Four coyotes have been captured — and later killed — at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport, according to Manager Nathan Coyle.
The city hired Jacksonville wild animal removal company Quick Catch about two months ago for the “depredation” effort, he said.
According to Mr. Coyle, coyotes pose a significant safety concern to fliers.
“They absolutely do,” he said by phone Wednesday. “I’m told there was a report of a plane hitting a coyote shortly after landing last year.”
The cost is $125 per animal removal, he said. There was also a $250 set-up fee.
According to Mr. Coyle, the company placed a camera and traps on the west side of the airport near a runway that is not in service.
He said the camera allowed the company to see how and where the coyotes are entering the airfield and then traps were placed accordingly. After capture, the animals were taken away by Quick Catch and fatally shot, said Mr. Coyle.
“I’m told (coyotes) are a non-native species and can’t be re-located,” he said.
Mr. Coyle said birds are the “biggest” safety concern at the airport and that there are plans to pursue (by 2023) a $100,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for a Wildlife Assessment Study. If the grant is received, he said, the FAA would provide 90 percent of the funding, the state would provide five percent, and the city match would be five percent.
Commissioner Len Kreger said the coyotes are being lured with bait to foot traps and that the removal effort is on-going. In an interview (ahead of the Parks and Recreation board meeting Wednesday), Mr. Kreger said he has seen coyotes at Ft. Clinch on the north end of the island where the animals are known to cull deer.
“It’s not been an issue up there, but coyotes are a serious safety hazard at the airport,” he said. “We have to take action.”
Commissioner Phil Chapman, who joined the board last month, said in an interview (after the Parks and Recreation board meeting Wednesday) that he read about the coyote removal effort in a report provided to the Airport Advisory Commission (it’s expected to be discussed at the AAC meeting Thursday (Jan. 11). He understands the animals are a safety concern and said, “A lot of times you can’t relocate the animals.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states on its website that removing coyotes is an inefficient and ineffective method to control populations.
“When there is pressure (such as trapping) placed on coyote populations, the species can actually produce more pups per litter in response and populations can quickly return to its original size,” said the FWC website page, ‘Living with Coyotes.’
“I’ve heard that,” said Mr. Kreger, an environmentalist who is known locally for his efforts to protect sea turtles.
Coyotes are found throughout the state and sightings in Florida are occurring more often, according to the FWC. While coyotes rarely pose a threat to humans, according to the agency, local sightings are on the rise. (Scare coyotes away by waving arms and making noise, like yelling, according to FWC advice.)
Over the summer, coyote sightings were reported by residents across Amelia Island. A Fernandina Beach resident stepped to the public speaker podium at a commission meeting to ask for help after seeing a coyote in a residential neighborhood. There were posts to community Facebook pages.
Former Mayor Robin Lentz announced that she had spotted a coyote during an early morning run, and Former Mayor Ed Boner, a local realtor, posted a video to YouTube of a sighting on a residential street near the Fernandina Beach Middle School.
While Quick Catch did not respond Wednesday to a phone message, animal removal companies state on websites that trapping animals is increasing because of development and destruction of land.
A plan to develop a recreational vehicle park at the airport was recently squashed. But the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee approved on Wednesday a plan to pursue a grant for a playground (with perhaps a splash deck) at the airport (at the request of Mr. Coyle, through the Airport Advisory Commission, said Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit). The recreation advisory board also discussed an idea to build a ball field on land near the airfield.
Note Quick Catch had an offer for $25 off the first service, good through last month. It’s not known if the city captured this discount.