Emboldened coyotes have seized at least one pet in the Rotonda area and routinely stalk turtle nests on Gasparilla Island sands.
"Coyote predation has increased on unmarked sea turtle nests after Tropical Storm Debby,' said Wilma Katz of the Coastal Wildlife Club.
Coyotes can be heard howling at night throughout the Gasparilla Island area and sometimes during the day when emergency vehicles pass by. The scientific name of the coyote, Canis latrans, lmeans "barking dog."
Coyotes are in general solitary hunters.
Coyotes help control rodent populations and are not all bad, says at least one naturalist.
"I know that coyotes can be a potential problem but it is impressive that a mid-sized predator can persist and even thrive in the face of so many attempts to kill it," said William Dunson, Gasparilla Gazette Nature Walk columnist. "Although it is presumably not native originally to this area, it seems to replace some of the native predators that have been eliminated, and I do enjoy having them around.
"We seem to have a very healthy ecosystem here with good to excellent populations of birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, so the coyotes do not seem to be an adverse disturbance to natural systems."
Unless it's your pet a coyote targets for lunch, authorities say.
Rotonda West resident Desiree Numen told animal control officials a coyote carried off her family's Jack Russell terrier, Chester, March 27. The coyote bit into her dog's neck as they were standing in her front yard and ran into the woods despite her screams.
Most coyote attacks on pets occur either at night or at dusk or dawn. Animal control officer John Butler said a coyote is less likely to attack if a dog is leashed and they are attracted to open garbage cans.
Coyotes have become common in the Gasparilla island area yet are rarely seen despite leaving tracks and spoor as evidence of their existence. Attacks on pets are still rare as coyotes have an innate fear of humans, according to University of Florida data.