Coyote sightings increase on DI
Daniel Island resident Gail Salomon remembers her cat Dora fondly. She was a friendly creature that loved wandering around the Cochran Park neighborhood, occasionally getting into misadventures along the way.
“They [the neighbors] all know her,” said Salomon. “She’s Dora the Explorer. That was her way and she was not going to be an indoor cat.”
The last time the Salomon family saw Dora was on Friday, June 1. Two days later, her collar was found, and on June 6, what the family believes to be a piece of Dora’s tail was discovered in a neighbor’s yard.
A missing animal is a risk all pet owners face, but stories like the Salomons’ are becoming a familiar circumstance for Daniel Island residents. Over the last couple of months, the remains of at least five cats have been discovered by their owners or neighbors. The latest report came just this past Monday, when a woman emailed The Daniel Island News to state that her cat was found dead behind the pool in the Daniel’s Landing apartment community. As reported on local social media pages, many more cats remain missing.
Residents of Cochran Park, Center Park, Barfield Park and Smythe Park neighborhoods have recently claimed coyote sightings in their areas. Sheila Carroll, who lives on Elfe Street, said her cat was killed in early June. She saw a coyote on the morning of Monday, June 18.
“We saw one in the green space walking towards our house,” said Carroll. “It walked between our house and our neighbors’.”
This was the first time Carroll had seen a coyote in her area, but she said that she and her husband will occasionally hear coyotes howling early in the morning.
Smythe Park resident Rindy Ryan has lost two cats in the past few weeks, one found dead and one missing. She believes both were caused by coyotes.
“I am personally pretty worried about the number of incidents I am hearing about combined with the fact that coyotes are wandering our streets and yards by day and night,” said Ryan. “Knowing they can jump and climb fences six feet tall is something I think all pet owners should consider.”
Just last week, Center Park resident Joe Coates posted on the social media site “Nextdoor Daniel Island” that his son heard noises coming from the front porch in the middle of the night.
“He opened the door to find my wife’s cat cornered on the porch by a coyote,” wrote Coates, who lives on Barfield Street. “The coyote…was walking up our front steps and then ran away when my son yelled at it. Coyotes have already killed her other cat this spring.”
While the exact number of coyote sightings and alleged attacks could not be verified by The Daniel Island News, the paper did receive a picture of a deceased cat found in the yard of a Center Park home. The image clearly showed the cat was the victim of some sort of attack. When the photo was described to S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Coordinator for Region 4 Alicia Farrell, she concluded a coyote was most likely to blame.
Daniel Island Property Owners Association (POA) Field Operations Manager Chris Hamil said that this is the most times in his three years at the POA that he has heard reports of coyote sightings.
“I think there’s more people, more pets, and then the amount of development that has happened over the past two years may have moved some of those coyotes into different areas, and they’re just searching for other places to nest or hide,” he said.
WHO SHOULD YOU CALL?
Once you spot a coyote, or worse – have a pet injured or killed by one, what is the next step? As The Daniel Island News discovered, that question is not easily answered. There appears to be some confusion when it comes to whose responsibility it is to respond to residential coyote problems.
Ryan alerted DNR to her concerns, but, because of how common coyotes are in South Carolina, they do not encourage residents to report sightings, said Farrell.
“If they want to report a coyote because they have an issue, they should contact their HOA or their property management group,” she explained.
According to Hamil, the Daniel Island POA has sent out public services announcements about coyotes, encouraging residents to not leave food outside and to never leave pets outside late at night or unleashed outside your property. He asks that residents religiously follow these rules to make Daniel Island as uninviting to coyotes as possible.
“We encourage the residents to, if they see a coyote, to call the police, call animal control,” said Hamil. “If it’s on a Daniel Island Property (Owners Association)-owned property and I’m aware of it in real time, I will do my very best to immediately go to that site and just confirm where the coyote is.”
The Charleston Police Department’s Public Information Officer Charles Francis stated that the City’s animal control department does not handle coyotes, because they are wildlife, and DNR should be contacted for wildlife removal.
“DNR does not remove nuisance wildlife,” said Farrell. “It’s the responsibility of the homeowner to take care of those situations. DNR is charged with managing wildlife, but when it is a problem for a homeowner, they are responsible for their own property.”
DNR representatives noted that seeing a coyote does not constitute an emergency. Residents are encouraged to contact a coyote trapper if they feel like coyotes are out of hand, continued Farrell, because trapping the canids takes specialized skills and knowledge. DNR provided a list of coyote trappers for hire at http://www.sctrapper.com/.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), coyotes are actually fearful of humans and typically steer clear of interactions with them. In fact, the organization states there have only been two recorded human fatality cases related to coyotes.
Still, dealing with nuisance coyotes can be a surprisingly difficult task. The HSUS coyote management plan states that killing coyotes often won’t curb their population numbers because their species has developed in a way that allows them to quickly bounce back.
“The disruption of their family group structure leads to an increase in the number of females breeding in the population, and the increase in available resources leads to larger litter sizes, earlier breeding ages among females and higher survival rates among pups,” explained HSUS in their “Template Coyote Management and Coexistence Plan.”
Relocating coyotes has a similar effect because outside coyotes will rapidly move in to the area, because of the newfound abundance of resources.
“Furbearers cannot be relocated, so they must be euthanized if it’s trapped, but you would have to follow your local ordinances for the discharge of a firearm,” said Farrell.
According to the City of Charleston’s firearm ordinance, a resident must feel an “urgent necessity” to discharge a firearm within the city.
“I would say that shooting a coyote merely because it is present is not a case of ‘urgent necessity,’” said Charleston Police Department Lt. James Byrne of Daniel Island-based Team 5. “The animal would have to be posing a clear and present danger for which shooting it was the only immediately available remedy.”
The most commonly recommended solution to coyotes is hazing, or the act of scaring the animals with loud noises (air horn, noise-maker, yelling), in addition to keeping all potential food sources indoors. If done consistently, it will make the area as uninviting to coyotes as possible and, most importantly, keep them afraid of humans.
As hinted at by the DNR, coyotes are a common problem for South Carolina and the Lowcountry. Both Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island have put coyote management plans into place. Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke says that he does not remember who originally brought the issue to the town’s attention, but believes it was a combination of residents and law enforcement officers. According to Benke, the town has “removed or dispatched two or maybe three coyotes” since the plan was implemented five years ago. They also conduct regular monitoring and tracking of coyotes.
Ever since introduced to South Carolina in the late ‘70s, the four-legged critters have spread across all 46 counties, noted David Lucas of The Department of Natural Resources Media and Outreach Office.
“If pets are being taken in this way, coyotes are certainly a possible culprit,” he said. “I would even go so far as to say likely, if there have been other signs of coyote habitation noticed (tracks, scat, howling at dusk, etc.).”
For additional information on coyotes, visit the following websites: