Coyotes aren’t picky eaters. That’s one reason they’re being sighted in Boca. Here are the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s facts on what coyotes eat. And how to make sure your pets aren’t on their menu.
Q: Boca residents are saying coyotes are living on rabbits and feral cats. Is that true?
A: Coyotes are known to eat both of these species. However, coyotes typically eat a wide variety of foods, including plant matter.
Q: What else do they eat?
A: Coyotes are opportunistic, generalist feeders. They have been known to feed on rodents, rabbits, raccoons, lizards, snakes, insects, white-tailed deer fawns and small wild pigs. They also eat grasses, fruit (watermelon, persimmons and wild berries), grains, fish, trash, pet food, bird seed, and carrion.
Q: What’s attracting them? They’re being sighted in built-up neighborhoods.
A: Coyotes are very adaptable and are frequently found in suburban and even urban landscapes. It is not unusual for coyotes to live alongside people in extremely urban environments.
Coyotes have been established in Florida for several decades and were recorded just south of Boca in Broward County as early as 1990.
Q: Where are they coming from?
A: Coyotes are naturalized in Florida, meaning that they have expanded their range naturally from the western United States. The range expansion of coyotes in Florida is the result of several factors.
· Coyotes are adaptable. They will eat many different types of food and can adjust well to living in different habitats.
· Coyotes prefer to hunt in open space. The conversion of forest to agricultural lands has provided coyotes with ample habitat to hunt, and connected habitat throughout the state.
· Red wolves are no longer present, so coyotes have less competition.
· Coyotes can multiply quickly because they can have a large number of pups in each litter. They have an average of six pups, but that number can range from two to 12. Coyote pups reach adulthood in a short amount of time. Litter size correlates to food availability.
Q: What times do they usually look for food?
A: Coyotes are more active at dawn and dusk but can be seen anytime during the day or night.
Q: Are they considered endangered in any way?
A: No. Coyotes are not listed in Florida.
Q: Is there anything else you want residents here to know about their feeding habits?
A: Coyotes are always looking for an easy meal. If they learn that a densely populated neighborhood is an easy place to find food, they will remain in the area. Residents can prevent conflicts with coyotes by removing or securing attractants [possible food] from around their homes.
Q: What about pets?
A: Residents should secure their pets. Any free-ranging cat is open to predation from coyotes and other wildlife.
The FWC recommends that cats remain indoors. Dogs should be supervised when outdoors, in a well-fenced yard or on a leash.
Q: Will they go elsewhere in the summer or are they year-round?
A: Adult coyotes that have established territories will remain in the same territory year-round. Young coyotes looking to establish their own territory are more transient in nature. They will remain in areas where it is easy to find food, so that’s why it is so important to secure food attractants.
Q: What does that mean?
A: Urban areas are attractive to coyotes because of the human-related food sources they can find there, like unsecured garbage, fallen fruit, and bird seed, which can also attract prey items such as rodents.
Q: What if residents have questions?
A: Wildlife assistance biologists are available at each regional office and can speak with the public about coyote issues. Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation website or call.
Wildlife assistance biologists can go directly to communities to educate residents about coyotes in Florida and ways to coexist with them.
By Marci Shatzman