The howls from a nearby lot are most noticeable when emergency vehicles screech by Joe Sipos’ home in McIntosh Meadows.
The howls are a wild animal’s response to the sirens, and they frighten Sipo’s pets — two cats and a Shih Tzu — when they hear the noise from his back porch.
“They know what they’re hearing,” Sipos said during a Feb. 28 interview with the Sarasota Observer — coyotes.
Sipos’ home abuts roughly 30 acres of undeveloped property on McIntosh Road, just south of Fruitville Road.
McIntosh Meadows residents suspect a pack of coyotes has killed three missing neighborhood cats. And, residents rarely see wild rabbits that used to frequent the subdivision, Sipos said.
“At night, when there are sirens, it sounds like something back there is beating the hell out of some dogs,” Sipos said. “There have to be at least four or five of them.”
The site is overgrown, allowing ample space for wildlife to roam, such as bobcats reported about two years ago.
Coyotes are considered native species in Florida. Researchers have documented the predators in all 67 counties in the state, according to a 2007 Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute report. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services removes between 75 and 100 coyotes from the state annually.
Coyotes are considered opportunistic omnivores, which means they will eat whatever plants or animals are most abundant where they roam. That includes everything from rats and deer, to watermelon and cantaloupes.
At least 35 homes and the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee campus on McIntosh Road surround the vacant lot, which means any neighborhood pets that wander into the brush become potential prey for the coyotes.
But, Sarasota County doesn’t monitor the local coyote population. And the USDA Wildlife Services focuses removal efforts on areas with dense populations of coyotes.
It is legal to hunt coyotes year-round during the day, because they are classified as fur-bearing. But, hunting at night — when coyotes are active — is illegal.
“I know what these animals look like and I know what they can do,” Sipos said.