Woman says family dog was killed by coyote in northern St. Johns County; multiple sightings reported

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Multiple people on social media have been sharing photos and videos saying they’ve seen coyotes roaming near homes in northern St. Johns County in recent weeks.

One video shared with News4JAX on Thursday shows two coyotes walking through the backyard of a home on Durbin Creek Boulevard in the Julington Creek Plantation earlier this week. Photos taken a few weeks ago also show coyotes at the home not far from Fruit Cove Middle School.

One woman News4JAX spoke to Thursday said she believes her family dog was killed by a coyote in her backyard last month.

Photo of coyote seen in Julington Creek Plantation last month. (Courtesy Photo)

Linda Savoca, who lives in a home that backs up to a large wooded area in Julington Creek Plantation, said she believes a coyote killed her 14-year-old mini Aussie named Sadie in an attack two days before Thanksgiving.

Savoca said her husband let Sadie out into their unfenced backyard to use the bathroom on the morning of Nov. 22 and that’s when the unthinkable happened.

“She didn’t come right back to the door like she normally does,” she said. “So he, it was dark out, so he went and got his flashlight and went out in the backyard and saw her laying there. And as he got closer and inspected her she was, she had obviously been attacked.”

Savoca said neither she nor her husband heard any noise outside before Sadie was attacked.

The owners of Sadie, a 14-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, say she was attacked and killed by a coyote in northern St. Johns County. (Courtesy Linda Savoca)

She said the loss has been traumatic for her family. Savoca, who has lived in St. Johns County, for 20 years blames nearby development for the recent coyote sightings.

“This is just a recent thing,” she said. “They’ve been building so much down Race Track Road that all the, you know, woods are gone. So they just hightailed it down here to Julington Creek.”

A property manager of Julington Creek Plantation also sent an email to residents saying there were other reports of a coyote attacking a person, but a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesperson told News4JAX that was not true.

FWC said the only report it received about a coyote was from Savoca. After investigating, FWC said it wasn’t able to 100% confirm Saide was killed by a coyote, but Savoca said FWC told her after seeing pictures of the aftermath it was likely a coyote or a bobcat.

FWC said coyotes are important members of the ecosystem and live all over Florida but can be dangerous, especially when it comes to small pets.

MORE: FWC interactive map showing reported coyote sightings around Florida

Savoca said she has advice for other pet owners in the area.

“Definitely don’t let your animals out when it’s dark for one thing, you know, unless they’re on a leash and you’re taking them out to go the bathroom. And just, even at dusk, you know, they’re out there,” she said.

Tips from FWC on how to stay safe around coyotes. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

FWC said people can help prevent conflicts with coyotes, as well as other wildlife, through several actions:

  • Prevent interactions with pets – keep cats indoors and walk dogs on a short leash, using caution when walking pets in wooded areas or near heavy foliage where coyotes could den or rest. If pets are kept in a fenced area, the fence should be high enough (about 6 feet) to deter coyotes and other wildlife from jumping over and check the bottom of the fence regularly to make sure that coyotes and other wildlife cannot crawl underneath. If the fence is shorter than 6 feet, pets should be monitored.
  • Avoid attracting coyotes and other wildlife into your yard by removing or securing attractants – secure your trash, feed pets inside, clean grills, and pick up any fallen fruit or bird seed from the yard. Never feed coyotes or other wildlife. Close off any crawl spaces under porches and sheds to prevent coyotes and other wildlife from resting or denning there. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Coyotes and other wildlife that associate places where people live as an easy place to find food may gradually lose their natural fear of humans.
  • If a coyote approaches or is within close proximity, you can haze the coyote to encourage them to move on. Making noise, waving your arms, and using a deterrent such as spraying water from a strong hose, can encourage a coyote to leave the area. Learn more about hazing coyotes here.
  • Additional tips and information about coyotes can be found here: MyFWC.com/Coyote. Additional information about pet safety around wildlife can be found here: https://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/tips/pets/.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.