FWC Educates Boca Winds About Coyotes

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The Boca Winds Home Owners Association had an emotional meeting tonight to discuss problems with coyotes in the neighborhood. The clubhouse lot overflowed with cars and with a few cars parked on the grass alongside Shorewind Drive.
Four employees of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attended the meeting. Two spoke to the crowd including a non-uniformed woman whose name we didn’t get, and Public Information Officer Amanda Phillips who was in uniform.
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It started with a PowerPoint presentation about coyotes led by the non-uniformed employee, apparently a biologist. She and Officer Phillips then took questions from the audience.
It got contentious at times and at one point Officer Phillips ordered one of the other officers to remove a homeowner from the meeting. It is not clear at this writing how a government official would have authority to remove a homeowner from a private community clubhouse.
It was a packed house with dozens of residents.
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The FWC staff insisted that coyotes do not attack humans and that parents have no reason to fear any threat to themselves or their children. Some in the audience found this hard to believe, and the staff undercut themselves a bit when they said that you shouldn’t run from coyotes because then they’ll think you’re prey.
There was talk about trapping the coyotes. At one point there was a question about shooting coyotes and one of the other officers said: “We’re not going to hunt them in Boca.” At one point Officer Phillips suggested arming children with pepper spray.
There was also a lot of discussion about not feeding wild animals, including raccoons and feral cats. These animals become a food source for the coyotes and if you cut off the food source, the coyotes will go somewhere else.
Once the Fish & Wildlife portion of the meeting was over some people filtered outside. The HOA meeting continued inside.
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Officer Phillips answered a few questions from CBS 12 and from myself. In that conversation she largely agreed with some of the key points in our earlier article about whether you can shoot a coyote. An individual generally cannot walk around carrying a firearm openly so rifles and shotguns (which are nearly impossible to carry concealed) are not practical. An individual who is carrying a concealed pistol and is confronted by a coyote can shoot the coyote if he or she feels threatened. And you can shoot a coyote on your own property even if you don’t feel threatened, as long as you somehow manage to keep the bullet on your own property. But that is difficult to do in the small lots we have in most of West Boca.
It was this writer’s impression that the vast majority of the residents meeting did not like the idea of people shooting coyotes in the neighborhood. We wonder if that attitude will change if a child is harmed.
Officer Phillips was also asked if it’s realistic to expect that residents can be stopped from feeding wild animals and feral cats considering the large number of homes in the community. She had no answer for that.
As an aside the Boca Winds HOA was very difficult with the media, and not just us. CBS 12 was not allowed to enter the building. An unidentified woman approached me and ordered me to stop taking photographs. It was unclear why she would have any authority to give such an order but I was not there to get in an argument so I stopped taking pictures. We heard that a Palm Beach Post reporter was allowed in and recorded the meeting with an audio recorder but we don’t know that for sure. Because of the presence of government officials, including three visibly armed officers, exercising unclear authority to remove residents, we consider that portion of the meeting a public event. This is a matter of substantial public concern beyond Boca Winds as coyotes have been spotted in Loggers Run and other neighborhoods, and there are a number of other neighborhoods close by. Once the FWC officials left we also left.
It is our understanding that the HOA did hire a trapper previously and that was unsuccessful. We heard from other residents that the HOA was not likely to do anything significant at tonight’s meeting but will meet again to consider further action.

Can You Shoot a Coyote? Yes, but …

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Readers have been contacting us about a coyote problem in various areas, especially Boca Winds and also in Logger’s Run. We recently shared a Boca Winds resident’s video on Facebook and it got a lot of attention:

7am in the broad daylight on Little Palm Lane in Waters Edge in Boca Winds. No fear, 4 grown men, sprinklers came on – wouldn’t leave. AND….my neighbor put that garbage out about 15mins before and I was out here changing tire when this Coyote appeared out of no where.

Posted by Ralph Peter on Thursday, May 21, 2015

In comments some readers have talked about trapping or shooting the coyote. Others seem horrified about that and sympathetic to the animal, saying for example that our houses have encroached on their natural habitat.
For starters, South Florida is not the coyote’s habitat. They are native to the western United States and not too popular there either as you can see from the photo at top. There might just be a reason that the Road Runner’s bad guy was Wile E. Coyote. Coyotes were first brought to Florida in the 1920s.
Most coyotes will keep their distance from us. This one seems unafraid of humans. It is a genuine danger not just to pets but also to children and even adults. There was a report ten days ago that a coyote attacked a man.
Florida law considers coyotes a “nuisance species.” You can shoot them under the right circumstances but you should be very careful about both legal and practical concerns.

West Boca News does NOT recommend shooting coyotes.

There are restrictions on when you can hunt various species. Coyotes are so bad that these restrictions do not apply. You can hunt them year-round. The “night and light” permit required for many species is also not required for coyotes. So as far as timing goes, you can shoot them any time.
Place is a whole different issue. Under Florida law you can fire a gun on your own property (typically for target shooting) and as long as the bullets don’t leave your property it’s legal. State law actually prohibits cities and counties from regulating that.
If the coyote is on your property and you shoot it, and you make sure all your bullets stay on your property, you should be fine. But when you live in the suburbs on small lots, it’s hard to do that. If you have your neighbor’s permission you should be able to shoot them on their lot as well. We’d suggest getting that permission in writing (an e-mail or text message is fine).
Of course the coyote may not be on your property when you encounter it. In the video the coyote is on a public street.
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We contacted the Sheriff to ask about this and did not get much of an answer. They referred us to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. And of course when we looked this up on the FWC website, they recommend contacting local law enforcement.

The discharge of a firearm may be prohibited in some cities and residential areas, check with local law enforcement.

Practical Issues
If you are thinking about shooting a coyote we recommend extreme caution. As with any firearms situation, make sure you know what’s behind your target. No matter how good you are you might miss or the bullet might overpenetrate. You don’t want that bullet hitting any people or damaging your neighbor’s property. It may be helpful to shoot at a downward angle if the coyote is on grass. On pavement that bullet will ricochet so it’s still a potential problem. It may be worth using a scope if shooting a coyote with a high powered rifle, and if you are unsure what scope to use, you might want to check out one of many sites that can help you choose the right scope.
In reading about coyote hunting we’ve seen various recommendations about caliber and a lot of those suggest “centerfire” rifle cartridges like the .223. Typically these are in rural environments. The problem with such rifles in a suburban environment is that they have serious potential to penetrate walls.
It’s pretty common to hunt smaller game with the .22LR which is about as safe as you can get in terms of bad things that might happen with any misses. Some feel that the .22LR lacks stopping power, but we’d rather compromise on that than risk the negative consequences of what might happen with something more powerful.
Since “open carry” is generally illegal in Florida you’re probably not going to have a rifle on you when you encounter a coyote. More likely – if you have a CCW license – you’ll be carrying a pistol. Pistols can be difficult to shoot at a distance but this particular coyote seems to come very close to humans so you should be able to get a good shot. Most handgun calibers will be effective. Texas Governor Rick Perry killed a coyote with a .380.
As with rifles you have to know what’s beyond your target and we recommend shooting at a downward angle to minimize the risk of unintended damage from misses or overpenetrating rounds.
Dealing with the Aftermath
In an ideal world after such an incident you would call 911, explain everything to the deputies when they come to the scene, and it’ll all be okay. As a criminal defense attorney I’ve seen too much. I just don’t trust police and prosecutors. Some are good and some aren’t. The Sheriff’s non-answer to our question should make anyone uncomfortable.
If you shoot a coyote you are at risk for prosecution. From that perspective it’s safest to go straight home and secure your firearm. If deputies come to your house you should not let them in your house without a warrant and don’t talk to them without a lawyer (who will tell you not to talk to them anyway).
It may be wise to write down some notes about the incident to discuss with your attorney later if necessary. Write “For Attorney” at the top of the notes to make sure they’re protected by the attorney-client privilege (in case the police get a warrant and find them).
If you’re not comfortable with the above then you probably should not shoot that coyote and may want to reconsider carrying a firearm at all.