Coyotes in Pinellas County

Residents Can Take Precautions to Deter Coyote Presence

Coyotes are amazingly adaptable, and can survive in nearly any habitat. They arrived in Pinellas County in the 1970s and have found a home in parks and preserves, and in wooded areas that surround many residential areas.

“As long as residents keep wildlife wild and do not provide easy meals to them, they should not pose a threat to people,” said Dr. Welch Agnew, director of Pinellas County Animal Services. “The problem comes in when people start leaving food outside their homes, or leave trash available, or allow their cats and dogs to roam the neighborhood. Then, we are providing easy meals to wild coyotes, inviting them into our areas, and encouraging them to lose their natural fear of humans.”

Residents are reminded to follow simple precautions to prevent the threat of coyotes:

  • Never leave pet food or trash outside where it will attract wildlife.
  • Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings. This reduces cover for coyotes and their prey, such as rodents and other small animals.
  • Protect children. Although rare, coyotes have been known to seriously injure children. Do not leave young children unattended, even in a backyard.
  • Protect pets and livestock. These are favorite prey for coyotes. Keep pets indoors, especially at night. Keep dogs and cats leashed at all times. There is a Pinellas County Ordinance that prohibits dogs or cats from roaming freely.
  • Use negative reinforcement. Make sure the coyotes know that they are not welcome. Make loud noises, throw rocks or spray with a garden hose.
  • Report any coyote threats to people or pets to Animal Services at (727) 582-2600.
The Wily Coyote: The term “wily coyote” was possibly coined in response to this intelligent canine’s problem-solving abilities when hunting prey. Coyotes will ambush a ground squirrel by waiting at one of the burrow’s exits as a badger digs its way in at the entrance. When hunting in pairs, one typically distracts the attention of the prey while the other coyote sneaks up from behind.
A Diverse Diet: Coyotes will also stalk their prey, and when opportunity presents itself, leap vertically into the air, pouncing on an unsuspecting animal. They will also wade in the water to catch fish and forage along the banks for crayfish or turtle eggs. In general, coyotes eat a variety of food items, including small rodents, rabbits and carrion, as well as some fruits and plants.
Quick on the Paw: With the ability to sprint at speeds up to 40 mph even jackrabbits have a hard time staying ahead of a coyote.

Coyote Behavior

One of the most adaptable animals in the world, the coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats.

Alone, in pairs or in packs, coyotes maintain their territories by marking them with urine. They also use calls to defend this territory, as well as for strengthening social bonds and general communication. Coyotes can easily leap an 8 foot fence or wall. They have been spotted climbing over a 14 foot cyclone fence.

Although the coyote usually digs its own den, it will sometimes enlarge an old badger hole or perhaps fix up a natural hole in a rocky ledge to suit its own needs. Dens are usually hidden from view, but they are fairly easy to locate because of the trails that lead away from the den. The coyote uses the den to birth its young and to sleep. The coyote does not hibernate.

Coyotes have a good sense of smell, vision and hearing which, coupled with evasiveness, enables them to survive both in the wild and occasionally in the suburban areas of large cities. They are common in most rural areas, but because of their secretive nature, few are seen. Efforts to control or exterminate the Coyote by predator control agents seem to have produced an animal that is extremely alert and wary and well able to maintain itself.

Vocalization
The coyote is one of the few wild animals whose vocalizations are commonly heard. At night coyotes both howl (a high quavering cry) and emit a series of short, high-pitched yips. Howls are used to keep in touch with other coyotes in the area. Sometimes, when it is first heard, the listener may experience a tingling fear of primitive danger, but to the seasoned outdoors man, the howl of the coyote is truly a song of the West.

  • Howling – communication with others in the area. Also, an announcement that “I am here and this is my area. Other males are invited to stay away but females are welcome to follow the sound of my voice. Please answer and let me know where you are so we don’t have any unwanted conflicts.”
  • Yelping – a celebration or criticism within a small group of coyotes. Often heard during play among pups or young animals.
  • Bark – The scientific name for coyotes means “Barking dog,” Canis latrans. The bark is thought to be a threat display when a coyote is protecting a den or a kill.
  • Huffing – is usually used for calling pups without making a great deal of noise.

 

For more information or to report a sighting, visit
www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices/coyotes.

Pinellas County Animal Services Coyote Forum, visit
http://www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices/pdf/coyote_forum.pdf

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