A pack of wild dogs, including two pit bull mixes, has moved into Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, according to county officials, who warn that the roving canines could be dangerous.
Four of the dogs charged some visitors Wednesday on a Boyd Hill trail before running away. The trail was temporarily closed while Pinellas County Animal Services officers searched for the animals without success.
In January, the dogs gathered in the parking lot as Animal Services officers tried to corner them. The culprits got away.
"It is a serious concern," said Linda Britland, field enforcement manager for Animal Services. "When they are in a pack like that, it doesn't matter if it is a little chihuahua. They get wild. They could all be equally dangerous."
The wild dogs were first reported Jan. 8, after a Boyd Hill visitor spotted them running through the park's trails.
Since then, Animal Services officers have visited the park four times but have not been able to catch the four or five dogs, which might have entered the park through a hole in the fence at Boyd Hill, Britland said.
"The dogs are very street smart," she said. "They know the streets and they know when someone is after them. They see someone with a leash in their hands and they take off like bullets."
But the Boyd Hill park supervisor said the dogs do not appear to be threatening. "They haven't attacked anybody," said Anne Fidanzato. "They don't bark and howl."
If the dogs are captured, the county will try to find their owners or put them up for adoption.
But if the dogs become too feral, the county will have no choice but to euthanize them, Britland said.
"Some dogs that run for months and months out there, they lose their desire for humans, and it might not be a very nice dog by the time we get to it," she said.
The pack is composed of two brown pit bull mixes, a tan chow mix, a German shepherd mix, and a black and white chow mix. One of the pit bulls appears to be pregnant, Britland said.
The dogs were not wearing collars, Fidanzato said.
They most likely were allowed to run without a leash or were abandoned by their owners, Britland said.
Although packs of wild dogs are rare, they can wreak havoc, Britland said.
Most recently, wild pit bulls in Pinellas Park were linked to the deaths of several neighborhood cats in November. In 2005, wild dogs led by a Rottweiler terrorized Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor before the animals were killed or captured.
Last week, visitors to Boyd Hill seemed unconcerned about the pack.
"It is kind of scary, but if no one has been hurt, then maybe the dogs are friendly," said Karen Lindsey, who visited Boyd Hill with her two children Wednesday.
But in Lakewood Estates, which borders Boyd Hill, some residents fear the worst.
"We have people out walking good dogs, we have people taking children out in the neighborhood in strollers, we have golfers out on the golf course, and they don't need to worry about wild pit bulls," said Judy Ellis, president of the Lakewood Estates Civic Association.
Cristina Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8846.
To report a wild dog
Call Pinellas County Animal Services at (727) 582-2604.