MANATEE — Sunday morning started off so routinely at the Sherrill family household in GreyHawk Landing.
Feed the dog. Shower. Get ready for church.
“The whole Thanksgiving weekend was great,” said Josh Sherrill, 29. “Then something like this happens.”
Moments after letting their miniature 6-year-old dachshund, Peachy, into the backyard, Sherrill spotted three coyotes. One pounced on the 14-pound dog.
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Sherrill bolted after the attacking coyote, which can weigh up to 40 pounds, yelling and chasing it through neighboring backyards before it dropped the injured dog before a barbed wire fence.
The other coyotes disappeared into the pasture behind their subdivision.
“It was pure panic,” said the former Marine, studying to be a medical technician. “It was either go get my gun or go after the dog. If I did the first thing, it would’ve been too late. It happened so fast.”
“The whole attack must’ve been two, three minutes, but I was terrified,” said his wife, Danica, a Bradenton Herald employee.
“Would you believe that coyote jumped through the fence, then turned around and stared at us?”
The family’s 2-year-old cat, Honey, is still missing, but the family is uncertain whether the coyotes got it.
“It may be so traumatized it’s still hiding,” the 29-year-old said.
Her husband rushed the dog to an animal hospital where it underwent successful surgery for a series of puncture wounds.
“We spent our Christmas money saving our dog,” Danica Sherrill said.
Since it was bitten by a wild animal and wasn’t current on its shots at the time of the attack, the dog, which received a rabies shot at the animal hospital, will be quarantined for six months.
“They have to keep the dog in the house and restrict its contact with other animals and humans,” said Barbara Will, the environmental supervisor for the Manatee County Health Department.
Increased coyote sightings have put more pets at risk, said Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“They’re looking for rabbit-sized prey, small pets, toy breeds generally,” he said. “They’re highly adapted to an urban environment. You have a better chance to control the weather than trying to eliminate coyotes.”
As for coyote attacks on humans?
“It’s a rarity,” Morse said. “You’re probably far more in danger from neighborhood dogs.”
Regardless, neither the Sherrills’ dog nor their 4-year-old daughter, Aubrey, will be left alone in their backyard.
“Neighbors said there had been some coyotes spotted three weeks ago, so it was always in the back of my mind,” Josh Sherrill said. “But until it actually happens, it doesn’t hit home.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.