HOLMES BEACH – There have been three reported coyote sightings in Holmes Beach in the past week and pet owners are advised not to leave their pets outside and unattended.
At approximately 8:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Capt. Carson Wooten, from Island Fishing Charters, was driving onto the Island on Manatee Avenue when he spotted a large coyote on the west side of the Anna Maria Bridge, near the portable roadside messaging sign across the street from the Publix and former Bank of America building.
“I was coming over the bridge and it was actually on the sidewalk out by the road and the sign when I first saw it. I pulled over and it ran toward the bushes. It ran about halfway, stopped and stood in the grass checking me out and I just happened to get a couple pictures of it,” Wooten said.
To deter coyotes, the FWC recommends keeping cats and dogs indoors, feeding them indoors and putting trash out in the morning instead of at night.
When walking a dog on a leash, carry a stick, noisemaker, golf club or pepper spray, particularly around sunrise or sunset and near water, and if a coyote approaches, don’t run – pick up the dog, if possible, stand as tall as possible and yell.
The Humane Society suggests raking around bird feeders, removing fruit from the ground and using trash cans with tight-fitting lids. If a coyote approaches, “hazing” techniques include yelling and waving your arms, using whistles, air horns or soda cans filled with pennies, banging pots and pans, throwing sticks, small rocks and balls, spraying water hoses or using water guns or spray bottles filled with vinegar water.
Never feed coyotes, experts say.
Neither the state nor the county will trap and remove coyotes.
Wooten estimated the coyote’s weight to be around 40 pounds.
“I hunt and I’ve seen a lot of coyotes and this one looked pretty healthy to me. He didn’t look sickly – when they get sick they start losing their hair. It wasn’t aggressive. It ran away and then sat there and hung out while I took pictures. I wondered if maybe he wandered over the bridge from Perico,” Wooten said.
When asked if he’s ever seen a coyote on the Island before, Wooten, a Bradenton resident, said, “Not on the Island. I’ve seen them on Longboat Key before.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said his officers responded to a coyote sighting the day before elsewhere in the city, near 81st Street and Marina Drive.
“We called (Manatee County) Animal Services because someone said the coyote looked to be hurt. My guys saw it, took a picture of it and were waiting on someone from Animal Services to come out and see if they could corral it and get it medical attention if that’s what it needed. Somebody originally thought it was injured because it was laying underneath a boat on a trailer, but it ran off and the Animal Services person said it looked like it was healthy,” Tokajer said.
“We were told this morning there’s a family of coyotes on the causeway side of our bridge,” he added, noting that his officers are not instructed to trap or destroy the wild animals.
“There’s no reason for it,” he said.
“We know there are coyotes in the area, so be mindful about leaving your pets unsupervised outside. The coyotes are not approaching people. They’re afraid of people, so don’t feed them because we don’t want to change their behavior. We’ve had no attacks on humans, nor have we heard of any attacks on animals. There’s no need to call the police if it’s not attacking somebody,” Tokajer said.
“As more construction happens all over Manatee County, it’s pushing wildlife from their natural habitats into residential areas. We’ve seen it over the past couple years and there’s been sightings near the beach on 71st through 77th streets.”
Fourth of July sighting
At around midnight on the Fourth of July, Holmes Beach resident David Zaccagnino saw and photographed a coyote at the intersection of Avenue E and 29th Street. When contacted Tuesday, Zaccagnino said he was shocked to see a coyote in his neighborhood. He said he’s never seen a coyote on the Island during his 19 years of residency.
Zaccagnino lives near the Grassy Point Preserve – a large tract of undeveloped natural land.
“It looked freaked out from all the fireworks. It might have been scared out of the mangroves,” he said of the coyote he saw.
Zaccagnino said that judging by the photo, the coyote that Wooten spotted today was bigger and bushier than the one that Zaccagnino photographed last week.
Lt. Louis Hinds, from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), was asked if he thought the photo Wooten took was of a coyote. He said it was.
He then discussed FWC’s response to coyote sightings.
“We don’t get involved unless somebody asks us to get involved. We don’t actively trap them or destroy them unless they’re causing a problem. If people give them their space and leave them alone they’ll move on eventually. Make sure the pets are secured properly and you don’t want to let your small cats or dogs outside unattended because they will snatch those up as animals of opportunity,” Hinds said.
When asked if coyotes pose a danger to humans, Hinds said, “No.”
The photos Wooten and Zaccagnino took were also shown to Ed and Gail Straight from the Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation Center. They both believed the photos were of coyotes.
Ed Straight said they received a call from the Holmes Beach Police Department dispatcher on Monday and referred that call to Animal Services because the animal was reported as possibly being sick or injured.
Straight said a sick coyote probably has distemper and the neurological effects of distemper gives the impression that the animal is limping. Straight said Animal Services would be the agency to contact about a sick coyote, but Animal Services is not expected to respond to calls about a healthy exotic animal like a coyote.
“They’re too smart to trap and they’re too big to get one of those loops around their neck. They’d almost have to be tranquilized to remove them, and that’s pretty hard with a moving target. We don’t have any way of capturing them and they don’t need to be captured,” Straight said regarding healthy coyotes.
“We might do it if FWC asked us to help, but normally they don’t want us rehabbing them. They’re considered exotics, so if we get one we’d either have to put it down or take them to a refuge that would take them in, which is not a very good place for a coyote to spend its life,” Straight said.
“I don’t think they’re dangerous to people unless somebody starts feeding them – just like gators and things like that. They’re afraid of people and usually run the other way. If you value your cats and little dogs don’t put them out at night. They definitely like cats and they can jump a pretty high fence.”
Straight said the coyote population has exploded in the United States and Canada in recent years.
“We’ve always felt like it’s a matter of time before they’re out here, because they’re everywhere else in Manatee County,” he said.
When asked how coyotes might find their way onto the Island, Straight said, “They’d almost have to run across the bridge.”
Straight said Wildlife Inc. received a couple calls in the past week about coyotes in west Bradenton, but the call from the Holmes Beach Police Department on Monday was the first recent call about a coyote on the Island.
“Two years ago, someone said they saw one over by Runaway Bay. (Local veterinarian) Dr. Bystrom saw one where he lives on the Holmes Beach/Anna Maria border and that was about two years ago, and one was seen on Key Royale about two years ago,” Straight said.