The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently hosted a meeting at the Bloomingdale Library for residents interested in learning more about coyotes.

Bloomingdale-area residents recently had the opportunity to learn about one of Florida’s most feared residents. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County invited interested citizens to the Bloomingdale Library last month to learn about coyotes and how to react if one is seen in both urban and rural areas.

According to Melody Kilborn, FWC Public Information Coordinator, the meeting provided attendees with information about living with coyotes, basic coyote biology, tips on how to reduce human-wildlife conflict and protecting pets from coyotes.

“Coyotes have been reported in all 67 Florida counties and every state in the country with the exception of Hawaii,” said Kilborn. “Coyote sightings in and of themselves should not be alarming, however, unusual coyote behavior should be reported to your nearest FWC Regional Office.”

Examples of unusual coyote behavior include a coyote that has lost its fear of humans and is approaching people, chasing joggers or bikers or attacking leashed pets, she added.

The meeting, which was led by a FWC Senior Wildlife Assistance Biologist, was scheduled after neighborhood leaders reached out to Hillsborough County Pet Resources to ask FWC to educate residents on coyotes.

“The FWC works closely with partners to provide assistance and information about fish and wildlife in Florida,” said Kilborn.

Along with basic information about the animals and their habits, the meeting spent time focusing on keeping pets safe from coyotes.

“Coyotes are not large animals and rarely pose a threat to people, especially adults,” said Kilborn. “Using common sense around coyotes and other carnivores is the best protection against having problems.”

FWC suggests that if a coyote approaches, residents should immediately use a noisemaker or shout at the animal and wave their arms. A solid walking stick or golf club is a powerful deterrent at close range, but throwing stones, a strong spray from a water hose, pepper spray or a paintball gun can also work. In addition, a ‘coyote shaker’ can be made by placing a few washers, pebbles or pennies in an empty drink container.

But Kilborn’s number one suggestion is that residents not allow dogs or cats to roam freely.

“Most coyote attacks on pets occur either at night or in the early evening and early morning hours,” she said. “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 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.”

For more information on coyotes, visit https://myfwc.com/conservation/youconserve/wildlife/coyotes/. Residents who suspect there is a coyote in their area should call FWC at (863) 648-3200.