Drone, cameras to hunt for Indian Harbour Beach coyotes
Camera to be set up Sunday
INDIAN HARBOR BEACH, Fla. – The search for Indian Harbour Beach coyotes is going high-tech. Trappers will set up unmanned trail cameras and deploy a drone in the skies above the city's largest parks, scouring dense foliage for glimpses of the elusive predators, and their den.
News 6 partner Florida Today said that shortly before sunrise on New Year's Day, a coyote likely nabbed a pet cat outside a Bay Drive East home near Gleason Park. An infrared backyard security camera filmed the coyote chasing the cat, a gray longhair named Ni Kitty. The cat's whereabouts remain unknown.
Friday morning, Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan and Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker met and discussed coyotes. The neighboring cities may team up to publish a coyote information pamphlet.
Ryan also met with Rockledge wildlife trapper Leo Cross, who outlined a tech-savvy trapping strategy for the wooded areas of Gleason Park and the Algonquin Sports Complex.
Cross believes a coyote pair, one male, one female, are roaming between both recreation areas at night. He discovered fresh tracks and fresh scat Wednesday afternoon along the Algonquin Sports Complex woodline.
"We’re going to actually try to find the den. It’s a pretty small area. I know it sounds crazy, but I think it’s a good plan of attack," Cross said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that adult coyotes can patrol home ranges of up to 12,000 acres.
"The coyotes would become a problem, because the area's too small for them to inhabit. So they would eventually start moving into neighborhoods looking for more food. It'd become more of a prevalent problem. So to get them out, we've got to take some extra measures to get it done," he said.
Sunday afternoon, Cross and his brothers, Cedar and Sequoia, plan to set up eight trail cameras at the parks in hopes of learning which routes the coyotes use after nightfall.
Then on Monday morning, Ezekiel Technologies of Melbourne will deploy a drone to hover over the parks and look for the den. Freshly moved dirt could serve as a telltale sign.
"The mother shouldn't have pups right now. But if she does, they're going to be in the den. What they do is, they get into gopher tortoise holes or armadillo holes and they dig them out and use them as their dens," Cross said.
He said he will not harm or kill the coyotes. Rather, he said the FWC lets trappers relocate the animals to tracts 40 acres or larger within the same county. He is working with a rancher on north Merritt Island to establish a suitable drop-off site.
The Algonquin Sports Complex abuts Satellite Beach's southern border. Wednesday afternoon, Barker posted a Facebook message urging residents to keep pets inside, especially at night, and to immediately report coyote sightings by calling the Satellite Beach Police Department at 321-773-4400.
Barker said she has fielded questions this week from nervous residents who wondered whether they should walk small dogs at wooded areas near the Satellite Beach Public Library, which is just northwest of the sports complex.
She said she is considering creating park signage that warns visitors to avoid feeding or approaching wildlife. These signs would also advise visitors to report wildlife sightings to police. Coyotes aside, she said past bobcat sightings at Hightower Beach Park demonstrate the need for posted information.
"If they're here now, it doesn't mean they can't come back," Barker said of coyotes.
Ryan said Indian Harbour Beach workers deployed a city-owned trap baited with coyote urine at the Algonquin Sports Complex this week, but their efforts have proven fruitless.
In June 2014, Cross helped search for the bull shark that mysteriously appeared in the Gleason Park pond, drawing hundreds of spectators and generating national media coverage. A fisherman eventually netted the 3 1/2-foot shark, nicknamed Sushi by city workers, and the misplaced creature was released in the Indian River Lagoon.
Cross also helped rescue 19 manatees that got trapped last February in the Satellite Beach storm-drain system. Some manatees required excavation.
He said his company, Florida Wildlife Trappers, will conduct the coyote campaign free of charge.
"It’s just for the animals. We need to get them out of there. That’s the way my company’s always been. I don’t want these things to end up being shot or killed, or being euthanized because they got into trouble somehow,” he said.
Cross said he recently fielded a call reporting five coyotes on north Merritt Island, but he has never tried to trap coyotes in a popular beachside park.
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