South Florida is a wild place. Alligators and iguanas, of course. Even cows running on the loose.
Now, foxes and coyotes have raised the hackles of some North Miami-Dade residents.
Sereda White returned from a two-week vacation and said the number of gray foxes in her neighborhood on Northeast Fourth Avenue and 142nd Street seem to have multiplied from what she had seen three weeks ago.
So she called North Miami Animal Control. She said she was told by one of its directors, Michael Fuentes, that there was nothing he or Animal Control could do.
“He said they are ‘protected species and can’t be caged or rounded up’ and that they are more afraid of me than I am of it,” White told the Miami Herald.
Fuentes did not respond to several phone calls and messages.
North Miami police Cmdr. Kessler Brooks said Fuentes was heading over to White’s neighborhood to check out the situation and to make sure her property is within North Miami city limits.
Her property may be just outside the line and in Miami-Dade County.
But the roaming foxes don’t care about boundary lines.
“My neighbor and I were talking and about seven of them were standing outside on the sidewalk. Two came by when we were talking,” White said.
They are even climbing her fence to get into her fenced-in yard, she said. And she says something is tearing up her plants.
Foxes forage for food, and mice, rats and rabbits are their favorites. So if something small scampers about the yard, a fox’s sharp claws and snout could conceivably cause the damage White says she is seeing to her plants.
Yes, gray foxes are adept climbers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says.
“They are walking around my backyard and drinking water out of my pool. I can’t let the dog run free in the backyard,” White said. She’s afraid they could have have rabies. She’s concerned for the neighborhood children.
Gray foxes, which have some reddish hair and weigh about seven to 13 pounds with bushy tails, are “one of the few members of the dog family capable of climbing trees.”
So they are getting around — especially since there is a vacant lot near White’s property, White said.
There’s not much a government agency can do.
Hunting foxes by trapping or shooting is illegal in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
But the FWC also says “a fox can be taken as a nuisance animal if it causes or is about to cause property damage, presents a threat to public safety, or causes an annoyance in, under, or upon a building, per Florida Rule 68A-9.010.”
Coyotes on the golf course
A week ago, the Miami Shores Country Club put up a new sign on its golf course near the 15th hole to warn players, and the community, about coyote sightings in the area.
The sign, put up as a proactive measure according to assistant golf pro Austin Smith, warns that “coyotes may come out at any time, day or night.” In bold red lettering the sign says one should never feed coyotes.
“It’s just a good idea to let it be known,” Smith said. “We haven’t had an incident or seen a growth of the population, but thought it was a good idea.”
Earlier this month, the village of Miami Shores warned residents via a Facebook post to be wary of coyotes ahead of its Fourth of July fireworks celebration at the club.
As on the new sign, the cautionary social media post warned the expected crowds that coyotes had been seen on the golf course and that in no circumstances should anyone approach or feed the wild animals.
Also earlier this month, an El Portal police officer who was out on routine patrol spotted a coyote wandering around Northeast 91st Street and First Avenue
Removing nuisance wildlife
Coyotes are Class II wildlife and FWC encourages people to report coyote sightings by calling a local FWC region’s office. South Florida is served by the South Region at 561-625-5122.
Florida classifies foxes as Class III wildlife. An organization has to have a Class III license to remove such animals like fox and North Miami Animal Control does not have a license to do that, Brooks said.
But there is some recourse if you feel threatened by wildlife like foxes and coyotes, which can carry rabies. Both are generally frightened of people and steer clear unless they are fed, which can remove some of their fear and cause problems.
Call your local Animal Control, as White did, or call the county at 311 or visit http://www8.miamidade.gov/global/animals/home.page.
But note, a community’s Animal Control department in Miami-Dade and in Broward generally doesn’t remove wildlife.
South Florida Wildlife Care Center could be a resource to answer questions on how to live with wildlife. Call 954-524-4302.
Foxes and coyotes aren’t all bad, either.
“Foxes are beneficial because they control populations of rodents, rabbits and other small animals. It is best to prevent or solve problems with foxes by securing attractants and deterring the animals from becoming comfortable around residences and domestic animals,” FWC says on its website.
For these same reasons, the FWC says that “coyotes are an important part of the landscape in Florida.”
If that doesn’t solve the problem, contact the FWC for a list of active trappers that may be licensed to remove certain animals at https://public.myfwc.com/HGM/NWT/NWTSearch.aspx. Or call FWC at 850-488-4676.
How to miminize encounters with wildlife
The FWC offers the following tips for living with foxes and coyotes but they can apply to most critters.
▪ Secure all possible food sources, including pet food and garbage. Don’t make it easy for foxes and coyotes to have a free buffet in your yard or near your home.
▪ Do not directly feed foxes or other wildlife like coyotes. It is illegal in Florida. “Even if a fox is not eating the food you put out for birds or other wildlife, feeding stations can concentrate prey species and draw predators to your property,” the FWC says.
▪ Make some noise. “When you exit through the front door, announce yourself loudly to alert the foxes that you’re coming out. Saying something like ‘hello fox, here I come!’ will let them know you’re there and they’ll likely dart into their den or hide in the nearby foliage. If in their curiosity they approach you, clap and shout to scare them away. You want to teach them that humans are a danger and to avoid us,” says The National Wildlife Federation.
▪ Do not leave small domestic pets outdoors or on screened enclosures unattended.