With colleagues’ support for Smith’s request, county administrator to contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about problems with coyotes on barrier islands

Smith expresses concern about potential for ‘dangerous situations,’ especially given high rate of tourism on the Key

This is a coyote pup. Photo courtesy FWC

This week, Sarasota County Commissioner Mark Smith won the full support of his colleagues in directing county administrative staff to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), to determine what steps can be taken to deal with an increasing number of concerns about coyotes on the barrier islands, especially Siesta Key.

“It’s becoming a dangerous situation,” Smith pointed out during his report to the other board members during their regular meeting on July 9 in Venice. On Siesta, Smith added, “The coyotes are coming out more at night,” when is the same time when many of the visitors to the island are leaving accommodations to pursue a variety of activities, he noted.

“I could see this could eventually become a bad situation,” Smith added.

A long-time Siesta resident, Smith reported that, on July 5, he received what he characterized as a “distressful letter/email” about the fact that “animals are now starting to get eaten” by coyotes on the Siesta.

Coyotes have been present on the island for some time, Smith acknowledged, noting that he has observed them on a couple of occasions in his neighborhood.

However, he said, he has learned that people are becoming scared to go to the county’s Glebe Park, which is located off Midnight Pass Road, near St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. “Apparently, there’s dens back there” in the park, he pointed out.

Further, the park was the scene of a recent coyote attack on a dog, Smith said, as illustrated by “a rather nasty picture” that he had seen.

When he forwarded to Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman the email he had received about the attack on the dog, Smith continued, Hoffman replied that the Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Services division does not deal with wildlife; only domestic animals. Hoffman advised him that FWC would be the agency to contact, Smith said.

Nonetheless, Smith continued, the sheriff also had advised him that FWC personnel will not trap coyotes.

On its website, FWC says, “Coyotes are found throughout Florida. According to a 2007 FWC report, the presence of coyotes has been documented in all 67 Florida counties. Coyotes arrived in Florida as part of natural range expansion from western states; they now live in every state but Hawaii. This medium-sized canine, a close relative of the domestic dog, is extremely adaptable and can be found in rural, suburban and urban landscapes. They are typically shy and elusive but encounters between people and coyotes in Florida are occurring more often.”

During the July 9 discussion, Smith pointed out that Siesta Key and the other barrier islands are examples of what he called “a closed system,” meaning they are reachable only via boat or bridges. Thus, he continued, it seems obvious that, at some time in the past, adult coyotes made the trek to the Siesta and began to breed there.

Commissioner Mark Smith makes a point during the Jan. 30 regular board meeting. File image

However, Smith also noted, “There’s a limited amount of food supply.”

He indicated that rabbits appear to be fewer in number, though he added, “We have plenty of rats for [the coyotes].”

Given what he had reported, Smith said, he was seeking support to direct County Administrator Lewis to contact FWC representatives to learn about any assistance that agency could offer the county in handling the situation.

“Happy to be supportive of that,” Commissioner Neil Rainford responded.

“Yeah, I agree,” Chair Michael Moran said.

Lewis told the board members he would contact FWC personnel and provide a report to them containing the information that he learns.