Coyotes Dogged by Unwarranted Fear
A veteran trapper said coyotes are no more dangerous than raccoons, contrary to 'hyped-up BS' coming from media and animal control officials.
An Estero woman claimed to be bitten in Lee County by what appeared to be a coyote in June 2008.
That is the lone coyote attack on a human recorded in the state according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Otherwise, there are only a few confirmed attacks on humans reported anywhere else in North America.
But, state biologists and local animal control officers warn, once acclimated to living among people - often subsisting unseen in greenbelts, watershed lands, vacant lots or parks - coyotes can be brazen.
Clearwater Air Park general manager Barbara Cooper said coyotes would lounge in the sun on runway tarmacs on cold days in January and February.
Planes couldn't land until the coyotes cleared off.
"We'd have to take a pickup truck out there and chase them off," Cooper said. "I thought they would be skittish, but they just don't move."
Pinellas County Animal Control operations manager Gary Andrews said his office has detected a disturbing trend that may indicate coyotes are becoming aggressive.
Andrews said some people report being "shadowed" by one or more coyotes when walking dogs.
"They're watching," he said. "They're opportunists. They're waiting for a chance."
But veteran trapper Vernon Yates of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc., in Seminole, said much of the recent concern about coyotes is "hyped-up BS."
People are "freaking out because of what animal control is telling them," he said, claiming the media and some local governments are needlessly stoking fear about an animal that is no more dangerous than a raccoon.
PROBLEM IS PEOPLE
Yates, who removed six coyote pups from a den at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair in April, said he gets "one or two coyote calls a day."
But, he said, people, not coyotes, are the problem. If people keep pets leashed and indoors, as the law requires in Pinellas County, they have nothing to fear, he said.
Yates scoffs at allegations that coyotes will attack dogs.
"It's the other way around," he said. "The dogs are running loose, off the leash. They see the coyotes, and they attack the coyotes."
Andrews said many of the "coyote calls" his office gets are from people angry that they have lost pets, primarily cats.
But those same people have "conditioned" coyotes into foraging in their neighborhoods by allowing pets to run free, leaving pet food in yards, not harvesting windfall fruit from the ground and putting garbage cans outside before scheduled pickup, he said.
Andrews said coyotes most frequently are reported on garbage-collection days in many neighborhoods.
The Pinellas County Animal Services Department's website offers suggestions on how residents can "coyote-proof" their property and protect pets. The site also features an interactive GIS map documenting coyote sightings, and a Power Point presentation that Andrews delivers during "coyote forums" with neighborhood groups and homeowner associations.
Only one thing is certain with coyotes, he said: They are here to stay.
"A lot of people feel coyotes should be eradicated, but we know from history that doesn't work," Andrews said. "There are cities that tried to do that and, after spending millions of dollars, they still have a coyote problem."