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Coyotes becoming a problem for Lexington County residents, no area safe or exempt

Lexington County, SC (Paul Kirby) – It’s been clear for years that coyotes have become a problem in South Carolina. They are a wild predator that has no natural predator that preys on them in our state. They subsist by hunting small game like squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits, and deer fawns. In urban areas, it’s believed they kill and consume small household pets too. We have had them in Lexington County for years. Recently, they tried to make a small city park in Cayce home. This brought the problem to light. One of Cayce’s band was acting strange, so it was killed and analyzed by DHEC. It was found to have rabies.

After the Cayce incident, a West Columbia city council member whose district abuts I-26 got a call about a coyote there. His neighborhood is urban with streets and homes close together. Later, Lexington County’s 911 center was notified about one crossing near Old Chapin and Old Cherokee Roads in Lexington. Clearly, Lexington County has more of a coyote problem than we know.

According to Charles Ruth, a wildlife biologist with the SC Department of Natural Resources, all 46 counties in SC have coyotes. The exact numbers are unknown but there are a lot. Man is their only predator here. They are reproducing regularly although the DNR does believe that their numbers may have hit a natural cap.

Ruth said coyotes are very adaptable. They can live in cities, subdivisions, and neighborhoods just as easily as the woods. In 2012, a photographer caught several coyotes, “Just Chilling,” near Wrigley field in the city of Chicago according to an article in USA Today. (See article) He was shooting pictures at a concert at a bar across the street from the stadium. The neighborhood is notoriously crowded and often rowdy on weekend nights. He saw the two coyotes hanging out by the statue of former Chicago Cubs player Ernie Banks, near the ticketing area. SCDNR’s Ruth said that’s just how adaptable these animals are. They can and do live almost anywhere.

In SC, there are two ways to get rid of coyotes, shoot them or trap them. The SCDNR’s website says that coyotes may be hunted throughout the year with a valid hunting license. The use of electronic calls is legal statewide, and coyotes may be hunted at night. Check current SCDNR Hunting Rules and Regulations before hunting coyotes in your area.

Individuals may also trap coyotes during the trapping season (December 1 - March 1) with a valid commercial fur harvest license and a valid hunting license. You can also apply for and receive permits for the other nine months of the year.

The most common way that coyotes are killed is incidental shooting. Hunters seeking deer see a coyote walk by and take the shot. This is perfectly legal. In towns and cities, there’s quite a conundrum if you consider taking matters into your own hands. In most incorporated municipalities, shooting is prohibited, and you can get in trouble with the law!

Trapping is the most efficient way to rid your area of coyotes, according to Ruth. This is usually done by a professional. Because coyotes are a nuisance animal, Ruth says there is no catch and release policy with DNR. Their advice for people who ask about how to handle a coyote problem is to catch it and put it down.

Professional trappers most often use a foot trap for coyotes. These spring-loaded traps catch the animal’s foot and hold it until the trapper comes. Good trappers set multiple traps and thin the coyote population quickly. The problem with foot traps is they will catch anything that steps in and springs it.

Groups or individuals can also apply for a depredation permits from the SCDNR. These are available for controlling destructive coyotes year-round. No hunting or trapping license is required with a depredation permit.

Before you consider just leaving them alone consider this. The SCDNR says coyotes are subject to canine distemper, parvo virus, hepatitis, mange, and rabies. Coyotes also harbor a variety of parasites such as fleas, ticks, worms, and flukes. This can all pass to pets if coyotes don’t make them a snack first. These are not dogs or pets; they are wild animals! They can and will attack people if threatened or cornered.

The Urban Coyote Research website says the number one most effective way to prevent coyote attacks in your neighborhood is to eliminate wildlife feeding. Coyotes that are fed in residential neighborhoods can lose their fear of people and may eventually test humans and pets as possible prey. Intentional feeding, such as bait stations in yards or parks, should be strictly avoided. However, many people unintentionally feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage out at night or having large bird feeders. Coyotes are usually not interested in bird food, but bird feeders often attract rodents, especially squirrels, which then attract coyotes.

Whether we like it or not, coyotes are becoming our neighbors and we will have to deal with it. Calling Lexington County’s Animal Control will get you referred to the DNR. They only deal with domesticated animals. The DNR has a wildlife biologist named Jay Butfiloski who is their Furbearer Project Supervisor. Their website can be found by clicking HERE. Jay can help with permits, statistic, and facts, but not much else. It’s up to you if you have a coyote problem. Eventually, if things get bad enough, towns and cities may have to address this problem in some way.

Companies like All Things Wild can help. They trap coyotes and dispose of them. You can reach them by phone at (803) 920-3880 or make appointments on their website by clicking HERE. There are also a list of other trappers on one of the DNR's website. They don't recommend or guarantee any of those.

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