Although the animals are difficult to manage, continuing education remains key in coyote concerns.
Longboat Key resident Gabriela Wagner walks her dog at night and said the only thing that scares her about coyotes would be if she came across one that is rabid.
“It amazes me they were able to get here,” said Wagner, interviewed Sept. 20 in the Publix parking lot. “But I don’t think they have much of a life here.”
It appears Longboat residents are going to have to learn to live with the furry interloper.
At their workshop Monday, commissioners did not take any action to address the animals that have made their way onto the Key. Instead, they agreed with staff to continue to update the public on coyote sightings and educate them on the animal and its habits.
Longboat commissioners also reviewed results from a survey town staff sent to neighboring island communities about coyotes. What they found is that the six communities — Venice, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Marco Island, Sanibel and Captiva and St. Pete Beach — have coyotes and there have been no reported attacks on humans or pets. Furthermore, none of the communities are doing anything to actively manage their coyote populations.
Coyotes on Longboat became an issue in July when a resident spotted one in Country Club Shores. Since that initial report, the number of coyote sightings reported hovers around 30, Police Chief Pete Cumming said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has estimated there are two to four coyotes in Longboat. The animal can be found in all 67 Florida counties.
“No one is at risk,” Cumming said. “Coyotes are smart, but timid animals.”
One of the most recent reports of the animals on the Key indicates the population may be growing. Police recently received a report of a litter of three coyote puppies from workers working on the demolition at the former Colony Beach Resort & Tennis Resort, Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino said.
“When we went to look, they were gone,” said Rubino, adding the department is keeping a log of all coyote reports. It has been two weeks since the department has received a report of a coyote sighting, he said.
Coyotes generally weigh less than 30 pounds and are not interested in humans, though they have been known to get into trash cans and eat pet food left outside, the FWC has said.
Town officials consulted an independent trapper about capturing and relocating the animals. They were told it would cost $900 a week and there is no guarantee of success. Also, the animals often return to a territory, or the area often repopulates with coyotes.
Plus, if a coyote is trapped in Sarasota or Manatee counties, it must be released in that same county, according to Florida law.
“It was only a matter of time before coyotes started to show up,” said Angeline Scotten, an FWC biologist, who was at the Sept. 24 meeting.
Scotten added the animals are not a large threat to humans.
“There are only 3.5 coyote attacks on humans every year,” she added. “In the last 20 years, there was one report of a coyote with rabies.”
So what if a resident comes face-to-face with a coyote? Cumming said to follow the advice of the FWC and haze the animal. This action would include the use of pots and pans, water pistols, whistles, rocks and sticks, and motion lights.
“You have to make sure the coyote yields,” Scotten explained. “Throw rocks and sticks at them.”
Plus, keep cats indoors and small dogs on a leash or well-fenced backyard, and prevent access to garbage and pet food. If one approaches, be prepared to defend yourself and don’t run, the FWC said.