EDITOR’S NOTE: The Santiva Chronicle publishes opinions and letters on topics that are important to Sanibel and Captiva. They may be submitted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Santiva Chronicle.
Yesterday I saw a coyote, after an hour of quiet walking and watching. Just a glimpse: He saw me, too, and was gone. Only the second one I ever saw. I read that sometimes coyotes will follow a person or other animal when guarding a den, but no such luck for me.
Walking quietly, we all see otters, bobcats, gators, raccoons, fox, every kind of bird, and, in the past two years, lots of rabbits everywhere! (Also saw a panther east of Naples.) Almost never the secretive coyote. I read in this paper that some are seen regularly; please tell us (and our Island visitors) where. Many come to see the native wildlife that has sanctuary here, boosting our economy. Maybe one of our wildlife organizations would hold walks with a guide who can call to and get responses from coyotes (I have heard this done at night with wolves in Canada!).
We know gators have killed people, and many pets, too, and warning signs are everywhere to be beware and not to feed them. We also know most mammals can transmit rabies, including bats. So, we all know to be careful around gator habitat (including on land since we often see them out of the water), or if any animal appears sick or comes too close to humans. And, we know not to leave out food where they can get it so as not to lessen their natural fear of us. Even some birds of prey can take small pets, although most are lost to cars.
Dogs bite humans frequently, half a million times a year, I read, and we all have read of people being killed by dogs even in their own yards. Our little Yorkie was torn horribly by a neighbor’s German Shepard in our own fenced yard. I have never read of a person being killed by a coyote. By a panther, yes, a grizzly bear, yes. I have read of gator bites, raccoon bites, and recently the press reported a Florida woman was bitten by an otter that was fighting with her dog. No reports of coyotes biting humans except one report from Chicago which was sparse in detail and unconfirmed. Wild dogs and coyotes can look alike, too.
Do we have more coyotes now than years past, or more people on more of the Island and so more sightings? Coyotes, like fox and bobcat, have cyclical populations following the cycles of their prey; is it a coincidence that after a few years of an explosion of rabbits eating our shrubs and killing our lawns that we might have more coyotes? Will an increase in the latter result in a decline in the former, and so then a decrease in their own numbers?
Using caution around fresh water on Sanibel is healthy and prudent given the history of gator attacks. Wariness of any sick or seemingly unafraid wild animal, or loose dog, is prudent, too. No need to even mention sharks, the movies have instilled that fear in us. Maybe the movies have done the same for wolves, and coyotes look somewhat like a very small wolf. Maybe a little fear makes us prudent, but I empathize with people who fear coyotes.
With traffic accidents, war, pollution, angry people, and hurricanes, we have more than enough to fear. Maybe some facts about coyotes can reduce that one fear, at least, and we can reduce the risks of any wild or domestic animal bite by not feeding them, by not leaving pets, dog food or garbage where it attracts other animals, and, especially, being cautious around water where gators and sharks abide.
To kill everything anyone fears might be dangerous would, based on the facts, not be successful, and would cost a lot of tax money, require changes in the laws, and wholly change the nature of our Island, not to mention Ding Darling, CROW, SCCF, and our tourist economy. We could start with the coyotes, and gators, snakes, raccoons, bobcats, eagles, fox (they look like coyotes), panthers, bats, rays, sharks, large dogs – at least certain feared breeds and any dog with a history of biting, and more. Rather than validate and raise unreasoned fear for political purposes, perhaps we could relieve that fear with facts and common sense, and come together as neighbors in this very special, safe place in the world.
Sanibel Condo Owner