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State Panel to Study Coyotes From 'A to Z'

Just don't call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission panel a 'task force.'

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will create a panel to study how urban and suburban residents can better coexist with the state's growing coyote presence.

During the two-year study, the panel, announced last week, will collect data on coyote sightings, establish uniform educational efforts, train trappers in how to handle nuisance coyotes and develop a plan for dealing with aggressive coyotes.

But don't call the panel a "task force," said FWC Southwest Region spokesman Gary Morse in Lakeland last Wednesday.

The study group is not responding to a crisis, nor does it have any clear directives other than serving as "an agency team formed to look at the issues related to coyotes, from 'A' to 'Z,'" Morse said.

No one has even been formally assigned to "the formulative" panel, he said. "Nothing is happening yet."

Pinellas County Animal Control operations manager Gary Andrews is among those eager to participate in the study.

"I hope to be part of that," he said.

Andrews said a statewide effort to track and map coyote sightings could benefit from a web-based program established by Pinellas County's Animal Services Department in 2009.

The department has linked a page to its website that features aninteractive map that allows people to log their own sightings and read about other local sightings. More than 160 coyote sightings through May 19 have been documented on the map.

Andrews said the map was part of a more ambitious plan to not merely log sightings, but to trap and collar coyotes to study how they survive in Pinellas County's urban landscape, and determine if they truly pose a risk to people and pets.

But, he said, the program was scaled back "for budgetary reasons," he said.

Regardless, Pinellas County's interactive web map program could serve as a foundation for an "integrated GIS mapping system statewide," Andrews said.

Web links:
Pinellas County coyote page

Pinellas County coyote-sighting interactive map

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