A coyote is not the type of wildlife one expects to see on Anna Maria Island.
Capt. Carson Wooten of Island Fishing Charters was driving onto the island before 9 a.m. July 10 when he spotted a coyote near the “Welcome to Anna Maria Island” sign just past the Kingfish Boat Ramp on Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach.
Wooten said he saw the coyote on the sidewalk and, when he stopped, it ran toward the bushes. The animal stopped and looked back long enough for Wooten to take a couple of photographs.
Sighting of coyotes ramped up on Anna Maria Island in July, though it’s not the first time the animals have been spotted here. Coyotes have recently been seen on Longboat Key.
Holmes Beach police responded to 81st Street and Marina Drive July 9, after the dispatch center received a call about a possible injured animal.
HBPD called Manatee County Animal Services to see if they could catch the coyote, which took cover under a trailered boat, but the animal ran off.
Police Chief Bill Tokajer said animal services thought it looked healthy.
Holmes Beach resident David Zaccagnino saw a small coyote at the intersection of Avenue E and 29th Street near midnight July 4 just beside the beach access.
“He was little and skinny and he looked really scared,” Zaccagnino said. “I figured all the firework noise ran him out of the mangroves. He was just darting between cars.”
In the more than 19 years Zaccagnino has lived on the island, he said he had never seen a coyote before the Fourth. He thinks they may be living in Grassy Point Preserve on the south side of Manatee Avenue abutting Anna Maria Sound.
Capt. Scott Moore has been on Anna Maria Island almost twice as long as Zaccagnino and said he had never seen a coyote on the island. He moved to Anna Maria Island in 1979.
But he’s not surprised by their presence.
“It’s all about groceries,” Moore said. “They are going to go where the food is.”
Moore theorizes the coyotes are coming to the island from Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton. They could walk across the Anna Maria Island Bridge, but coyotes also are capable of swimming to the island. Recent extremely low tides may contribute to their willingness to cross the sound.
“They can walk most of the way with these unusually low tides, and they are good swimmers,” Moore said. “I heard one guy say he saw one standing on a sandbar at Palma Sola Bay.”
Moore said growing up in west Bradenton meant living with a lot of wild creatures that inhabited the then-sparsely populated areas of the city.
“We had a Florida panther that lived in our neighborhood, tons of coyotes and some really big bobcats,” Moore said.
He noted that coyotes cover vast territories and will follow food sources. Moore warned that small pets — cats and dogs — can be food for coyotes and should be protected. Feed pets indoors and never feed a coyote. When walking dogs, carry a stick, club or pepper spray, especially at sunrise and sunset and near water.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says don’t run away if a coyote approaches but yell as loud as possible. Waving hands and making loud noises, such as banging, can run coyotes away.
Coyotes have been in Florida since the 1960s, having overspread the eastern United States earlier in the century. Wikipedia says a typical coyote has a home range of 1,000-12,000 acres depending on individuals and food sources.
Coyotes can interbreed with wolves and domestic dogs. Their average weight is between 25-35 pounds, with males typically being larger than females.
They feed on rodents, rabbits, lizards, snakes, fish, grass, berries, carrion and small animals, but have been known to kill livestock, according to Wikipedia.
The FWC says coyotes are found in every Florida county, in rural and urban areas.
Two or more coyotes, it seems, have made their way to Anna Maria Island.
Small pet owners and walkers: Be alert.