Cortezians say coyotes are stalking domestic pets in the old fishing village. By some accounts the death toll is more than 50 animals, most of them cats.
Several residents have reported the loss of multiple pets, according to the Manatee County Agriculture and Resource Conservation Department, which will hold a meeting in Cortez to discuss coyotes and their habits.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9., at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez.
Participants will include representatives from Manatee County’s agriculture and public safety departments, the extension office, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Agriculture department representative Lisa Hickey will lead the meeting, providing facts and information on “the good, the bad and the ugly of coyote behavior in Manatee County.”
Hickey, a certified Florida master naturalist instructor, said she’ll talk about why coyotes can be found in Manatee County, what coyotes eat and prey upon and other general information about the animal’s behavior and habitat.
A coyote, generally salt-and-pepper gray or brown with a bushy tail, is a medium-sized canid in the same family as dogs, wolves and foxes.
The FWC has reported that coyotes live in all 67 Florida counties and sightings are common. The coyote’s range and population has increased as that of its predators’ — wolves and panthers — has decreased to near extinction.
The FWC, in a guide on dealing with coyotes, recommends, “Exercising common sense around coyotes is the best protection against encounters. Pet owners should keep their pets on a leash, especially when in wooded areas. Humans should never feed wild animals. Coyotes in particular look for easy sources of food and will become comfortable in urban settings if they are provided with food.”
FWC biologists also say that coyotes can help control populations of small predators, such as raccoons, as well as crop-eating wildlife.
Local officials dealt with complaints about coyotes preying on domestic pets in the Palma Sola area about 18 months ago, and occasionally get calls about coyotes on ranches and farms in the eastern part of the county.
Cortez resident Linda Molto will moderate the Dec. 9 meeting, which will include discussion with Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, county public safety director Bill Hutchison, MCSO Lt. Bill Evers and Deputy Keith Noordzy along with Hickey.
A press release announcing the meeting described the coyotes as a “menace” and roaming in “packs” that pose a danger to humans as well as pets. A resident of the Sunny Shores community off Cortez road reported seeing 20 coyotes outside a cottage.
Gail Straight of Wildlife Inc., the animal rehabilitation clinic in Bradenton Beach, however, has urged a reasoned approach to the situation.
Straight emphasized that free-roaming cats and other domestic animals help to create such situations. Free-roaming domestic animals can be prey for coyotes, as well as predators of smaller animals and birds.