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There’s a Coyote in the Front Yard!

About two years ago, my son was mowing the lawn when he came across something orange and furry lying in the grass. He backed away and yelled for his dad, but the damage had already been done—he had come across the remains of our orange tabby cat, killed overnight by a larger predator. Emotional repercussions aside, it was startling for our family to realize that even in a residential neighborhood within the city limits, animals were hunting nearby. Based on the experience of seeing one in our own yard just a few months earlier and from other neighbors’ stories, we realized we’d had a coyote attack. Our neighborhood is located relatively close to a large wooded area and a local bayou, and there are plenty of places for coyotes to find shelter.

Always feed your pets indoors and keep them inside at night to prevent coyote attacks. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Always feed your pets indoors and keep them inside at night to prevent coyote attacks. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

We learned several lessons after our incident that could be helpful to others living in areas populated with coyotes. Like sharks, coyotes are crepuscular creatures—most actively feeding at dusk and dawn. While they prefer to eat small animals like lizards, rodents, and young birds or deer, they are omnivorous and will also eat fruit and grasses. Not unlike other urban wildlife such as raccoons, they are opportunistic feeders and will scavenge dead animals and garbage. One of the best ways to protect small pets is to keep them (and their food) indoors at night and early morning. Pet food left outdoors often attracts coyotes’ normal prey and therefore the coyotes themselves. It is extremely rare to hear of a coyote attacking a human, but if threatened it is recommended that you yell, throw something, or spray a water hose. Stand your ground and fight back—don’t run, as this will encourage them to give chase.

Coyotes are social animals and often hunt in packs, and like the dogs they’re related to, have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. They will howl and bark to communicate with one another, and hearing these vocalizations is often the first sign that there are some living nearby.

Coyotes are common throughout Florida. Photo credit: W. M. Giuliano

Coyotes are common throughout Florida. Photo credit: W. M. Giuliano

Floridians are no strangers to living with wild animals—we all routinely hear stories of alligators, black bears, venomous snakes, and sharks interrupting our attempts at taming the former wildlands that we now occupy. As urban development marches through the landscape, the large tracts of land once used primarily by animals for hunting and shelter are occupied by human dwellings and transportation routes.

While coyotes are relatively new to Florida (they are native to the western US but entered northwest Florida in the 1970’s), they’ve filled in the ecological gap left by a reduction of native wolves, bobcats, and panthers. Research has shown they now reside in every Florida county and can range the entirety of North America and most of Central America.

Most homeowners will never encounter a coyote, but it is helpful to know they are out there and to take precautions with pets and yard practices to prevent attracting one into your backyard.

For more information on managing coyotes, please visit the UF publication Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Coyotes.


0 Comments on “There’s a Coyote in the Front Yard!

  1. Better to have suggested keeping cats and other small pets indoors at all times, rather than just at night ; cats, both domestic and feral, especially wreak havoc on our ecosystems.

  2. Cats should not be let to roam outside at anytime, anywhere. There are many ways for them to be injured or killed. But most importantly is the wildlife they kill, the numbers of small wildlife killed by free roaming cats is huge and should not be acceptable. This slaughter of wildlife can be prevented by keeping cats indoors at all times. If a person cannot accept this than they should choose not to have cats. Please visit American Bird Conservancy (ABC) ‘Cats Indoors’ initiative. The death toll on wildlife, the potential for disease transmissions from cats to humans, and the possibility of injury or death to the cat should make all cat keepers think twice before they open the door and let kitty out unattended. Please help educate people on this subject. We can all easily help wildlife by keeping our cats indoors, safe and healthy. A cat can be happy and have a good life in the house.

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