Cat owners warned: Coyotes on the prowl

Recent reports of coyotes attacking cats in Indialantic have state officials urging residents to change risky behaviors like letting the cats out all night.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Assistance Program had a total of 49 calls related to coyotes in Brevard County from Jan. 1, 2017, through May 15, 2018, with the majority of the sightings reported coming from residents in cities and unincorporated areas on the barrier islands, said FWC spokesman Jamie Rager.

Negative interactions with pets are a common reason people call the FWC to seek technical assistance related to conflicts with wildlife. One of the most common reasons the FWC receives calls from the public is to report observations of coyotes in urban areas.

Encounters between people and coyotes in Florida are occurring more often. As development encroaches on natural areas, coyotes may be drawn to urban areas by attractants, such as garbage and pet food. Coyotes den beginning in early spring and pups are raised during summer months. Coyotes may be observed more often during this time as the parents forage for food and teach their pups to fend for themselves, she said.

The FWC often receives reports from pet owners and other members of the public when they suspect coyotes are responsible for the loss of pets. Michelle Snyder of Indialantic called FWC April 25 to report that her 9-year-old tuxedo cat Revo had gone missing. A photo of Revo later was used in local broadcast coverage of the most recent outbreak, which she believes is due to coyotes hiding in areas among the dunes along State Road A1A.

“I let my cats be cats and they were indoor/outdoor, but not anymore. I had no idea. I basically live across the street from the ocean so I would never expect a coyote. They definitely are here and recently they are hurting a lot of cats in Indialantic. It makes me worry and keep my cats in now,’’ she said.

“I’m really glad that my poor cat is actually helping to bring awareness because he’s been seen by so many people,’’ Snyder said.

Aside from keeping pets indoors, other measures important for keeping pets safe from coyotes include: small dogs should be walked on a short leash, especially at night, dusk or dawn; dog owners should be extra careful walking in wooded areas, or areas that have heavy foliage where coyotes or could hide.

If pets are kept in a fenced yard, the fence should be about 6 feet high to help deter coyotes from jumping over it, and the bottom of the fence should be checked regularly to ensure there are no holes where coyotes can get underneath.

To report a coyote during business hours, contact the FWC’s Northeast Regional Office at 352-732-1225 or for emergencies the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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