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, unprovoked coyote attacks on humans are very rare. There have been very few reported instances of humans being bitten by coyotes in Florida.
It is important to note, however, that coyotes — like other animals — can be defensive and potentially aggressive if injured or ill and approached too closely. If you see a coyote that appears to be injured or sick, do not approach that animal and contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator instead. If you see a coyote exhibiting unusual behavior, such as approaching people closely, allowing people to approach closely, or acting in an aggressive manner, you should contact the FWC. Find the regional FWC office near you.
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.
You can report the incident to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling the FWC regional office nearest to you or by calling 888-404-3922.
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.
Yes, if you live anywhere in Florida, you share the landscape with coyotes. Coyotes are found across the state and have been documented in all 67 counties. They are common in rural, suburban and even urban landscapes.
While coyote attacks on people are extremely rare, it is important to avoid conflicts by securing attractants such as garbage and outdoor pet food. Pets and livestock can be at risk from coyote predation. Coyotes naturally prey on smaller animals, so they can and do prey on cats and small dogs. To prevent interactions between coyotes and pets:
- Keep cats indoors, and walk small dogs on a short leash, especially at night, dusk, or dawn. Pets should not roam freely. Any time a pet is not on a leash it may be at risk of injury or predation by wildlife.
- Use caution when walking pets in wooded areas or near heavy foliage, as these are areas where coyotes could den or rest.
- If pets are kept in a fenced area outside, keep in mind that coyotes can climb fencing. Before letting pets outside at night, make noise and flashlights to startle wildlife that could be in the yard. Additionally, the bottom of the fence should be checked regularly to ensure that coyotes cannot crawl underneath.
Coyotes may be taken as a furbearer year-round on private property with landowner permission by rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzleloader, air gun, cross bow, or bow. However, it is important to check with the local police department or sheriff’s office about the legality of discharging a firearm in certain areas. It is also important to note that coyotes are established throughout Florida and new coyotes can move into areas where others have been removed.
Coyotes are established throughout Florida and have learned to live in densely populated areas. Relocating coyotes has been proven to be a poor method for reducing their numbers in an area, as coyotes from surrounding areas can move directly into these same spaces. This species will continue to be present in urban locations as well as rural land despite human interference. Securing attractants like pet food, pets, livestock, and garbage is the best way to minimize negative interactions with coyotes. Learn more about securing attractants and how to keep pets safe here.
Coyotes are established throughout Florida. Coyotes and other predators self-regulate their populations by the amount of available space for territories and food availability. Indiscriminate trapping and removal disrupt this balance; coyote populations quickly rebound in response to trapping and removal through increased litter sizes or expansion of surrounding coyote territories into areas not previously inhabited. Eradication strategies in other areas of the country have historically been ineffective at controlling coyote populations in the long term.
Coyote attacks upon people are statistically rare and the mere presence of coyotes is not an imminent risk to public safety. Coyotes in populated areas may display behaviors that range from curiosity to indifference in the presence of people. This does not necessarily mean that these animals have lost their fear of humans and may just reflect that they have adapted to living around people.
However, coyotes can and do follow people or dogs. This can be for one of a variety of reasons. Most commonly, a person or a dog is unknowingly approaching a den. Coyote parents are protective of their young and may follow people or dogs to ensure their den is not threatened. Less commonly, coyotes may follow people because they have been fed and are expecting a handout, or they may be attempting to prey upon a small dog.
In all these situations, the FWC recommends hazing coyotes and keeping small dogs on short, non-retractable leashes. Avoid the area where the coyotes may be denning. Never run from a coyote. Never feed coyotes — It is illegal.
If a coyote is approaching people closely, allowing people to approach closely, or acting in an aggressive manner, you should contact the FWC. Find the regional FWC office near you: Regional Office Contacts | FWC (myfwc.com).
The FWC is not able to rehabilitate sick or injured coyotes. For assistance with this, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.