NAPLES — Friday morning was not only cold for Trish Priller, but it was brutal.
Her white adult cat, Snowbell, whom she rescued from the animal shelter about six years ago, was a morning meal for two wild coyotes.
The duo had been spotted in the Meadowbrook neighborhood, near the corner of Radio Road and Livingston Road in East Naples, but Priller and her neighbors never heard the attack.
“I saw one run across Livingston Road on Wednesday night,” Priller said. “I remember hearing about attacks (in Estero) last year, but not in my backyard.”
Priller’s neighbor, Chuck Bender, who has two dogs, awoke to a strange sound. When his flood lights came on, he watched two medium sized brown and red animals from his bedroom window that looks onto his yard drop what appeared to be a white bunny, but after examining the silhouette, he realized it was a cat.
“When you hear a noise like that, it’s a new noise different from anything you’ve even heard before, pulled us out of a dead sleep,” he recounted. “It was like a tiered whooping, it went high, almost like a laugh, it was not a natural noise.”
Priller, who also works for the Daily News, has two other cats, one of whom is still missing.
Snowbell was an indoor/outdoor cat and despite best efforts to usher the cats into the garage since the evening cooler than usual, they insisted on remaining outside. Priller cannot believe this happened in her backyard.
“I think I’m still in shock,” she said, holding back tears. “It’s disappointing. I still have to break the news to one of my kids.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Control (FWC) were called and responded to the scene readily.
“People should understand there are coyotes that exist in every county in Florida,” George Pino, Spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, said. “Although it’s not common that a coyote attacks a pet, it does happen, people need to use certain commonsense when dealing with any nuisance wildlife.”
He recommended that residents never leave food outside home at night, thereby preventing it from being accessible to other animals.
As a word of caution, Pino reminds residents that if you’re walking at night or early morning hours, make sure you take a stick or golf club so you can defend yourself, especially if you live in more rural areas, he said.
For Priller’s other neighbor, Karen Kamak, who has a Japanese Chin (a small frilly dog, that resembles a Shih-Tzu) named Yoshi, wants the coyotes removed.
“I’m concerned for Yoshi,” Kamak said. “I won’t be taking her out at night. I’m scared to go out at night. Keep them away from my dog and her food.”
She sometimes babysits her neighbor’s dog and when she heard about the cat, she said, her heart sank.
“I’ll tell people to take their dog out in light, not in the backyard, and keep an eye on them,” she said.
Priller hopes her cat’s death will help others take more caution in letting their animals run loose.
“Just want people to know they are out there, and to take precautions,” she said. “Watch your pets.”