Speculation offered that animals may have been living at Colony on Longboat before it was razed
After receiving a video clip and emails from residents on Nov. 19 about a coyote seen in the Avondale area of Sarasota — which includes Lincoln Drive and Brewer Place — City Manager Tom Barwin sent his own email to a representative of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
He wanted to make Sheriff Tom Knight and Knight’s senior staff aware of the reports, Barwin wrote.
Along with people in the Avondale community, he said, residents in the Indian Beach Sapphire Shores neighborhood had reported seeing coyotes the previous weekend.
“The Video [attached to the email] shows a large coyote,” Barwin continued. “Obviously our concerns in densely populated neighborhoods are for children who might mistake a coyote for a stray dog, and of course [for] small dogs as well.”
Barwin added, “I wanted to make sure your office was aware. I have been advised that residents and staff had contacted Animal Control. Animal Control has not provided details in terms of how they are approaching the situation in terms of trapping or even looking for the coyote.”
In an email to the city commissioners the same day — Nov. 19 — Barwin wrote, “[I]n case you get constituent calls or questions on the recent appearance of Coyote(s) within the community, we have referred the matter to Animal Control and Sheriff Tom [Knight’s office], requesting it be a priority concern.
“There is probably no way to confirm this,” Barwin continued, “but some believe a Coyote or Coyotes were recently displaced when the significant sized, and long vacant and loosely fenced in Colony complex was recently demolished on Longboat Key. Since that time we are aware of Coyote reports in at least 3 neighborhoods.
“From previous experience with Coyote’s,” he continued, “I recall they can travel significant distances and survive for awhile in urban environments. This particular coyote in the locally shot video from I believe earlier this morning appears healthier than other urban [coyotes] my communities have experienced. Residents are of course fearful [the animals] could be mistaken as a dog, and others fear for their small animals.”
In his Nov. 21 newsletter, Barwin explained that he had spoken with the sheriff, whose department oversees Animal Control in the county, “and learned that wild animal issues such as this are referred to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) which has staff members who are very knowledgeable about urban coyotes.”
Barwin added, “Understanding these animals and arming yourself with knowledge is very helpful.”
Coyotes are found in all 67 Florida counties, he pointed out. The animals “tend to be timid and run away when challenged, according to FWC. They’re an important part of the ecosystem feeding on rodents, carrion, seeds, nuts, fruits — and, on occasion, perhaps even small dogs and cats. So, it’s important for pet owners to be aware and informed.”
“A guide to living with Urban Coyotes,” produced by FWC and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, points out that coyotes resemble German shepherds. In Florida, coyotes typically weigh from 15 to 30 pounds, the guide says. “Males tend to be larger than females,” and although the animals’ fur is usually grayish-brown, the guide notes, it occasionally is black.
Although coyotes commonly are shy, the guide explains, they can be found in pairs or small groups “where food is readily available.”
The guide stresses, “NEVER feed coyotes!”
“FWC tells us it’s not unusual for a healthy coyote to be spotted during daylight hours,” Barwin wrote in his newsletter, referring to the one in the video a resident had sent city staff earlier in the week.
According to FWC, coyote attacks are rare because of the animal’s innate fear of humans, Barwin pointed out.
“There’s no way of knowing for sure,” he continued, “but some believe the [recent] sightings may have [involved] coyotes displaced from the long-vacant Colony complex,” following its razing on Longboat Key to make way for new development.
“We’ll monitor the situation and continue to look into how best to respond,” Barwin added. “We’re also considering the possibility of holding a town hall meeting with a FWC coyote expert who could provide information and answer questions.
Barwin also pointed out in his newsletter, “FWC recommends coexisting with urban coyotes by taking some precautions”:
- Teach children how to identify a coyote and keep a safe distance from it.
- Keep cats indoors.
- Walk any small dog on a short leash away from wooded areas.
- Walk pets at hours other than dawn and dusk.
- Carry something that can be used to scare a coyote (for example, a whistle or a can filled with pebbles or pennies).
- If a coyote makes too close an approach, “act aggressively. Wave your arms and shout.”
- Secure trash containers or, “preferably,” Barwin noted, “bring them indoors.”
More information on urban coyotes may be found on the FWC website, Barwin noted, or residents may call FWC’s Lakeland office at 863-648-3200.