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Cortez packs school for lesson on coyotes

Cortez -- In the wake of homeowners’ complaints about their pets being killed by coyotes, the Manatee County government held a workshop Thursday to discuss the wild animal.

Caroline and Michael Northfield were among about 50 residents who attended the meeting at the Old Schoolhouse, some who stated they’ve seen coyotes roaming the village.

Lisa Hickey, a naturalist instructor with Manatee County’s Department of Agriculture and Resource Conservation, offered facts about the animals, including how they got to Manatee County, their diet, attack statistics, habits and behavior.

Representatives from the sheriff’s office, public safety department and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were also on hand.

Hickey offered some basic rules to follow:

n Make sure all trash is secure at night.

n Don’t leave pet food outdoors.

n Bring pets indoors.

“They’ll only expand if they have food,” Hickey said. “Research shows if you remove their food, they will stop.”

Coyotes, who are very adaptable to different elements, tend to self regulate their population based on food levels, said Hickey, who assured coyotes rarely attack humans and are generally afraid of people.

The Northfields are certain a coyote is responsible for the disappearance of their cat Charlie back in August.

“I think we learned a lot of useful things to do to deal with the situation,” said Michael Northfield, 72. “What I didn’t get answered is why it is suddenly happening. It wasn’t until the last six months,” that people have been raising the issue of coyotes.

According to Hickey, the animals were first brought to Florida about 50 years ago by hunters. Their populations have scattered across the state ever since.

Plum Taylor will heed the warning and make sure her trash is put away and pet food isn’t left outdoors. However, her cat Meow-Meow, who stays in a patio area at night, won’t be coming indoors at night anytime soon.

“It’s an outdoor cat. I’m not going to bring him in because that’s his home,” said Taylor, 77, of the village.

Linda Molto, a village activist who lost two cats to coyotes, claims at least 57 family pets have gone missing in Cortez since November due to coyotes.

Population statistics aren’t kept by any organization because one coyote can be spotted multiple times. However, Molto would like anyone who sees one to jot down when and where and contact the Florida Maritime Museum office at (941) 708-6121.