Urban Coyote: Should They Stay or Should They Go? And If So, How?
It's an elusive creature, one that is heard more than seen.
But it's had an impact on farmers and now urban areas in North Central Florida.
Coyotes are causing headaches for farmers but now, they have moved into the city in search of food.
Even though this animal is seen as a pest, wildlife experts say removing them sometimes makes the problem much worse.
This is a rare sighting of a successful creature that is a natural enemy to many crops and smaller animals on farms in North Central Florida.
"Some guys claim they can trap them. But we just rely on the gun," said Murray Tillis of Tillis Farms.
It's that time of year to prepare the fields for the watermelon crop in Chiefland and Murray Tillis says he's lost a good deal of his watermelons in the past to coyotes.
"They'll usually let you know when the first melon is ripe in the field because he'll eat it," said Tillis.
And even some of his baby calves have been targeted.
"When the cows are calving, if a cow leaves her calf and goes for water, alot of times they will get a calf that way," said Tillis.
Tillis's story isn't out of the ordinary.
Coyotes are costing farmers money and are directly affecting their livelihoods.
"There are coyotes everywhere. And everybody that thinks they're not, they're asleep," said Nuisance Wildlife Specialist Chuck Williamson.
Chuck Williamson has been hunting and trapping his entire life and has only ever trapped one coyote.
"After that, the rest of them get real wise and they aren't going to go in that trap," said Williamson. "A coyote is not a stupid animal."
Recently, Williamson has gotten some calls from people within Gainesville city limits about coyotes.
He says one came from a school.
They told him they saw a coyote come close to the playground where the children were in the middle of the day.
Because he can't shoot a gun within city limits, there was nothing he could do.
That's why he proposes an idea...
"If they would open up like a season, or a bounty on the coyotes and start killing the coyotes off because we've got way more than we need. That's what needs to be done," said Williamson.
"Farmers and trappers say this is the best way to get rid of coyotes, but wildlife experts say leaving them alone may be the best option," said Lauren Lettelier, TV20 News.
"Coyotes are a territorial animal. So a parabond sets up a territory and it defends it against other coyotes. That is, it keeps other coyotes out. So if you don't have a calf killing problem, you don't have a problem with them eating your watermelons, don't try to remove them. If you do, new coyotes will move in," said Dr. Martin Main, UF IFAS Natural Resources Extension.
In a recent study, UF IFAS graduate students ear-tagged 400 calves in south Florida and followed them for a two-year period.
They found that none of those calves were killed by coyotes.
However, some calves that weren't tagged were killed.
There have been several instances across the nation where they have bitten children.
In almost all cases, those animals had been fed by people regularly.
"There are more than 1,000 emergency room visits everyday due to dog attacks on people, many on children. And there is usually between 30-50 mauling deaths every year by domestic dogs on people. So when you think about risks and danger, dogs are a far greater risk than coyotes are," said Dr. Main.
If you come in contact with a coyote, make sounds to scare it away.
Also, avoid walking your small dog at night and keep your cats indoors.
"Coyotes are fascinating animals," said Dr. Main. "Just because you see a coyote doesn't mean you have a coyote problem."
But for Tillis, it is a problem.
"It looks like to me we're stuck with them. I don't know anyway to get rid of them. They're hard to trap, they're hard to kill. It looks like to me that we're going to be stuck with them," said Tillis.
Alachua County Schools spokesperson Jackie Johnson claims no coyotes have been spotted on school properties.
But state wildlife workers say they are getting plenty of calls from people in urban areas about coyotes.
However, they do not respond to these calls.
You can find a list of trappers here at https://public.myfwc.com/HGM/NWT/NWTSearch.aspx.
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