A group of coyotes has been spotted roaming around the Suntree area over the last two months, according to wildlife trappers and country club staff.
Suntree Country Club staff and a wildlife trapper believe the group of five coyotes have become unafraid of people and are responsible for killing a dog.
As of Tuesday, wildlife trappers have yet to catch and relocate the animals from the heavily populated residential area and golf course, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
A family driving home with their new rescue dog rolled their windows down last week, only to have the dog jump out and run off, according to Steve Lamontaigne, of the Suntree Country Club.
The dog’s remains were found on club property. Coyotes had killed it.
Lamontaigne believes the pack consists of five coyotes and said one has a distinctive and unusual black coat.
“They’ve been on property for a couple of months,” Lamontaigne said.
"They were being spotted here and there and all of a sudden in the last two or three weeks, they were getting more friendly."
Lamontaigne said he was worried this increased friendliness might be a sign the coyotes were being fed by people.
Wildlife trapper James Dean is still recovering from injuries he sustained when he was gored by a hog in October. Despite still healing from those traumatic injuries, he’s still working, setting out traps and attempting to track the coyotes.
Dean says once the coyotes are trapped, they'll be released into the wild away from the public, unless they no longer fear people.
"Feeding wild animals is the same as signing their death warrant," Dean said.
"People that are feeding wildlife, they may feel bad for them, but they're also hurting that animal. If that animal has lost its fear of humans, it can't be returned to the wild."
Because the coyotes have been seen roaming during daylight hours — outside of their typical nocturnal habits — it could be the result of being fed by people, Dean said.
If the coyotes have been fed, humans should be even more cautious. Coyotes are unlikely to attack people unless they've been conditioned to no longer fear them, Dean said.
On top of that is the risk of rabies, he added. A cat recently diagnosed with the neurological disease in Palm Bay means other animals in the county are at risk of spreading it, especially wide-ranging coyotes.
Dean said the animals spotted in Suntree have shown no signs of rabies that the risk is always there.
For now, Lamontaigne hopes the coyotes have moved on. After months of sightings, the coyotes haven't been seen as frequently in recent days.
“Members were a little scared, but the home front has been quiet,” he said.