Coyotes in Florida: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Coyotes are medium-sized mammals in the same family as dogs, wolves and foxes. Their fur is generally salt-and-pepper gray, with tan or brown patches. They have a thick, bushy tail, long, pointy nose and pointy ears. Adults in Florida weigh between 20 and 35 pounds on average, and males are generally larger and heavier than females.
Coyotes are found in several habitat types and are common in rural, suburban, and even some urban landscapes. According to a 2007 FWC report, the presence of coyotes has been documented in all 67 Florida counties.
Encounters between people and coyotes in Florida are occurring more often. As coyotes become used to people, they may lose some fear of people, so sightings of coyotes during the day may increase. Coyotes also become more difficult to scare away if they lose their fear of people. But, like other wild animals, that tendency will vary from one coyote to another.
Coyote attacks on dogs and cats have been reported in Florida. In some cases, pet owners were present at the time of the attack. However, no humans have been the target of attacks in Florida.
Coyotes are not large animals and rarely pose a threat to people, especially adults. Using common sense around coyotes and other carnivores is the best protection against having problems. If a coyote approaches you, immediately use a noisemaker or shout at the coyote and wave your arms. A solid walking stick or a golf club is a powerful deterrent at close range. Throwing stones, a strong spray from a water hose, pepper spray, or a paintball gun also can be good deterrents. A “coyote shaker” or an air horn can be effective noisemakers. You can make a coyote shaker by placing a few washers, pebbles or pennies in an empty drink container.
Adults should yell loudly and then move toward the coyote. In many cases, an adult who yells and approaches quickly can startle the coyote. That can give the adult a chance to lift the child as quickly as possible. That adult then should be prepared to back away from the coyote while being ready to defend himself, if necessary.
Don’t allow your dogs or cats to roam freely. Most coyote attacks on pets occur either at night or in the early evening and early morning hours (that is, dusk and dawn). During those times especially, be careful if you’re going to walk your pet in wooded areas or areas where there are a lot of other plants growing, which could conceal coyotes. Also, keep your dog close and on a short leash that is less than six feet. Keep cats indoors. When cats roam freely their risk of injury from coyotes, domestic dogs, and other threats is greatly increased.
Be cautious if you are going to pick up your pet when you see a coyote. Picking up a pet may stop a coyote attack, but it can also lead to a situation in which an aggressive coyote continues to go after that pet while in the arms of a person.
A well-maintained fence may assist in keeping coyotes out of yards. If pets are kept in a fenced yard, be sure the fence is at least six feet high to deter coyotes from jumping over it. Also, check the bottom of the fence regularly to make sure there are no holes that would allow coyotes to get underneath. Consider adding an electrified fence if you think additional protection is needed.
The most effective ways to reduce problems with coyotes involve removing food or other attractants. Seeing a coyote in your area should not be a cause for concern because coyotes are common and will continue to exist near humans. However, if a coyote has lost its fear of humans or continues to be a problem, lethal control measures may be necessary. Such methods should be directed at specific coyotes or toward coyotes in a specific area.
Hunting and trapping are allowable methods year round for dealing with coyotes on private lands in Florida, or a professional trapper can be hired to remove coyotes. An FWC permit is required use steel traps.
The FWC does not license nuisance wildlife trappers but does maintain a list of trappers that have registered their contact information. The USDA Wildlife Services also can provide assistance with wildlife trapping; call 866-487-3297.