A coyote walks across a California golf course in broad daylight. Coyotes present a potential problem to Florida ranchers, farmers and city residents alike, as predation is on the rise. Dawn Beattie / Flickr
Fending for food and attacking prey are all a part of the Canis latrans’ way of life. However, when they encroach on a person’s property and target small livestock or family pets, coyotes can become problematic.
Coyotes have become a real problem in communities around Florida and preventative measures are being taken by official agencies. In November of 2014, the Florida Wildlife Commission had a community meeting in Orlando to discuss coyotes and how to better coexist with them.
All of Florida’s counties are confirmed to have coyote, according to Angeline Scotten, a senior wildlife assistance biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Reports are showing a further density increase in the southernmost counties.
Efforts to control coyotes prove to be expensive and time-consuming.
For a landowner looking to protect his or her property, thousands of dollars could be spent on fencing, durable traps and common snares. However, the FWC requires permits for specific traps and snares as they are potentially harmful and can leave the animal to die.
The direct distrust with coyotes stems from their predation on pets and livestock, especially sheep and cats.
Even with a reported kill-count of 100 coyotes in 1997, an estimated 75 percent of the resident and surrounding coyote population needs to be eradicated every year to effectively control them, according to an FWC survey.
Coyote are not leaving Florida any time soon.
“Coyotes are here to stay! Coyotes are intelligent and adaptable mammals,” Scotten wrote in an email. “They are proving they are willing to live with us and, if we take some simple steps, we can live with them.”
A 1998 survey of cattlemen channeled the viewpoints of Florida ranchers in North and South Florida and showed that a steady increase of coyote was found. Cattlemen in both the north and south ends of Florida reported major coyote activity in the months of November through April. This time frame goes hand-in-hand with livestock calving, as well as calves being nursed, according to an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey.
Vulnerable calves are an easy target and veteran coyote take advantage of such an easy meal. However, not all coyote prey upon livestock. Smaller animals like rodents, cats and carrion, the flesh of dead animals, are also a part of the coyote’s palate.
Coyote also have no preference in time of day to hunt. However, most attacks on prey are known to happen at dusk or dawn.
Attacks on a human, however, are a very rare occurrence and have only left minor bites or scratches to those people, according to a 2007 FWC compilation document.
“I only know of one coyote/human incident in Florida, and that was in 2012,” Scotten said. “There have only been two human fatalities caused by coyotes in the last 60 years in the U.S. and Canada.”
Habituation often occurs with wild animals like coyote that easily adapt; but where coyotes are hunted and trapped, they are cautious of people.
Larry Wells, a Sumter County resident, and his family have had a few firsthand encounters with wild coyotes encroaching on their property — preventing any damage has been a personal endeavor.
“Me and Carson [his son], will go out and hunt them,” Wells said. “We pretty much just take care of it ourselves.”
Some Florida counties, like Sumter, have seen an increase in coyote predation. And some of its residents have seen the damage the coyote can have on livestock.
“We might have lost two calves to them last year,” Wells said. “Like, say, you see a buzzard or something, you [have to] go look and if you do see some bones usually it’s from a coyote.”
Wells saw about 10 coyotes last year.
James Melvin, an avid hunter and property manager for Rainey Properties, witnessed a coyote attack this year while on the job in Ocala.
“I’ve seen a lot of [coyotes] before, but I’ve never seen a coyote attack so close,” Melvin said. “Now, I realize these things are pretty [mean].”
Melvin was working a site in a rural part of Silver Spring Shores when he noticed a sickly, medium-sized coyote strolling onto his work site. Other workers noticed it but didn’t pay any attention.
After the coyote circled the house a couple of times, Melvin began to wonder what it was after. The far-off neighbors to the construction had some pets, but they were usually put up inside, Melvin said.
Then, a yelp was heard about 40 yards from the construction. As Melvin looked in the direction of the sound, he saw the same coyote but now it had the neighbor’s 3-year-old Dachshund, Pip, by the neck.
“The coyote was vicious, it had the dog by the neck and wouldn’t let go,” he said. “Now I’m always on the lookout [for coyote].”
Looking forward, coyote encroachment will be a concern for Florida ranchers, farm owners and even residential communities. Encounters with coyote have increased, which may make coyotes lose fear of people.
“While [coyotes] are relatively new to Florida, they live in every state in the continental U.S. and even some of our largest cities,” Scotten said. “People in other parts of the U.S, have been living with coyotes for decades, and Floridians can live with coyotes, too.”