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Coyotes unlikely to attack people, but anxiety still lingers

Pinellas residents fear for families and pets .

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published October 20, 2006


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SAFETY HARBOR - After Pinellas County released a coyote near the Safety Harbor neighborhood where it was found last week, residents countywide started buzzing.

Why, some asked, release the predator near a neighborhood with pets and children? Why can't someone do something about these wild animals? And how soon before they attack a person?

In response, a county official who has spent more than two years monitoring coyotes offers some reassuring answers and straight talk.

The 37-pound coyote released last week near Philippe Parkway will be monitored to give officials better information about the elusive animal.

Meanwhile, attacks on humans are highly unlikely, says Pinellas County urban wildlife officer Rick Stahl. Still, he says, we must learn to live with the highly adaptable and intelligent Canis latrans.

Why? Because we have no choice. Coyotes have been in Florida for more than 30 years, and locally they've turned up from the Pasco County line south to the Sunshine Skyway.

Stahl, who has documented sightings and attacks in Pinellas for 32 months, said there has been no record of coyotes attacking humans in Pinellas County. Coyotes are shy of humans - and will remain so only if we keep them at a distance. He said to stand tall and frighten away any coyote you see in your yard.

And never feed a coyote.

Despite reports of coyotes killing cats and small dogs, Stahl said small pets are more than 20 times more likely to be injured or killed by a large dog than by a coyote. Cars, infections and human cruelty pose further dangers.

Stahl said they keep our rodent population in check and moderate numbers of raccoons, opossums and other midsized predators.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

[Last modified October 20, 2006, 07:47:41]


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