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Residents warned after coyote spotted in Neptune Beach

FWC officials say to leash pets, teach children to recognize, avoid coyotes

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Neptune Beach police are warning people to be careful when letting their pets and children outside after a coyote was recently spotted on Penman Road.

The police department confirmed the sighting of the coyote by one of its officers, and several residents have also posted coyote sightings on social media.

“Native predatory mammals such as foxes and coyotes are occasionally seen in the beaches area but are extremely shy and usually do not present a public safety risk,” Neptune Beach police said in a statement. “As with any wild animal, never approach or try to feed them. Be mindful with your pets, especially at dawn, dusk and during the overnight hours.”

Personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's important to teach children the difference between a dog and a coyote and to never try to pet a coyote. They also said to keep pets on a leash when they're outside.

Charles Bracewell hadn’t heard of coyotes in Neptune Beach until News4Jax told him, and he said the sightings worry him.

“I don't want anything to bother my dog or me, especially Layla -- that's my sweetheart,” Bracewell said.

He said he’ll now be keeping a closer eye on his 4-year-old dog.

FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said that if residents see a coyote around their home, they should challenge it.

“Yell at it. Get it with the water hose,” Parker said. “Make a noise -- like put pennies in a soda can, something to make noise, because what you want to do is let a coyote know that being around humans is unpleasant.”

FWC officials said it's also important not to leave food or trash around a house that would attract coyotes.

“Don't put the trash out until the morning for pickup. If you feed your pets outside, make sure you bring in any leftover food,” Parker said. “Cats are a prey item for coyotes. Free-roaming cats are at a higher risk of being preyed upon.”

Parker said the FWC likely won’t ever set traps for coyotes. She said they are an important part of the ecosystem because they help control the rodent population.

“When there is pressure, such as trapping, placed on the coyote population, the species can actually produce more pups per litter in response and populations can quickly return to the original size,” Parker said.

Michelle Harold said she sees coyotes occasionally on her property and that she’d rather have the coyotes than an abundance of rodents.

“They don't bother me,” Harold said. “I'm aware of them. I'm cautious and keep my dogs inside, but I'm also a biologist, so I love the wildlife. I love that it's there, and I'd rather have them eating the rodents then having the rodents around.”

FWC officials said residents walking their dogs in an area where there’s been a coyote sighting should avoid wooded areas and carry an umbrella, stick or golf club that they can use to protect themselves and their pets if a coyote approaches them.

For more information on coyotes from the FWC, go to http://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/coyotes.