Monday, January 27, 2014
Coyotes first appeared in South Carolina about 30 years ago and continue to expand greatly in numbers. Coyotes roaming residential neighborhoods have been spotted all over Mount Pleasant and on the islands.
Though traditionally believed to be adapted to life in open areas, coyotes have expanded into most types of habitats. While they do well in agricultural communities, their relatively high tolerance for human populations allows coyotes to exist in most areas of South Carolina. This includes mountainous regions, swamps, dense forests, as well as suburban areas.
And according to wildlife experts, we’ll probably have coyotes in our midst from here on out in some form or another.
According to Jay Butfiloski, Certified Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources coyotes are opportunistic feeders, preying upon rabbits, rodents and other small mammals, supplementing their diet with fruits, berries, and insects. In other words, domestic pets could be in danger. Pet predation is usually due to the territorial nature of the coyote and lack of an alternative prey base in suburban areas.
While municipalities prohibit pet owners from allowing their pets to roam unattended, many domestic cats do. This puts them at great risk of being eaten.
In Wakendaw, a neighborhood off of Mathis Ferry Road, eight cats have been reported missing and one dog.
Butfiloski said this could very possibly be the work of coyotes because they do not leave anything behind, as in a carcass.
Facebook fans of the Moultrie News were asked to share their stories about coyotes. Former Mount Pleasant resident Ashley Corbett Freeman said that while they don’t live in the area anymore, information being disseminated about their state-wide inhabitancy is correct,
“We live in Clover, SC which is 4 miles from Kings Mountain. There is a coyote den in the woods on the back side of our property. It is down in a ravine of a dried up riverbed. They are predators, they do not just hunt for sick or wounded animals. They have chased my daughters in broad daylight so now they can’t explore the woods without one of us along.”
Others surmised that development was pushing the animals towards residences.
However, Butfiloski said there is no truth to that. “Coyotes do not require X amount of space. Development may contribute to visibility perhaps, but they’ve always been there.”
He explained that the animals learn to exploit small wooded areas. They can easily travel paths and marsh areas. “They exploit what they can - even broken landscapes,” he said. “Residential landscapes are very favorable to them when looking for food, and places to hide.”
And, the natural green spaces that citizens insist on having in their communities provide just the right area for coyotes to hide and feed. “It is great for these animals. They thrive in changes of habitat.”
Jeannie Acsell a Wakendaw resident worries that if something isn’t done to remove the coyotes from residential areas, serious danger could come to a human.
Butfiloski said that DNR does not have trappers they are not a regulatory agency or a nuisance wildlife control agency.
That is not what the agency is geared toward or funded for, he said.
But there are private companies that can handle that kind of work.
He cautioned going that route because you can spend a lot of time and a lot of money in a small footprint trying to trap coyotes. And, it will likely be all for nothing. He cited two reasons for this. First, coyotes travel great distances at any given time and secondly, they will likely come back if relocated.
“There is plenty of green space and land connectivity for them to roam. Even if you trap every one in Mount Pleasant today there is no guarantee that in one month more won’t come too,” he said.
Connie Best, also of Wakendaw agreed that coyotes are not neatly packaged in one single area.
Over the Christmas holidays she heard them outside of her home and described them as quite active. This time of year is their breeding season.
Their noises are similar to dogs but distinctively different.
She heard them not only in the early hours of the morning but during the early hours of the evening as well. This concerned her due to the fact that people may still be out and about, and susceptible to an attack.
Best called the mayor’s officer, animal control, DNR and the police department. She said the message from the mayor’s office is that they are not able to trap and remove coyotes nor could they pay for it.
Butfiloski cautioned against anyone paying for such a service.
“Normal nuisance control is easily accessible. But trying to trap coyotes is very time consuming and labor intensive. It takes specialized knowledge to catch coyotes,” he said.
He said that once a homeowners association or a municipality agrees to trap and remove, they will be expected to do it every single time someone sees a coyotes because you’ve now set a precedence. “That’s a slippery slope for an HOA because they’d be expected to continue. And the reality is that coyotes are here to stay. You can not rid a place of them and simply trying is challenging and expensive.”
He said the biggest thing communities can begin to do, is accept the fact that they will have to live among coyotes and educate themselves and their neighbors.
“Subrban urban coyotes are tougher to deal with, but it is doable.” He said that in the city of Chicago several thousand coyotes live there. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of green space for the animals to adapt,” he said.
For the most part, coyotes avoid people and activity. The key is to keep it that way, he said.
That’s why they mostly roam at night.
Snee Farm resident Bill McIntosh said Otis the Wonder Dog (his pet) has been running outside at night and barking at something. “Our back yard borders Longpoint Road. I noticed the first Coyotes here about four years ago. If you go into Snee Farm, and get on Farm Quarter road, turn right on Cassique Provence and then take the left onto Plantation Road, you will round a corner that on your right lets you see all the way out to the dock house at Boone Hall. But on the left you can shine your bright auto lights down the fairway. I have see the eyes of coyotes on the fairway,” he said.
Butfiloski said that people want to make it as unpleasant as possible for coyotes to be around people.
Should you come upon one, he said to throw things (like a rock or stick), yell and make noise. “Ideally you want to make it uncomfortable for them to be around. If that doesn’t work back away slowly. It is similar to walking upon a strange dog. Don’t turn and run or you might trigger a response. They are predators, he explained and they expect their prey to run.
He said they have a natural built in distance and they know how far away they must be to get away from you. They will retreat if you come forward.
“They do not see people as food. That is not something they would traditionally go after.”
If you are walking a dog keep it on a shorter leash and do not let it roam. In a lot of cases, a coyotes is simply curious because after all, it is another dog.