Erwin Kraus, March 2011

Published: May 20, 2013 4:01 PM EDT

SANIBEL, Fla.- The City of Sanibel has received numerous reports of coyote sightings over the past two years.

The first confirmed sighting of coyotes was in March 2011 in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Since then, there have been reports of approximately 12 sightings; most recently around The Sanctuary Golf Club, Sanibel Gardens Preserve, Beachview Golf Club, and Lake Murex Subdivision. 

Coyotes expanded their range into Florida in the late 1970s. They are omnivorous, with the majority of their diet in Florida being small mammals, such as mice, rats and rabbits. However, they are opportunistic and have been known to eat everything from garbage to fruit and vegetables, dead fish and wildlife, birds, livestock, small pets and even sea turtle eggs. They are most active near dawn and dusk and are normally extremely shy and stay clear of humans. Coyotes are not generally a threat to human safety.

Recommendations for limiting coyote interactions include:

-Store trash in a secure area until morning of pickup

-Bring pet food or any other potential food source inside

-Keep pets indoors or attended at all times

-Always keep pets, especially small dogs or cats, on a leash when walking

The Sanibel Natural Resources Department and the City's partners at the J.N. "Ding" Darling Refuge and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation have been closely monitoring the coyote population and keeping track of reports. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation has been using metal screening to cover sea turtle nests in areas that have high coyote activity. This screening makes it difficult for coyotes to dig up nests and still allows turtle hatchlings to crawl out to the water.

If you see a coyote, please report sightings to the Sanibel Police Department's non-emergency number (239) 472-3111 or dial 911 in case of an emergency.