• Melinda Tosoni said she recently spotted this coyote near her home. She emailed this photo to the News-Leader on July 12. Photo by Melinda Tosoni/Special

Coyote sightings increase near Greenway

Though coyotes have been on Amelia Island for many years, recent sightings have raised new questions and concerns about their habits.

Ocean Cay resident Rita Kane said in a phone interview Monday that, in the 16 years she’s lived on Amelia Island, the coyote sightings in Fernandina Beach “seems to be getting worse just in the last couple of months” and added she was concerned over safety. The subdivision is located east of the Egans Creek Greenway.

“A protected area of over 300 acres that runs north to south along Egans Creek, the Greenway is an undeveloped park for passive recreational use. Its grass-covered roads serve as a network of trails that are suitable for walking and bicycling, and its environment exhibits a variety of natural wildlife and vegetation. Local wildlife, such as alligators, snakes, bobcats, and many birds, may be enjoyed from a distance,” according to the city of Fernandina Beach website.

“They’re not afraid of you anymore,” Kane said. “I’m scared to walk my dog, even during the day. … There’s a walkway for the greenway that connects the neighborhoods, but I would not go back there now because of the coyotes, and that’s even in the middle of the day.”

Kane said at first the coyotes were only seen in the woods at night, but now they are out during the day.

“Shouting and waving your arms doesn’t seem to work anymore” to scare the coyotes off, according to Kane. “I’m not asking them to destroy the animals or anything, I just wonder if there’s another solution to curb them.”

Nancy Jordan, another Ocean Cay resident, said a coyote could have killed a neighborhood feral cat she used to feed regularly.

“It’s a cat that I’ve been feeding for about five or six years,” Jordan said. “I had nowhere to bring him in. He wasn’t going to stay here. He was going to do the roaming that he does. … He just traveled around the neighborhood.”

Jordan said she left her home to go out of town on June 16, but when she returned on June 20, the cat did not show up at her home. A neighbor found the cat dead in someone’s front yard.

“It’s not unusual for him to disappear,” Jordan said. “(But) I have a positive identification that it was him.”

Kathleen O’Brien also lives in Ocean Cay. In the many years she’s lived on Amelia Island she had never seen a coyote, until recently.

“A couple of months ago, we had two coyotes directly behind our backyard fence. Our 11-pound dog, Daisy, has always been free to go in and out at her leisure. It was mid-afternoon and I heard the most horrific, shrill, almost deafening yelping and barking. I thought my dog was being killed; that’s what it sounded like. Thankfully she was okay, but it scared her and me to death,” O’Brien wrote in an email.

“We have lived on the island for 21 years and in our home for almost 17 years. We have never seen a coyote up until this occurrence, and now we hear of sightings almost daily. Why had we not been warned about this? I would never have been allowing my small dog outside on her own or walking at night by myself with her. Shouldn’t the park service and our community leaders be alerting people and educating us on how to deal with wild coyotes, traveling in packs in our neighborhood?”

Karen Parker, public information coordinator for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wrote in an email that FWC provides “quite a bit of information about coyotes on our website.”

“Best course of action is to not feed the coyote, remove attractants from the area so coyotes don’t come into your yard and to haze the coyote if you see it,” Parker wrote, citing information from the FWC website. “You want to make an encounter with a human as uncomfortable as possible for the animal.”

Parker also included the following tips from the FWC website:

• Wave your arms in the air and yelling will usually get a coyote to retreat. You may need to move toward the coyote and increase hazing if the animal does not immediately run away. It is important to continue hazing efforts until the coyote has left the area, or the animal may return.

• Noisemakers are often effective deterrents to coyotes, including air horns, bangingvpots and pans and homemade noisemakers. A “coyote shaker” made from placing pebbles or coins in an empty drink container can be an effective noise-maker.

• Throwing small stones or sticks toward (but not at) a coyote will usually cause the animal to leave. Spraying water from a hose and using squirt guns or bear repellent can also be effective. Do not attempt to hurt the coyote. Injured animals are more likely to defend themselves; the goal should be to scare it
away. Wild animals will attempt to protect themselves or their young if threatened – keep your distance.

• Vary your methods of hazing so that the coyote does not become desensitized and hazing is still effective.

On whether coyotes can legally be shot within the city limits, Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley recommends residents exercise caution, saying there is a difference between self-preservation and hunting.

“My immediate impulse is that, if threatened, then by all means protect yourself and your family. The issue of actively hunting coyotes is a different matter and FWC and others recommend ways to live with coyotes and to avoid problems by taking specific actions, etc. I have concerns also – of course – with the idea of actively hunting wild animals that may not be dangerous and discharging firearms within an urban setting and not on private land,” Hurley wrote. “The short answer is ‘yes,’ you can shoot coyotes within the city, with property owner permission, but the action has to be taken with due care, and not be seen as reckless. Coyotes are considered a pervasive species. Of course, it would be a challenging feat to discharge a firearm within the city limits, absent a life and death scenario, without putting oneself in a position where they could be charged with endangering their neighbors or others by firing the weapon.”

Sheriff Bill Leeper commented in an email on whether coyotes could be shot in other areas of Nassau County.

“Coyotes may be taken throughout the year on private property day or night by landowners which includes the use of a light (at night). Guest of a landowner authorized to hunt may take coyotes on the landowner’s property, but cannot use a light at night without direct permission from the landowner,” Leeper wrote. “Poisoning or the use of steel leg holding traps is prohibited. State Parks and State Forest have rules specific to that location. Most do not allow the taking of any wildlife – including coyotes – unless it is during an authorized hunting period established for the State Forests – Four Creeks, Ralph Simmons, and Cary.”

For more official information about coyotes, visiting the following links:

http://bit.ly/2uvHXJ2

http://bit.ly/1jPmP8g

http://bit.ly/1xi9EyW

http://bit.ly/2vuEzve

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