High wolf sightings in Central Florida?

High wolf sightings in Central Florida?

There have been more recent stories of people complaining that their young wolf was kidnapped. These stories come and go all over Central Florida, especially Seminole County. It should come as no surprise that the critters roam there or any areas around Florida. The wolves around Central Florida have been off for a very long time.

This is nothing new. The interesting thing about coyotes is that they have been around Florida for what has been estimated about 2.6 million years ago as revealed by fossil evidence. At one time there were many wolves all over Florida. Wolves were eating wolves. Then people came and killed the wolves. Bigger and slower moving targets. Coyotes are difficult to photograph because they are sleeker, smaller, and able to run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

Coyotes’ numbers expanded with their victory over the wolves. As the numbers go up and down, the numbers are a lot higher these days. The growing population of Florida has seen this increase as it is now much easier to get food. Decades ago, all coyotes had rabbits, hunted raccoons, possums, and any small animals they could eat. At the time, there were no McDonald’s, Burger King, and grocery stores throwing food into dumpsters that weren’t hard to reach.

Wolves would rather clumsily eat the available food than go crazy after a fast, lonely squirrel. The massive rise in Florida’s population over the past 100 years tends to throw food and food casings onto the ground that takes a bite or two of a hungry wolf. Food availability means more wolves. So that the largest concentration of wolves in Florida is in large population areas, such as Miami, Jacksonville, Hillsboro, Pinellas, Orange and Seminole counties. I, myself, spotted a wolf in crowded Pinellas County a few years ago in a really strange place. The very busy intersection between 66th Street North and Park Boulevard North has 6 lanes as well as 2 roundabouts.

This was around 5pm and all the lanes were busy. Cars passing back and forth. A wolf roams from where a burger king and an Italian restaurant sit. The wolf stopped. He wipes his head across passing cars.

Then he steps off the sidewalk and goes diagonally across the intersection. Cars brake and scream because the wolf did not stop and continued on his trail. His trend was toward the Walmart neighborhood market where some food is available in bins and in the parking lot. An easy food source also tempts wolves to live nearby. These areas also make it easy to breed and feed the young. Thus, young coyotes, which can breed from 4 to 10 at a time, add to the population. Because it is impossible to know how many coyotes are in Florida. The estimate is somewhere between 30 to 70,000 coyotes or .2 to 1.2 coyotes per square mile. That’s a lot of wolves. This brings up another food source: pets. People need to notice wolves in their area. Especially if they have pets and let those pets roam outside.

Domesticated cats and dogs will not be as fast as a squirrel. A hungry wolf is outside to feed, and the lone shih tzu roaming the enclosed backyard is an easy and quick meal. The pup is trapped and the wolf knows how to jump over and get out. Nothing is more fanciful than the myth that fenced areas keep junk out. It might hold them back, but if you want something, you figure out how to get in and out the same way.

Complaining about coyotes, bears, raccoons, eagles, and the like must stop. Realizing that we all live together needs stability. With that in mind, there will be more caution for those who have pets and left outside as a tasty treat for other hungry creatures. Creatures will not disappear and we have to realize that. Kevin Barton, director of the Wildlife Center in Venice, Florida, says something to always think about if you have a pet in Florida: “When people leave their pets unattended in the food chain, they become part of the food chain.”

Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, ClickOrlando, com and Sarasota Magazine.

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