Daniel Island residents report a rise in coyote sightings
During the latter half of January, residents have reported a dramatic rise in coyote activity on Daniel Island.
The animals have been spotted during daylight hours on Providence Street and Mitchell Wharf, Daniel Island Drive in front of the Daniel Island School, Oak Overhang Street near Smyth Park, Wando Landing, Waverly Street near the port, Bellona Street, and Etiwan Park by Bishop England High School. Seemingly unafraid, the coyotes have been seen near schools, in parks, between homes, in backyards, and on sidewalks.
Jay Butfiloski, a certified wildlife biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), said that the increase in sightings is most likely a result of breeding season, with younger animals seeking mates and new territories. Coyotes are more easily seen in winter with the leaves missing from trees and plants.
Chris Hamil, Field Operations Manager for the Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association, added that new port dredging may have disrupted some of the dens, which has caused the population to scatter in search of food. Hamil is compiling community information by recording locations and times of coyote sightings when reported.
According to a publication distributed by SCDNR, “Suburban and urban coyotes tend to utilize parks and natural areas more than places with less green space. Developed communities with significant amounts of green space can modify the habitat to make the area less attractive for coyotes. Undeveloped lots and common areas should be managed to keep underbrush and overgrown areas to a minimum.”
Furthermore, coyotes that consume human-related food items are more likely to become habituated toward people and cause negative interactions. Sources include pet food, garbage, and discarded food scraps. Neighborhoods should encourage indoor pet feeding as well as proper disposal of all trash in closed bins.
If a resident spots a coyote, the first step is to remain calm. “Don’t run, as this can sometimes trigger an instinctual chase response. If you have a pet, pick it up (if small) and begin to back away,” advised Butfiloski.
To keep it away, “yell at it, wave your arms, and you can even throw things at it if you can,” he said.
Coyotes become a threat when they are no longer afraid of humans. “Coyotes should never be allowed to become habituated to being around people,” Butfiloski said. “When coyotes are sighted, especially in daylight hours, every effort should be made to harass and run the animal off. It is necessary to keep coyotes fearful of people to prevent negative coyote behavior.”
Coyotes are most active at dusk into the early morning hours after dawn. Smaller pets should be brought indoors at night. Pet food containers should also be brought inside. Feeding feral cats attracts coyotes.
At the state level, coyote population is not tracked, as it’s a common animal in the region. Communities are encouraged to compile their own tracking data, and include the following information: sighting dates and time of day, pet attacks, aggressive behavior, animals that appear to be sick, dead animals, and people feeding coyotes. A professional trapper can be hired by the neighborhood if warranted.
Residents who encounter a coyote are encouraged to call or text Hamil at 843-696-4676 and provide details of the sighting.