There are coyotes in our midst.
Mike Sherry, who lives near Clement Taylor Park on Calhoun Avenue in Destin, was out for his regular evening walk with his chocolate Labrador Monday when he spotted two coyotes standing in the middle of Calhoun.
"It was kind of unnerving," Sherry said. "I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up."
After seeing the coyotes and not knowing if they were dangerous or not, Sherry says he’s now “scared to walk my dog at night."
Sherry said his cat, of 10 years, went missing about a week ago and now he fears the cat was eaten by the coyotes.
"If I'd known they were around, I wouldn't have let my cat out," Sherry said. "People need to know what's going on. They need to start watching their pets.”
Watching small pets is not a bad idea, according to Karen Parker, public information coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"Keep cats indoors in the evening and always keep your dogs on a leash," Parker said.
If you know there are coyotes in the area, she said you might want to carry a walking stick, golf club or umbrella to deter the animal in the event that it becomes unnaturally aggressive.
"If you see one make as much noise as you can to scare them off," she said. "You want to make them fearful of you. You want them to think being around a human is an unpleasant experience."
On a recent Facebook post on the topic, dozens of Destin residents reported sightings along Benning Drive, Siebert, Forest and Mattie Kelly Boulevard. Residents from Twin Lakes, Emerald Lakes and even Sandestin have also spotted the wild dogs on the horizon.
"Saw one running into the woods right off Benning about a quarter mile north of Kelly. Then again saw one just sitting inside that concrete plant on Beach Drive next to the boat ramp. He just sat there and watched me walk by. Heard them howling the other night too,” Chris Warren posted on Facebook.
"I recently lost a cat due to a coyote. There are woods connecting to my backyard on Main Street which I'm pretty sure that's where one lives. I've seen it twice since I lost one of my cats. My main concern is my children..." Kristin Chambless also posted on Facebook.
Parker is not surprised by the spate of spottings in the Destin area, and said coyotes are in all 67 counties in the state of Florida.
Although, coyotes have been known to eat small cats and dogs, Parker said, "there hasn't been any reports of children being attacked" by coyotes.
If you are still worried, Parker recommended arming children with an empty soda can filled with rocks or pennies — tape it up and use it as a shaker to make noise.
If a coyote shows up on your property, you can kill them, Parker said. But only, "if you can safely discharge your weapon. And there is no bag limit," she added.
Coyotes like wooded areas. "That's where they are going to den up," Parker said.
A coyote is about the size of a medium sized dog — 20 to 30 pounds.
"They are very opportunistic," she said. And the way to get rid of them is to cut off their food source.
Kelsey Smith, a health technician with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, said "they are only going to be around if there is food." She suggests putting away trash cans and keeping pets inside.
Although the FWC doesn't have the manpower or resources to rid the area of coyotes, she said there are trappers that will do it for a price.
For more information about coyotes, CLICK HERE.
COYOTE FAST FACTS
-Coyotes live throughout Florida and in every state but Hawaii.
-They weigh 15-30 pounds. The males are slightly larger than the females.
-Coyotes eat whatever is available, including fruits, nuts, seed, dead animals, rodents, garbage, pet food, domestic cats and small dogs.
-They breed every year with two to 12 pups per litter. Pups are raised in a den.
-Removing coyotes from one area can result in other coyotes moving in from surrounding areas and producing more pups per litter.
(This information was provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).
To read what others are saying on Facebook about coyote sightings, CLICK HERE.