Numerous reports of coyote sightings are being received by the Natural Resources Department on Sanibel.
"We've had three reports in just the last week, week and a half," said Sanibel Natural Resources director James Evans. "That's the most we've had in the span of a week or so."
Since the very first sighting was reported in March of 2011 in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, more than a dozen sightings have been reported since. Most recently, the coyote, once exclusively found in the western United States, sightings have occurred in the area of The Sanctuary Golf Club, Sanibel Gardens Preserve, Beachview Golf Club and the Lake Murex subdivision.
Photo taken by Erwin Kraus, March 2011.
Evans said the coyote, which expanded its range into Florida in the late 1970s, have a diet that includes small mammals such as mice, rats and rabbits, but they also are known to eat fruit and vegetables gleaned from garbage, dead fish and wildlife, birds, livestock, small pets and sea turtle eggs.
"We are not trying to catch them right now," said Evans, "because they migrated here naturally. We don't know how many are on the island, but we estimate just a handful so they are not a threat like the black bear."
They are most active around dawn and dusk, are generally shy and steer clear of human contact posing little threat to humans.
"Of course, we do not encourage people to interact with the coyotes," said Evans.
Sources with the city, Ding Darling and Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) are closely monitoring the coyote population and tracking sighting reports. They recommend everyone store trash in a secure area until the morning of scheduled pickups, store pet food or other potential food sources indoors, keep pets indoors or attended on a leash when outdoors.
"We ask that people just follow the recommendations," said Evans.
SCCF reports using metal screening to cover sea turtle nests in areas that have reports of coyote activity, making it difficult for the coyote to dig up nests but allowing hatchlings being able to crawl to the water.
Report coyote sightings to Sanibel Police at (239) 472-3111 or dial 911 in case of emergency.