ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As part of a natural migration to the eastern United States, modern coyotes began arriving in northwestern Florida in the 70s and can now be found in all 67 counties.
However, fossilized skull fragments show coyotes were once in the region much earlier, researchers say.
The bushy-tailed omnivores are highly adaptable animals that are now located in every state but Hawaii.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says coyotes help maintain balanced ecosystems by controlling the populations of rodents and smaller predators, such as foxes, opossums and raccoons, which naturally occur in higher densities and can quickly overpopulate areas.
Coyotes live in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Florida. The average Florida coyote weighs 28 pounds, and its coat colors range from gray to rusty brown.
Although experts deem coyotes to be an important part of the Florida landscape, many Floridians have had a hard time adjusting to the canine residents.
Specialists at the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) say, in recent years, people living in cities across Florida have complained about a growing “coyote problem.” The most common complaint is about neighborhood cats disappearing.
According to Pinellas County Animal Services, wild fruits, insects, birds and other small mammals are some of their favorite foods, but some coyotes may prey on cats, small dogs and livestock. Garbage and pet food left outside may also attract coyotes.
No need to fear, coyotes usually try to avoid humans. It's rare for a coyote to bite a human.
Pet owners are urged to keep a close eye on their pets, to use shorter leashes, and to avoid walking them at night or at dusk or dawn. This is when coyotes are the most active.
Feeding coyotes is illegal being that this type of interaction will make them less fearful of humans.
Ultimately, the goal is to be able to coexist with coyotes in the Florida area. Florida law requires captured coyotes be killed; coyotes cannot legally be relocated to public land. The trapping and killing of coyotes is not recommended by ARFF because once one is killed off, new coyotes move into those areas to replace them.
The species responds by reproducing at a younger age and producing more pups per litter; populations can quickly return to their original size.
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