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Coyote sightings, attacks rising amid drought and wildfires

Two dogs attacked, one killed in Hernando Co.
Posted at 7:45 PM, May 17, 2017

Experts say coyotes are being driven from their homes and are looking for food, because of the drought and extensive wildfires in Florida. That's leading to more sightings in residential areas, and attacks by coyotes on pets.

Tank is a nearly 100-pound pit bull, but gentle as can be.Today though, he is more timid than usual.

"He doesn't want to be alone. He's still looking for his friend," said Tank's caretaker Bonnie Hester.

Tank's best friend was another pit named Bubbles. Every night, Bonnie would walk the same path with both dogs: the adventurous Tank on a leash and Bubbles by her side. But on a recent evening, she encountered an aggressive pack of coyotes

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," Hester said.

The coyotes started pulling Tank down and running into the woods with Bubbles.

"I just kept screaming and screaming and running towards them and that's when it all broke up," said Hester.

Tank was severely wounded. Bubbles didn't make it.

"They cut their throats. It just was brutal," said Hester.

Bonnie's been a caretaker  for her neighbor's pits and a bulldog named Dixie almost two years. She is heartbroken, but now wanting to warn others to keep close watch for coyotes.

"It could be a child next time," Hester said.

Human attacks are extremely rare. But pet attacks are becoming more common..

"They've just taken over," said retired trapper Dennis Towns.

FWC says the coyotes have gone from living in a third of the state, to now occupying every Florida county.

And Towns has a burning suspicion on why coyotes are being seen more this year in both rural and urban areas.  Drought and hundreds of wildfires are leaving them with no home and no food.

"They feed on rabbits, chicks, eggs, and smaller animals and when these fires go through it wipes all that out, so it just forces them into other areas," said Towns.

The bad news is there's not much we can do to keep the coyotes out.

"They're like mosquitos. You do what you can, but you're always going to have them," said Towns.

Bonnie Hester won't walk alone any more and will keep the dogs close by. She now just hopes no one else experiences her heartache.

Towns also warns against hiring cage trappers. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to trap coyotes. He suggests if you hire a trapper, they give you proof of catching the animal before submitting payment. Towns believes a skilled predator caller typically has better success.