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CAUTION FOLLOWS COYOTE REPORTS

They've been seen roaming in two neighborhoods in recent weeks.

Mark Blanchard didn't know what to make of the "funny, skinny dog with large ears" that was standing outside his home early one morning three weeks ago.

"I couldn't imagine what kind of dog that would be," he said. "It was walking right down the center line of Harn Boulevard."

Then he saw the second one, about 30 yards behind.

Blanchard, 55, said he considered they might be coyotes. That suspicion was confirmed when he stopped by the Clearwater Courthouse a few days later and saw a brochure about the animals and their proliferation into populated areas in recent years in Pinellas County.

It was the second coyote sighting in Blanchard's neighborhood in a matter of weeks. In early August, another sighting was reported by a resident of Morningside-Meadows, a large neighborhood between Belcher Road and U.S. 19 in east Clearwater, said Bob Barry, president of the neighborhood's homeowners association.

One family recently told the association they had found the remains of their cat, which appeared to have been eaten.

While it's not confirmed the cat fell prey to a coyote, residents have been alerted and warned to keep an eye on small pets, in the association's newsletter and e-mails, Barry said.

Blanchard, who saw the two coyotes while he was out at 4:30 a.m. walking his two dogs, said he's taking extra precautions with his 4-pound Maltese, Zoe.

"Now, I'm carrying her to the park," he said. "Just in case."

Morningside-Meadows isn't the only Clearwater neighborhood to report coyote sightings in recent months.

In late August, one was seen in a back yard just north of Kennedy Middle School, according to Pinellas Animal Services, which logs reported sightings on its Web page. Another was spotted east of Countryside Mall.

And early last month, a Largo resident reported an attack on a family dog, just east of Belcher Road near Allen's Creek.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Fast facts

How to help

To report a coyote sighting, or to view a map of reported sightings, go to www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices/coyotes/index.html.

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