Anyone who has seen or heard the latest news about the wild coyotes roaming around the Woodlands Country Club in Tamarac are led to believe that both children and pets are in grave danger of getting mauled by these animals lurking outside their homes.
Coyotes have been spotted around the perimeters along the community several times, even caught on camera.
Last September, Steve and Jackie Buck believed their outdoor cat, Ricky, was killed by a coyote and just this past month, an 11 year-old maltese named Fletcher, who was accidentally left outside by Beverly Nieman’s son while she was out of town, may have been a victim as well.
These are unfortunate instances and the Woodlands has many pet lovers that share in their loss. The Woodlands website, which is not affiliated with their homeowners’s association, has a subscriber service which provides an email blast which notifies residents if a dog or cat has been lost. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with an outdoor cat, nor did it work in finding Nieman’s lost dog as neighbors looked for him with no results.
Fletcher, who was not only elderly, was also deaf, and could not hear anyone calling for him. Whether he died on his own, or by a coyote is unknown. What is known, is that Fletcher’s collar was found intact, live on Channel 10 while Steve Buck was standing near the coyote traps while being interviewed on a segment about the coyotes.
At a meeting, Buck received approval from both the Woodlands Homeowners Association and the Woodlands Country Club (ClubLink) and hired Animal Rangers, a wildlife trapping service, to place cages around the golf course to capture the coyotes. One golfer noticed that inside of the cages were live chicks, which was not disclosed, and complained to the management of the club. Buck and Animal Rangers assured the country club that the chicks were safe in their own cage, but word got out and residents believed that the trauma inflicted upon another animal as live bait was inhumane, and asked that they be immediately removed.
Noel Hanson of Animal Rangers said that Buck was only capturing raccoons and possums with the cages, so Buck obtained a steel trap permit on his own from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and received Woodlands Country Club’s permission to use their land to set them.
Steel traps are steel-jaw leghold traps have thin strips of rubber attached to the trap’s jaws. These traps have padding on them, but a 1995 study by the USDA’s Wildlife Services found 97% of coyotes caught in padded traps had severe swelling of their trapped limb, 39% had lacerations, and several had simple or compound fractures.
Lynesy White Dasher, Urban Wildlife Specialist with the Humane Society of the United States is teaching a a seminar “Living with Coyotes” on Tuesday evening in Hollywood, explains it this way. “We don’t consider these things (steel traps) humane because not only does it hurt the animal, and the coyote has to be destroyed, but it doesn’t work to redirect the coyote population. The ones that stay behind end up having more pups.”
Woodlands Resident Jennifer Vigliano believes that the State of Florida was negligent in issuing permits for traps in the Woodlands due to the fact that the animals that died weren’t even on their own properties. According to the State Steel Trap Policy Guidelines: Animals must be under the possession and control of the landowner. Animals must be penned, fenced, or otherwise contained within the landowner’s property boundaries. In none of these instances, were the pets in their own properties.
Vigliano says there is no indication that the coyotes are a threat to public safety, which is another criteria for the issuance of a steel trap permit.
The areas where the traps are set have large signs warning people to stay away, but clearly a lost pet cannot read a warning sign before heading into the area that sits close to nearby homes.
“I am infuriated about the use of leg traps to capture these wild animals and that a resident has taken it upon himself to eradicate these animals on the basis of speculation,” said Vigliano.
“No one knows for certain that a coyote had mauled and killed his cat, which was allowed to roam the neighborhood. The owner seems to have accepted no culpability in their part in this tragic accident. I am not an expert, but it seems unlikely to me that a hungry coyote would merely kill a cat for sport. Irregardless, based on what I know about these coyotes, they have a healthy fear of humans. “
Once the coyote’s leg is trapped in the steel trap, these coyotes aren’t going to the Wildlife Care Center, nor are they being relocated to the Everglades. They get a bullet to the head. Florida law says so.
Vigliano said, “It is extremely important that everyone realize and understand the result of the capture of the coyote, regardless of the means. It will be killed and I am afraid that it will be shot at the site of capture, which is near my home.”
Wildlife Expert Dasher recommends that residents keep their cats and dogs inside as coyotes cannot differentiate between a cat or a woodchuck or rabbit, and not to draw a parallel between a coyote killing a cat thinking it will harm a small child.
Basic Facts about Coyotes
from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
1. Coyotes are found throughout the State of Florida and have been in the state since the 1970’s.
2. Coyotes are in the same family (Canidea) as dogs, wolves and foxes. They are medium in size (2 ft. in height, 20 – 35 lbs.). Their coat varies from gray to rusty brown and the tail is bushy. Gray foxes are frequently misidentified as coyotes, due to the striking similarity in color pattern of the coats.
3. Coyotes are very adaptable, living in virtually all terrestrial and marsh habitats, including urban/suburban areas.
4. Coyotes are omnivores (plant and animal eaters). They eat just about anything. Like turkey vultures, they are often seen scavenging on road kill and other animal carcasses. Their diverse diet is the reason they can adapt so easily to a variety of habitats.
5. Coyotes usually hunt alone or in pairs, but rarely, as a pack.
6. Coyotes are most active at dawn and/or dusk but have been seen anytime of the day. Home ranges can vary from 1,500 to 12,000 acres.
7. Coyotes are generally shy and elusive. Like all wildlife, feeding of coyotes will result in eliminating their natural fear of humans.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I protect my cat or dog from coyotes?
· NEVER feed coyotes.
· Never leave pet food out at night.
· Feed your pets indoors. If you must feed your pet outside, do so during the day.
· Make sure all trash is in a secure container.
· Keep pets indoors or in an outdoor cage from dusk until dawn. A fence may help deter coyotes, but is not full-proof.
· Install motion sensitive lights in your backyard and around your house.
· Clear brush and vegetation to remove habitat for small animals (rodents) that may attract coyotes. Its removal also eliminates areas where coyotes can hide while stalking prey.
· Always keep pets on a leash when walking in parks, forested areas or residential areas.
What should I do if I see a coyote?
· It is important that coyotes retain their natural wariness of humans.
· Make sure coyotes know they are not welcome.
· Make loud noises.
· Throw things at them.
· Spray them with a garden hose
Do coyotes attack people?
Normally coyotes are timid and shy away from people. Although rare, coyotes have attacked humans. Most attacks resulted in minor bites and scratches to people attempting to intervene in an attack upon a pet. Never leave children unattended in areas known or suspected to be frequented by coyotes.
What diseases or parasites can coyotes carry?
· Parvo virus
· Coyotes can be infected with rabies.
· Numerous parasites can live on a coyote including mites, ticks, fleas, worms, flukes and heartworm.
Where do coyotes take their kill to eat it?
· Coyotes are very skilled hunters.
· Coyotes kill an animal because it is a food source.
· Coyotes usually take their prey with them to a safe place to eat.
· They may carry their prey up to 1 mile before consuming it.
· They do not leave much behind and tend to eat whatever they can fit in their mouth. In some cases, they have even eaten the leather collar of a pet. For this reason, not much evidence or waste is left behind.