June 18, 2012
Coyotes Are Here to Stay
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern
The coyote is a relative newcomer to Florida, increasing its numbers and range in the state over the past 30-40 years. This expansion can be attributed to the coyote’s opportunistic feeding habits, large litter sizes, and decreases in competing predators. As omnivores, they will eat whatever they can hunt or scavenge including small mammals, snakes, fruit, and plants. Regardless of how or when they got here, coyotes are now an established resident of Florida and can be found throughout the state.
Coyotes may actually be attracted to human expansion. Sightings of these dog-like species are becoming more and more of a common place even in areas as densely populated and highly urbanized as Pinellas County. This nearness to humans inevitably leads to interaction.
While coyotes are usually shy and afraid of humans, their highly adaptable nature has led to a loss of their instinctual fear in urban environments. It is important to point out that there have been no known coyote attacks in Pinellas County and only one documented fatality caused by a coyote in the United States. Feeding them as well as leaving unsecured garbage and pet food outside may result in coyotes losing their innate fear of humans and encourage them closer to human populations.
Coyote migration into Florida raises other concerns besides those directly related to people. Little is known about the effects (both positive and negative) the introduction of this new predator will have on Florida’s ecosystems. It is important to know as much as we can about them in order to make well-informed decisions regarding coyotes. What impact might they have on prey population, competing predators, and other native species? What effect will they have on the Florida Panther? Can this harm recovery efforts of this endangered species? Not enough research has been done yet to answer these questions, but one thing that is certain is coyotes are now a permanent fixture in the landscape of Pinellas County and all of Florida.
If you want to learn more about coyotes and other creatures that visit your yard at night, sign up for the “Creatures of the Night” program at Brooker Creek Preserve on July 7th from 10–11 a.m. Free registration is available at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/3179747711/eorg
To keep up to date on natural resource issues around the state and right here in Pinellas County, follow your local Natural Resource Agent on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/Pinellas_Ext_NR
@ 10:23 AM