Hunting

Coyote attacks second dog in West Boca; pet owners worried

By June 4, 2015 February 15th, 2016 No Comments

June 03–For the second time since Saturday, a coyote has attacked a dog in West Boca, worrying residents so much that they’re planning to hire trappers.

The dog in Tuesday’s attack survived thanks to neighbor who intervened. Chris Lowenthal said he ran after a coyote that was gripping a dog with its mouth. The “coyote was running with it, carrying the dog by the neck trying to shake it,” he said.

Tuesday’s attack happened about 6:45 a.m. on Timbers Way in the Timberwalk community, situated near Judge Winikoff Road and west of Ponderosa Drive, residents said. A woman was walking her dog, Kiwi, when the coyote snatched it, they said.

Chris Lowenthal stepped outside his home to help while he still was in his boxers, he said. He chased the coyote across Judge Winikoff Road, through thorny bushes and over a fence, according to Bob Bernhardt, president of the Timberwalk Homeowners Association.

The coyote finally dropped the dog, allowing Lowenthal to grab and return the dog to its owner. “This coyote was big and it was pretty aggressive,” he said.

He said the coyote followed him back into the neighborhood, but “one of the neighbors came out with a sword” to help fend it off. “It was pretty hectic this morning,” Lowenthal said. “I think there’s a few coyotes, maybe a small pack.”

The dog was taken to a veterinarian, said David Walesky, operations manager for Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control. Due to the possibility of rabies, the dog has been placed under a 45-day quarantine, the standard protocol for pets with their vaccines that are up to date, he said.

Later Tuesday in a West Boca neighborhood, residents remained vigilant while walking their pets. One man walked his dog while carrying a T-ball bat — just in case. “You gotta do what you gotta do to protect the animals,” he said.

The attack came days after a 4-year-old Yorkie, Lola, was snatched by a coyote about 6:45 a.m. Saturday in the nearby Boca Winds community. That dog is presumed dead by its owners.

It’s unclear if it’s one or more coyotes behind the attacks.

Bob Bernhardt, president of the Timberwalk Homeowners Association, said he has received reports from residents of coyote sightings during the past seven weeks. He is meeting with a trapper Wednesday, he said.

“Within the last two or three weeks, these creatures have become more and more aggressive,” Bernhardt said.

He said his community used to have numerous Muscovy ducks and some feral cats that residents used to feed, but he hasn’t seen many lately. “They were like little pets and people used to leave stuff out for them,” Bernhardt said.

With the increase in coyote sightings, what was considered a nice gesture to leave out food is now highly discouraged. A letter was sent to residents telling them to stop leaving food out and keep their trash secured, Bernhardt said.

Bernhardt said he was concerned that people may arm themselves to get rid of the coyotes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises against shooting or injuring wildlife.

“We don’t want to have this become the old Wild West days,” Bernhardt said.

Walesky, of animal control, said past efforts to trap coyotes showed “very limited success.”

If people insist on trying to trap them, they’ll have to hire a private trapper or exterminator because animal control doesn’t trap the animals, he said.

Walesky said residents may be better off eliminating the presence of discarded food, which likely is the main lure for coyotes in neighborhoods. That includes bags of trash left out in the open, bird feeders or pet food. If it’s left out in the open, Walesky said, a coyote will find it.

Of a coyote, Walesky said, “as long as he’s not finding food, he’ll have no reason to stay.”

If coyotes persist, Walesky said, residents may try to ward off the animals by yelling or using a noisemaker, such as pennies in a can. The constant harassment could make the coyote think twice about coming back. “It’ll generally feel threatened and go away,” he said.

Walesky said he also has seen people successfully use pepper spray and vinegar in a squirt gun on the coyotes.

Liz Barraco, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said she has seen an increase in the South Florida coyote population. Still, attacks between people and coyotes are extremely rare, she said. Several pets have been attacked in the past by coyotes but specific numbers were not available from the wildlife commission.

“Anytime you’re living next to an area like the Everglades or natural park, there’s going to be a lot of wildlife in your neighborhood,” Barraco said.

While coyotes may be causing problems in West Boca neighborhoods, Barraco said, coyotes generally aren’t all bad.

They do help keep the population of rodents, snakes and lizards in check. They can also be helpful to birds, by killing smaller predators such as foxes and feral cats, she said.

For more information about coyotes or to report incidents with wildlife, residents are urged to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.

Reporter Lauren Hills, reporter for Sun Sentinel news partner WPEC-Ch. 12, contributed to this report.

asacasa@tribpub.com, 561-243-6607 or Twitter Instagram @adamsacasa

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