Like it or not, beachside residents need to learn to live around an urban coyote population that is here to stay.
That’s the message presented last week in Satellite Beach at a workshop by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for which all residents were mailed an announcement postcard with the question, “Have you seen coyotes in your neighborhood?”
The workshop, held Nov. 29 at the Satellite Beach Civic Center, was designed to provide the public with general information about coyotes in Florida. Stations covered specific topics including coyote biology, pet safety, coyote hazing and deterrent techniques, and coyote trapping and removal options.
FWC biologists regularly conduct such outreach and education events specifically related to coyotes. Since January 2017, staff have conducted 30 events reaching over 1,600 residents, said FWC Senior Wildlife Assistance Biologist Catherine Kennedy.
The FWC regularly receives reports of coyote observations throughout Florida. Coyotes are found in all of Florida’s 67 counties including several barrier islands. They are well-adapted to a variety of habitat types, whether rural or urbanized.
Since Jan. 1, the FWC has documented 769 calls statewide related to coyotes. In Brevard, Melbourne has had the most with five reports, followed by Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach with two each. Receiving one report in that period were Cape Canaveral, Indialantic, Palm Bay and Titusville.
The main concern of residents is pet safety as evidenced by numerous social media posts on NextDoor.com giving accounts of cats and small dogs attacked by coyotes in Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach.
“Coyotes have not disappeared. They are still in the area. People are concerned about them but they are not going to go away. We need to learn to live with them,’’ said Indian Harbour Beach City Manager, who was faced with a flare-up of the coyote problem in Gleason Park about a year ago.
Trapper Leo Cross of Merritt Island with Florida Wildlife Trappers and Rescue Inc. was able to trap a coyote in Gleason Park, which is not an easy feat.
“They are difficult to trap because they can smell human scent on the traps. I leave mine out for months before I use them,’’ he said.
Some of the coyotes seem to be migrating south in search of food – feral cat colonies – by traveling along the beaches. They also target sea turtle nests, Cross said. To reduce the risk of human-wildlife conflicts, experts suggest removing attractants such as pet food or unsecured garbage, not feeding wild animals, keeping cats indoors, and walking dogs on a short leash.
If a coyote approaches too closely there are ways you can use to deter it and frighten it away. Hazing the animal by making loud noises and acting aggressively or throwing sticks near (not at) it can be effective but must be continued or the coyote may return.
Coyotes in the wild help maintain balanced ecosystems by controlling the populations of rodents and small predators, such as foxes, opossums and raccoons.