Killing won’t solve the problem, a state official warned about 200 Myrtle Beach residents worried about the coyote population.
“I don’t know that there’s any level of removal, on a statewide basis, that actually lowers the population on a permanent basis,” said Jay Butfiloski, a wildlife biologist with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He spoke to the crowd during an informational meeting in the city hall chambers.
Mayor Brenda Bethune had told the crowd the purpose of the meeting was not to unveil solutions, but to gather information and seek solutions.
After Butfiloski’s history of the 35-pound animals being brought to the state and used in hunt club fox pens, Bethune said the city is still investigating ways to bring the coyote issue under control as coyotes have escaped the fox pens and invaded the city only to breed and become a source of danger.
But she warned the crowd with a similar tone as Butfiloski.
“There’s not a whole lot that can be done. We can kill 95 percent of the coyotes within the city limits, but they are still going to repopulate and we are still going to have a problem,” she said.
Coyotes have killed several pets in the city and been sighted from golf courses to patios in the city. City codes prohibit using guns, bows and arrows or other types of weapons on coyotes.
Steven Trott of the Myrtle Beach Police said officers will respond if the animal is injured or sick. He told the crowd a coyote’s normal behavior is to seek prey and steer clear of interactions with larger mammals including people.
Trott reminded the crowd to walk their dogs on leashes, make sure cats are not outside and food is not left outside to attract coyotes.
He said city residents concerned about coyotes can hire private companies to trap and kill nuisance coyotes.
Kathy Eckert said a coyote killed her dog a year ago and now she’s afraid to let her new puppies outside after dark.
Nancy Cashon echoed Eckert’s concerns describing seeing the animals roaming with little to no fear of humans.
Butfiloski said the coyote population tends to fluctuate and the state is seeing an upsurge. He said there were 25,000 coyotes killed in the state last year but it hasn’t curbed the population to the extent hunters had hoped.
Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral, the state director for the Humane Society of the United States, released a statement that killing the coyotes will not decrease their population in the long term.
A coyote management and coexistence plan released by Gilmore-Futeral states “human safety is a priority.”
The plan was developed by the national humane society with city partners in Colorado, California and Illinois.
The plan explains coyotes control populations of rodents, Canada geese, rabbits and other urban mammals. It states killing coyotes weakens the stable pack of an alpha male and female leading to an immediate lower population that will swell to larger numbers as outside males move in to the pack and mate with the females left behind.
It states coyotes and people can coexist if people consistently follow a few guidelines such as keeping their pets on a six-foot leash when outside, never leaving food out for other animals and yelling at the coyotes when they are seen.
The overpopulation, as described by many of the residents at the city meeting, is at a critical stage.
“At the end of the day the folks that live in these areas,” city councilman Mike Lowder told Butfiloski, “are really looking for answers on how we can help.”
Lowder pointed out DNR responds when city residents have called with bear and alligator sightings. Butfiloski said alligator and bear responses are based on single animal issues and DNR does not have staffing nor funds to blanket the city to cover the coyote issue.
Lowder argued the state, county and city needs to come up with a plan to attack the problem and involve the community.
“It’s bad. I’m telling you it’s bad,” he said.
It’s bad enough local legislators have responded this week.
State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch has introduced an amendment to a state law that would make it illegal to “buy, sell, transfer, possess or release a live coyote or coyote hybrid within the state except as permitted by the department for scientific, exhibition or educational purposes.” It also states the pen operator must record all fox and coyote purchases, transfers and releases into the pen daily.
State Rep. Alan Clemmons is also proposing a state funded matching grant to municipalities that have coyote control programs such as trapping.
“At some point you have to move forward because you’re always going to have them,” Butfiloski said.