Coyotes spark concern among residents
Daniel Island resident Amelia Sapowsky was taking the trash out with her brown Pomeranian, Lady, a little over a week ago at Talison Row Apartments, just like any other day. But what she saw next was something that she has not experienced since moving to the island four years ago.
“Lady was going to the bathroom in the grass and I’m throwing the trash away and was looking around,” said Sapowsky. “All of a sudden, I hear some grass rustling and I look over and it’s not her. I look over into the field, not really even thinking, and I see a tail. I was like, ‘Oh my god, is that a dog?’ I looked again and it was not someone’s dog, it was a coyote.”
Sapowsky explained she immediately grabbed her dog and ran up the stairs to her apartment, but before she went inside she stood at the top of the stairs to inspect the coyote from a distance.
“I stood at the top of the stairs and looked back at the wooded field and I saw it walking through,” she said. “I was like ‘...that’s too close.’ I know they’re starting to get used to humans, so that really concerns me.”
And Sapowsky isn’t the only one expressing her concerns. Multiple island residents have taken to the Daniel Island Moms Facebook page in recent weeks to voice their own recent run-ins with coyotes.
“So coyotes are now roaming the island in broad daylight,” one resident wrote. “I worry for our children, pets and ourselves.”
“Heads up y’all, if you have small dogs or outdoor cats,” wrote another poster. “Hubby just came in from walking our dog and saw a coyote walking down Pierce St. heading towards Barfield.”
Although it may seem out of the ordinary to spot coyotes during the day, according to Jay Butfiloski, furbearer, alligator program coordinator and certified wildlife biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, it is not uncommon this time of the year.
“They’re giving birth to young,” said Butfiloski. “The requirements for nutrition or food goes up, just like anybody who is pregnant. The biological demands of feeding four or five little pups goes up considerably, so what you tend to have is more searching for food to bring back to the den. During this time of the year, especially as we get into May and June…our phones will start ringing off the hook bare seeing these animals in the daytime and they start freaking out. It’s just kind of a biological demand thing.”
While many residents on the DI Moms page were quick to blame the development on the island for the increase in sightings, Butfiloski explained that, while it could have some impact, the reason is more likely because it is pup-rearing season.
“What may have been a wooded area, now has some openings, so maybe it just provided a little bit more room for a visual sighting,” said Butfiloski. “Whether or not it makes them move a den, which is possible, a lot of the reason people are seeing them in daytime is probably more related to the time of year.”
Coyotes, like many nuisance animals, are adaptable, he continued. This could also be a factor in why residents seem to be experiencing sightings more often.
“The more they’re around people and the more they’re around activity, the more comfortable they sort of get with it,” said Butfiloski.
While this is true in some cases, coyotes, for the most part, remain fearful of humans, he added.
“We want to keep it that way because when you have problems, is when they get comfortable,” said Butfiloski. “They get real acclimated to being around people so they’ll get closer because they’re not as afraid. They get a little more brazen and bold in what they may do.”
Although it does not happen often in South Carolina, if you do encounter a coyote that is portraying seemingly aggressive behavior, the key is to be aggressive back, explained Butfiloski.
“It would be very similar to if you saw a strange dog, because that is what they are,” he said. “Back away and make yourself look big. Make noise or throw something at it. Be aggressive and make sure to not turn and run. The ideal thing is to try and get it to run off or at least to move away.”
Also important to note is that often times coyotes will have a distance at which they feel “comfortable,” so they may not retreat completely, added Butfiloski.
“What could happen, at times, even if you get it to go away, it may only go 10 to 15 yards and stop and look at you,” he said. “If you don’t continue to move towards them, they may actually come towards you a little bit. They figure they have a set distance where they know they can get away from you if they need to. That’s why, sometimes, people will say that a coyote is following them.”
Additionally, it is key to remember that if you encounter a coyote that seemingly will not leave you alone, you could be interfering with its planned path, noted Butfiloski.
“It may have wanted to go where you were at,” he said. “It may have pups over there, so it may have been trying to go over there. If you are retreating, it will start going that way… At some point, they will probably run off. Sometimes there is some back and forth play that could go on there that doesn’t necessarily mean anything abnormal.”
In order to further prevent interactions with coyotes, Butfiloski emphasized how important it is for residents to restrain from leaving food outside at any time. This includes leaving food out for feral cats, as coyotes not only eat the cats, but the food as well. Additionally, it is not recommended to leave pets outside, as a coyote may see them as a food source.
“Coyotes are very opportunistic,” said Butfiloski. “They’ll even eat bird seed if they have to… Make sure to take away any kind of food source that would attract them to your house…The idea is to not to get them to come up to your back door because there is a bowl of food there. Then what happens is, the more they get that, it becomes a positive reinforcement. The next thing you know, they’re going to everybody’s back door looking for food.”
While the SCDNR will not respond to a coyote sighting, as they are not considered an emergency per their website, if there is an attack, the DNR Communications Center should be contacted at 1 (800) 922-5431. The center is open 24 hours a day.
“Simply seeing a coyote, whether during the day or night, is not considered an emergency,” states a document on the SCDNR website. “Since coyotes are well established in all 46 counties of South Carolina, DNR does not respond to coyote sightings, but will provide advice or technical assistance.”
Additionally, according to SCDNR, they do not routinely trap coyotes or any nuisance wildlife. There is a list of Wildlife Control Operators on the website at www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/control. A fee is typically charged for their services.
For more information on coyotes, visit www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/coyote.