Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CCSO, FWC Offer Safety Tips For Coyote Encounters

As development encroaches upon wildlife habitat, encounters between humans and wildlife – including coyotes – are bound to increase. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission remind residents of steps they can take to help avoid problems with coyotes.

Just seeing a coyote in a neighborhood doesn’t indicate a threat to human safety. In fact, coyotes have lived in and among humans in urban settings for many years with little fanfare, but coyotes may see small pets as potential food, according to FWC biologists.

Though urban coyotes can be seen at any time of the night or day, it is more common to encounter them between dusk and dawn, particularly near natural areas bordered by water. Residents walking small pets at these times and places should be particularly cautious.

CCSO and FWC encourage pet owners to step up pet-security measures. Don’t allow your dogs or cats to roam freely. Pets that roam free are enticing targets for coyotes. Residents can prevent most conflicts with coyotes and other wildlife by taking a few simple, proactive steps to avoid creating nuisance opportunities.

* Do not leave food or water outside for your pets.

* Keep garbage in a tightly sealed container

* Keep pets on a leash when walking them. If approached by potentially dangerous wildlife, do not hunch over your pet to protect it. Be cautious if you are going to pick up your pet when approached by a coyote. Stand as tall as possible, wave your arms and shout at the coyote. But be prepared to defend yourself if the coyote continues to go after that pet.

* Carry a flashlight, noisemaker and a stick or golf club when walking small animals. That can help scare away coyotes and other wildlife.

* Keep pets inside at night, if possible.

* Protect livestock, especially chickens, young calves and sheep. When using fencing, be sure that coyotes can’t dig under or climb over the fence.

* Tell children that coyotes are wild animals, even though they look a lot like dogs, and coyotes should be treated the same as other wildlife. You should stay away from coyotes and do not let them come near you.

Call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) to report any problems with coyotes or other wildlife. Call the Sheriff’s Office at 239.252.9300 to report any aggressive behavior. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

The FWC deals with nuisance coyote behavior on a case-by-case basis. If there is a focused problem, there are methods available to residents to help solve the problem and professional trappers to target specific nuisance animals.

For assistance on living with wildlife, visit MyFWC.com/Wildlife or contact the FWC’s South Region office at 561-625-5122. The University of Florida also has coyote information available online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/.