Lakeland residents on edge after coyote spotted in daylight

(Source: Lakeland Police Department)

LAKELAND, FLA. (WFLA) – A coyote spotted strolling in broad daylight in Lakeland is making people nervous.

Photos show the coyote roaming near East Bay Street, beside the Lakeland Police Department on Friday.

“It’s very rare to see a coyote in broad daylight, especially in downtown Lakeland,” All Creatures Wildlife Owner Dustin Hooper told WFLA.

Lakeland police officers spotted the normally nocturnal animal and decided to call for backup.

“It’s a larger coyote. It’s out during the daytime. You have the bus station right here and Munn Park is not too far, so we just don’t want that possibility of it attacking somebody,” Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross said.

Hooper was on the hunt Friday and Monday to be sure the coyote was not a threat.

“If anybody ever sees that, it kind of throws up a flag for two reasons. It’s either hungry, or it’s sick. If it’s sick, the odds are it probably has rabies. So you never want to take a chance,” he said.

According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, Coyotes have been documented in all 67 counties. They can be found in rural, suburban and even urban landscapes. They are typically shy and elusive but encounters between people and coyotes in Florida are occurring more often.

“It has gotten worse over the years. If you have cats or dogs that stay outside, or small animals, you have to put them in at night. If you don’t, you’re risking losing your pet to a coyote, because they are out in the neighborhood, they’re all over the city,” Hooper said.

Encountering a coyote

According to FWC, if a coyote approaches too closely, there are methods you can use to deter it and frighten it away. Waving your arms in the air and yelling will usually get a coyote to retreat. You may need to move towards 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, banging pots and pans and homemade noisemakers. A “coyote shaker” made from placing pebbles or coins in an empty drink container can be an effective noisemaker.

Throwing small stones or sticks towards (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 hazing methods.

Do not attempt to hurt the coyote because injured animals are more likely to defend themselves; the goal should be to scare the coyote away. Remember that wild animals will attempt to protect themselves or their young if threatened — keep your distance.

Protecting pets

Coyotes can and do prey on domestic cats and small dogs. Most coyote attacks on pets occur either at night or in the early evening or morning hours (dusk and dawn). To protect your pets, do not allow them to roam freely.

Keep cats indoors. Walk small dogs on a short leash, especially at night, dusk or dawn. Be extra careful if you are going to walk your pet in wooded areas or areas that have heavy foliage where coyotes could hide.

If pets are kept in a fenced yard, be sure the fence is high enough (about 6 feet) to prevent coyotes from jumping over it and check the bottom of the fence regularly to ensure there are no holes where coyotes can get underneath.

Remove other attractants from around your home, such as pet food and unsecured garbage left outside. Problems with coyotes can be significantly reduced if residents remove attractants and secure trash.

How can I prevent problems with coyotes?

Clean up pet food, fallen fruit and seed around bird feeders – coyotes will be drawn to and eat all of these potential food sources since they are opportunistic feeders. Coyotes that associate places where people live as an easy place to find food will gradually lose their natural fear of humans.

Secure garbage cans and compost in animal-proof containers.

FWC also issued the following tips:

  • Coyotes will be active during daylight hours if their food source is out during that time (i.e. rabbits, garbage, squirrels, etc.), if they have pups to feed, or if they are not frequently hazed by people.
  • Being active during the day is not a sign that a coyote has rabies.
  • Residents can report coyote incidents or unusual coyote behavior to the FWC by calling regional FWC offices or Wildlife Alert at 888-404-3922.
  • Wildlife assistance biologists are available at each regional office and can speak with the public about coyote issues, including going directly to communities to educate residents about coyotes in Florida and ways to coexist with them.
  • Please visit http://www.myfwc.com/coyote for more information about coyotes in Florida.

Be aware of unusual coyote behavior. Unusual behavior could include a coyote that has lost its fear of humans and is approaching people, chasing joggers and bikers, or attacking leashed pets. Unusual coyote behavior can be reported to FWC’s Wildlife Alert number at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

More information on coyotes is available here.

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