Lethal Control of Coyotes on Sanibel Will Waste Dollars and Fail

by Georgianne Nienaber, Committee of the Islands Member

Coyote by Kim Kimbro

“The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics.” This sentence, taken verbatim from Section 3.18 of the Sanibel City Charter, is in danger of becoming an obsolete artifact of island history, given the current climate of fear surrounding coyote/human encounters. Misinformation may result in the culling (killing) of coyotes on our sanctuary island.

The Draft City of Sanibel Coyote Management and Education Plan is based on solid science and the valuable collective recommendations of cities and municipalities from across the United States. Strategies and outcomes outlined in the plan have been duplicated hundreds of times. The most important takeaway is that culling of coyote populations consistently results in an increase in the population. Coyotes have been among the most hunted animals in the human history of North America. They have evolved to survive predation.

In 2009 I participated as a mediator in human/wildlife conflicts in Mpumalanga Province in South Africa. It was a highly emotional situation and there was no research to rely upon. It took three years, dozens of meetings, testing, trials, white papers, and much personal conflict to have science prove with baboons, as it has with coyotes, that culling is not effective.

Wasting taxpayer dollars is a powerful argument against doing additional research or embarking upon a course of action such as culling. Community stakeholders have substantial control over city resources and decisions. The courts and environmental organizations can influence these decisions, as well as ordinary citizens.

Often the loudest voices are those complaining about the coyotes on Sanibel. We have learned to live with wildlife. Coyotes are relatively new to Sanibel, but not classified as an invasive species. Proper language is essential for conflict resolution.

Having been present at the December 3, 2019 and January 7, 2020 Council meetings to discuss coyotes, I was dismayed by the use of language. Coyotes were described as “stalking,” “predatory,” “cunning,” and one council member suggested that when the coyotes ran out of rabbits for a food source, humans were next. One council member publicly and soundly ridiculed the authors of the Draft City of Sanibel Coyote Management and Education Plan. Is there not a better and civil way to approach this discussion?

The draft plan offers proven suggestions on how to deal with a coyote that approaches too close for comfort. This includes, but is not limited to: shouting, waving your hands, or carrying a noisemaker.

Dog owners, especially, have certain important responsibilities. Dogs should be on a short leash at all times. The only reported coyote attack on a dog on Sanibel involved an unleashed pet. Dogs can be viewed as aggressors or threats, even to humans. Keep your pet on a short leash. Stakeholders have moved to Sanibel with the full knowledge that they have decided to live within a wildlife sanctuary.

I am not confident that the Council will put us on a path for a win/win outcome. The Council was elected to serve the majority of stakeholders. Unless we speak loudly and with support of the founders’ vision, we will become a municipality in disharmony with nature.

Please write to the Sanibel City Council in support of the 28-page Draft City of Sanibel Coyote Management and Education Plan and its authors and contributors. They include the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, the J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Georgianne Nienaber is a member of the Committee of the Islands. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and worked for 50 years as an environmental, political and human rights investigative writer.

For more information or to become involved with the Committee of the Islands, contact the organization at coti@coti.org.

Comments (10)

  1. I am more afraid of domestic dogs, unleashed, than I am of Coyoted.
    I have lived on Sanibel for 15 years and have encountered 2 Coyotes in those 15 years. Each time the coyotes were more afraid of me than I of them.
    We all need to find a way to live in harmony with these creatures.
    As Sanibel is designated a wild life sanctuary. We have no right to kill them.
    Dog walks need to be aware and use the necessary precautions before going for a dog walk.
    Maybe Sanibel needs a designated, fenced in area, to run their dogs. That could be an answer to this tecent Coyote issue.
    If we let nature solve the problem that might work as well. As it has worked on the over population of racoons and Eguinas.

    • Coyotes are part of wildlife! Wildlife brings our thousands of visitors! Do we want the loss of this revenue for tsustainability of our way of life on Sanibel? I say NO any culling of coyotes! As a dog owner who walks our dog three times a day and night, I keep my dog on a lease and walk with a light to keep any potential sightings of coyotes at a safe distance. Everyone should do the same. Jeff Moss

  2. It’s clear to me that Sanibel is fighting for it’s life right now. Thank you for reminding us who live here why we live here and how rare this environment is.
    Skip Collins

  3. Sorry, but after reading that a 6 year old boy in Chicago was attacked by a coyote and was injured in his head, I feel that these animals are predators that need to be removed. I don’t think that our Sanctuary Island means that they are the type of animal that should be here and that the answer to be safe is that we should follow the “rules” when walking dogs. The comments at the meeting about what coyotes are – is absolutely correct. I still think about the woman who was walking her dog at the East end some time ago – she had to find a place to be “safe” from coyotes who could not be scared off.

    • Maria Dusenbery

      We wholeheartedly agree, too many close calls already, should be taken seriously as a warning.

    • Georgianne Nienaber

      The end of the story, which was not reported immediately, is that the coyote had a chest full of bb pellets and was in pain. The coyote was relocated to an animal rehab facility. The city of Chicago got behind the coyote. It is now named ‘Mercy’ and will be an animal ambassador to educate people.

  4. Jean Ann dewalt

    We moved to Sanibel in large part to live in union with nature. We are well aware that there are any number of animals here that can be a problem of one sort or another. We take care to walk our dog on a short leash and carry a small club flashlight when out in early morning or dusk. We see the coyotes around sometimes, but we don’t panic we make a loud noise and walk backwards. They have never given us any more than a cursery glance. Same with the bobcats which we see with the same frequency. The island of Sanibel isn’t for everyone. Eradicating animals to make ourselves feel more safe is in direct conflict with who we have chosen to be as a community. Jean Ann DeWalt

  5. The article about the Chicago bite stressed how rare it was and that there is a greater danger from dogs allowed to roam off leash. Leave the wildlife alone

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