In a Flip-Flop State of Mind.

Your Daily Beach Therapy from Ocean's Reach

Or call us at 1-800-336-6722

A Surprising Encounter on the Bike Path

Written by Jeff Lysiak at the “Island Sun”:

You never know what kind of wildlife you’re going to encounter when visiting the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It could be a rare bird, an alligator or even a couple of river otters. During a recent trip to Sanibel, amateur nature photographer Robert Steagall hoped he would see something worthwhile as he drove along Wildlife Drive. After arriving at the refuge shortly after it opened at 7 a.m. on May 27, the Fort Myers resident slowly meandered through the four-mile loop, his camera at the ready.

“I spent a good amount of time driving through the refuge, but it was kinda quiet that morning,” said Steagall, who recalled exiting from Wulfert Road and turning left onto Sanibel-Captiva Road. “But about a mile before I got back to the main entrance, I noticed something unusual near the side of the road, so I pulled my car over.” Steagall couldn’t believe his eyes when he realized what kind of animal he was now looking at. Standing along the shared use path was a coyote.

“He was just standing there on the bike path… panting… not running away. He stood there for about six minutes while I was in my car, taking pictures,” said Steagall. “It took him a while before he ran back into the brush.” The photography hobbyist, who had never seen a coyote in the wild, explained that the creature looked sort of like a “slim German shepherd.”

A friend of Steagall’s, who happens to be a biologist, looked at the images he took and suggested that the coyote he spotted was a young female, probably between 1 and 2 years old, based upon the whiteness of its teeth.

Prior to 2011, there had never been a confirmed coyote sighting on Sanibel. But a recent study conducted by an expert research team from the University of Georgia estimates that there are between 27 and 67 coyotes currently roaming the island.

According to a report prepared by the University of Georgia’s Wardell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the origin of coyotes on Sanibel is unknown.

“Coyotes are strong swimmers and may have made their way to the island during times of low tide (likely from nearby islands to the north). Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, it is possible that some individuals crossed the causeway which connects the island with Southwest Florida,” the UGA report stated.

In 1983, coyotes could be found in 18 Florida counties, expanding into 48 counties by 1990. The first confirmed sighting on the island occurred in February 2011 when a single coyote was photographed strolling through the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

By 2014, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) had reported that coyotes contributed to a significant portion of sea turtle nest depredation. That same year, 33 percent of nests were depredated by mammalian predators. Once SCCF began to add protective screens on top of sea turtle nesting sites (see Ocean’s Reach blog for June 10), the rate of depredation has decreased significantly.

SCCF also said that there have not been any local reports of coyote-human interactions on the island, with the greater threat being to off-leash domestic pets. Their advice: don’t feed coyotes or leave pet food outdoors, keep pets on leashes at all times, and – if you encounter a coyote – make noise and wave your arms to reinforce the animal’s natural fear of humans.

Sign Up to Receive Special Offers