficult to evict. Government doesn't have the resources to intervene.

Fortunately, coyotes are afraid of people and usually run the other way. But in a recent story about coyote sightings in Pinellas County, a state wildlife officer warned they will attack a small pet on a leash.

"I wouldn't leave my small dog unattended,'' Malley said.

Call of the wild in Beacon Woods 12/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 15, 2011 8:48pm]

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