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Coexisting with coyotes in Lehigh

March 6, 2019
By MELISSA BILL (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Development in Lee County, particularly Lehigh Acres, has brought more encounters between humans and local wildlife, some good, some not.

Area residents, particularly pet owners, are placing coyotes encounters among the "not."

Animals such as coyotes have coexisted with humans for years, and this canine species can be found throughout Florida and the rest of the United States. According to a 2017 FWC report, coyote populations have been documented in all 67 counties in Florida. Coyotes are a medium-sized canine, which are closely related to the domestic dog.

By nature, coyotes are shy and elusive, but as the human population grows, encounters between humans and coyotes have increased. Some residents have expressed concerns and questions regarding living safely with this canine species.

The Humane Society Organization reports very few cases of people being bitten by a coyote. Most cases documented occurred while the person was attempting to rescue their free-roaming pet from a coyote attack.

According to Melody Kilborn, spokesperson for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as with any type of wildlife, the key is taking the proper safety precautions.

"Coyotes are not very big and rarely pose a threat to humans or even larger animals. Living so close in proximity to wildlife, it's a good idea for residents to keep their cats in-doors and dogs either on a leash or in a six-foot high fenced in-yard. When walking your dog, it's best to use a short leash," said Kilborn.

Over the past few years, residents have reported coyote sightings, even in during the daytime.

"The increase could be partially due to people being more aware of what they look like. Coyotes can and will look for food during the daytime. They can eat a variety of wildlife and plant materials and are extremely adaptable to living in rural, suburban and urban landscapes," Kilborn said.

The majority of recent sightings consisted of a lone coyote, or a mother with her pups. Although coyotes live in family groups, they usually travel and hunt alone or in loose pairs.

Coyotes can be curious but are also timid and generally run away if challenged. The FWC has tips on what to do if a coyote approaches too closely.

"Hazing coyotes by making loud noises and acting aggressively will typically cause a coyote to leave an area. A few examples of effective hazing techniques include: yelling, banging pans, rattling a can with pebbles and spraying water. All are good ways to drive them away safely, but humanely," said Kilborn.

According to Kilborn, food is one of the main reasons coyotes come closer to humans and may lose their fear.

"Residents can do their part by never feeding coyotes or other wildlife either intentionally or unintentionally. It's also a good idea to keep pet and bird food away from the outskirts of the home and keep garbage cans secured," said Kilborn.

Another misconception, said Kilborn, is that coyotes seen during the daytime are probably sick or rabid.

"That's simply not true. They hunt both during the day and at night and come out whenever food is available to them," said Kilborn.

Coyotes do play an important role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem by controlling the populations of rodents and smaller predators including foxes, opossums and raccoons.

According to FWC, removing coyotes for the purpose of eradication has proven inefficient and ineffective. New coyotes move into areas where others have been removed. Removal activities such as hunting and trapping merely put pressures on the species to reproduce at a younger age and more rapidly.

Residents can report any unusual coyote behavior such as approaching people, chasing joggers and bikers, or attacking leashed pets by contacting FWC's Regional Office at (863)648-3200, Monday thru Friday, 8am to 5pm, or the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888)404-3922.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers brochures and additional tips for living safely with coyotes on their webpage at myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/coyotes/

 
 

 

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