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Dogs and coyotes roaming Longboat provokes anxiety

BLAKE FLEETWOOD
Guest Writer
blake@lbknews.com

An increase in coyotes has Longboat Key residents curious: what has brought these wild animals out of hiding?

After taking a year hiatus in 2019, the coyotes are back to roaming residents’ lawns and jogging along the Gulf of Mexico Drive. One report at the end of October had a coyote walking on the sidewalk in front of the Whitney Plaza. Another sighting about a week later had a coyote on Gulf of Mexico Drive between Binnacle Point Drive and Dream Island Road.

Residents are wondering where the coyotes took shelter during last week’s Hurricane Eta. Presumably, the pack found some high ground on our low-lying island. Town Manager, Tom Harmer, suggests the coyotes sheltered in place like everyone else was supposed to do.

In the past, residents have complained about a couple of coyotes on LBK since the sightings in 2018. But the situation has become more complicated since dogs have been wandering off leash and unsupervised. Residents are concerned this will come to a head with canines competing for garbage.

Previously in 2018, the coyote sightings were on the Sarasota side of the island although a smart one was seen nosing around the aromatic garbage cans at Harry’s Kitchen.

Recently, residents wonder where the furry creatures have gone during the pandemic for safety.

None of the coyotes were described as having rabid behavior or aggression.

The behavior of coyotes is critical to how the town responds. So far, the police maintain that the town has no intent to either capture or kill the animal or animals, although they are taking reports.

Coyotes roam in all of Florida’s 67 counties. They weigh from 30-40 pounds and rarely come in contact with people. However, they are known to get into trashcans and eat pet food left outside.

Sometimes they can prey upon pets, chickens and other livestock. Two years ago, they were sighted at the vacant field of the former Colony Beach and Tennis Club feasting on some of the rats and mice there. This year, the neighborhood’s steep real estates prices ($2-10 million per condo) may have outpriced the local canines.

Two years ago, resident Missy Erickson called in a report from Bay Isles Harbourside and said that she tried to scare the coyote away by yelling and waving her arms. However, according to Officer Connors, “the coyote was not entertained by the complainant and kept to himself.”

Officers Connor and Nagell and Sgt. Schoepfer all responded to the scene where they saw the coyote about 100 yards away at the edge of a wood line along the Harbourside Golf Course. The coyote was not causing a nuisance, said Connors, and it ran off without incident.

Harmer says that there are strict laws about trapping coyotes and, “we don’t like to bother them as long as they aren’t bothering us. We do suggest people keep their distance.”

However, coyotes may be dangerous to small pets.  The town has long advised that people keep their small dogs on a short leash, and supervise pets while they’re outdoors and not to leave pets unattended outside.

This brings up a recent complaint about dogs wandering off-leash.

Matt from Jungle Queen Way wrote, “I have lived on Longboat for over seven years. I am a dog lover, have owned multiple dogs throughout my life and currently have a highly trained, incredibly well behaved 12 year old lab who’s my best buddy.“

Matt clearly loves his dog.

“The first 3 years that I was here,” he continued,” there were little to no problems with dogs. 4 years ago, my neighbor across the street decided that his dog was free to roam. By ‘free to roam’ I mean that she opens the door, lets the dog out, she goes back inside and the dog can go wherever it wants.”

“Because she does not have a fence and the dog has absolutely zero training, the dog can, and does, go wherever it wants, roaming through everybody’s yards up and down the street and obviously pooping wherever it wants. This happens literally everyday at all hours of the day.”

“There have been countless times that I have been awoken at 2 or 3 am to this dog barking right outside my bedroom window. Her and her daughters refuse to leash the dog when they’re walking it, hence it’s running through everybody’s front and back yard while they walk down the street chatting on their phones.

“You can only imagine the amount of dog poop that everybody, including myself, has to pick up from our yards that is not from our own dogs. I have contacted the LBK police department about this multiple times. I’ve spoken to many LBK police officers and they’ve all… expressed their disgust with the situation.

However, unfortunately, nothing has ever been done about it. Four years later, that dog is still terrorizing the neighborhood, says Matt.

“There are a lot of dogs on this street. Seventeen to the best of my knowledge. Plus the occasional renter that brings their dog”.

“Of those 17 dogs, there are only two of us who keep our dogs on a leash and/or behind a fence.”

A few months ago according to Matt, one of the dogs was hit by a truck on Gulf of Mexico Drive. In the few months that this neighbor had this dog, I know of at least 6 times that this dog “escaped”. It was inevitable, he says.

“Just a few weeks ago, 4 of the dogs all got into a fight in the middle of the street. Which of course was followed by neighbors screaming at each other, calling each other F***ing B**ches, etc. Real classy!

“At the end of the street is a woman who has a 1 year old, 145 lb Doberman that she walks up and down the street without a leash every single morning. Not surprisingly, she has zero control over this dog. Even if the dog was on a leash, at 145 lbs, if the dog pulled to go after another dog, she’d never be able to hold onto that leash.

“My dog doesn’t stand a chance against a dog that size if it comes after him.

“ A couple of weeks ago, her husband had to drop the leash as the dog charged after a raccoon. Across the street from her is a gentleman with 2 Rottweiler mixes who allows the dogs to run up and down the street every morning and usually again after work.

“ 2 smaller breed dogs are constantly darting out of the house every time we walk past, a Labradoodle that is occasionally off leash, a pit mix and a yorkie that are always off leash and twice have come after my dog,

“ 2 labs that are constantly running all over the place, a pit mix that got into a fight with the other labs and the lab/pit mix a few weeks ago, etc., etc., etc…. Hopefully you can see where my aggravation stems from. These are NOT rare instances. This is every single day!

“It’s gotten to a point over the last few years that I am very concerned just taking my dog for a walk because almost every time we do, he has a run-in with another dog.

“Up until a few years ago, my dog was great with other dogs. Unfortunately, because he’s had so many run-ins with these dogs, he’s now terrified of other dogs.

“ I’ve had to start carrying pepper gel spray with me simply out of concern for my dogs safety. At 12 years old, one bad twist or turn trying to get away from these dogs, could cause a really bad injury and possibly be a death sentence for my dog.

“I shouldn’t have to carry pepper gel spray when I’m taking my dog out on a leash in my own yard.”

“A few weeks ago I was grilling some steaks for dinner. I went outside to check on them and in my driveway was a dog I had never seen before with a leash hanging off of his collar. My initial instinct was “Hey sweet boy, where did you come from?”. Which was responded to with a growl and a bunch of barking.

“ I went inside, called the non-emergency number that I have for the LBK police. It of course was re-routed to Manatee 911. She informed me that a stray dog is not a police matter but an animal control matter. Thus began the debacle of which county I live in. I assured her that I was 110% certain that I live in Manatee. She told me no, Sarasota, and patched me through to Sarasota Animal Control. They told me that I lived in Manatee, which I agreed with and patched me back to 911. She finally patched me through to Manatee Animal Control. I explained the situation. At this point, the dog was now in my backyard barking and jumping on my lanai screen trying to get to my dog. They said that they’d send somebody out.

“A quick Google Maps search shows that it’s at least a 47-minute drive (without traffic) from Manatee Animal Control in Palmetto, to my street on Longboat.

“This phone call took 18 minutes. 9 minutes later, I received a phone call from the 911 dispatcher telling me that animal control was not going to come out that evening and that they’d be there in the morning.

“The fact that we have ordinances restricting this type of behavior, but is unenforceable, makes it all the more aggravating.”

Matt’s complaint was forwarded to Town Commissioner B.J. Bishop, who in turn forwarded it to Town Manager Tom Harmer, who forwarded it to new Police Chief Kelli Smith.

Harmer said, “If it’s an aggressive dog, it’s referred to Animal Control. But if it’s off leash, that’s a police matter. We have had policeman out there informing the residents of the regulations.”

There are practically no places on Longboat Key where dogs can roam off leash. Last spring Phil Simborg, vacationing from Chicago with his son and granddaughter, complained, “I have been to beautiful places around the world and none are so strict about letting dogs on the beach.”

“In many towns all over the country, dogs are allowed on the beaches after six pm and during the off-season. If Longboat Key wants to keep its tourists coming, they should have a doggy beach somewhere.”

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