Coyote awareness signs placed in Manatee County

One in neighborhood where dog was killed two years ago

ejohnson@bradenton.comMarch 19, 2013 

MANATEE -- When Melody Sweetman Carpenter's dog was killed by a coyote two years ago, she felt the need to act.

"I started to think, 'What can I do so this doesn't have to other pets or kids?'" Carpenter said.

She went to the Florida Legislature last year, asking that signs be placed in areas where coyotes are spotted. The bill passed. And Tuesday, she saw physical evidence of her advocacy.

Representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted a sign at the entrance to the Bay Lake Estates subdivision in west Bradenton, warning residents that coyotes do live in the area. The signs warn people to secure their pets and to not feed wild animals. A box on the sign holds pamphlets with information about urban coyotes.

"This is a fantastic day for me. My dog didn't die in vain," Carpenter said. "It's just bringing it all back. It's bittersweet."

Ari, Carpenter's Maltese, went out in the yard to take care of business on the morning of June 17, 2011.

"My neighbors had not warned me of coyotes in the area," Carpenter said. "We were not able to save her life."

Carpenter said she has not seen a coyote recently, but others living in the neighborhood have.

"They bed in the woods off of 75th Street (West)," one neighbor said. "I see two crossing Cortez (Road) every morning.

"I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you're doing something about it," the man told Carpenter.

For about eight months, Carpenter has been working with the FWC on coyote awareness.

"It's always an emotional issue when pets are involved," said Gary Morse, FWC spokesman.

Angeline Scotten, wildlife assistance biologist, said reports are received every couple of months regarding a coyote attack on a cat or small dog. Attacks on livestock are more intermittent, she said.

Nationwide, about three humans are attacked each year by the animals, Scotten said.

"When they give birth to pups, they become more active because they're feeding more mouths," said Morse, adding that litters are usually born between April and August.

In addition to the sign placed in Carpenter's neighborhood, representatives placed a sign on Anna Maria Island. The signs are being "tested" in those locations, Morse said. They will be moved throughout areas in the state when coyote problems or sightings increase.

"People are always surprised to hear they have coyotes in their neighborhood," Morse said. "But they are everywhere in the state -- all 67 counties. They are well-adapted to urban and suburban environments."

Anyone wanting to help with the cause can donate to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and specify funding is for coyote information and awareness.

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.

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