We live in an urban environment, but wildlife issues still exist. Myrtle Beach residents recently have noticed coyotes roaming in their neighborhoods, with reports of pets being injured or killed. The City of Myrtle Beach is aware of these heartbreaking incidents. With an increase in coyote sightings, the city has scheduled a public meeting at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, January 30, to provide more information and seek additional help.
The Myrtle Beach Police Department will host the meeting in Council Chamber at the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center, 1101 North Oak Street. A wildlife biologist from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will be on hand to discuss coyotes and nuisance wildlife. The goal is to educate, find solutions and further explain laws regarding what we as a community can do to tackle this issue.
Additional agencies in attendance include the city’s animal control division, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and local nuisance wildlife control operators. Topics covered will include what is considered nuisance wildlife, normal behavior of local wildlife, how does local law enforcement respond and what community members can do. The educational event is open to the public, and concerned citizens and locals are strongly encouraged to attend.
Dealing with Coyotes
The coyote is a medium-sized member of the dog family that includes wolves and foxes. With its pointed ears, slender muzzle and drooping bushy tail, it often resembles a German shepherd or collie. Coyotes are usually grayish brown with reddish tinges behind the ears and around the face, but coloration can vary from silver-gray to black. Adults usually weigh 25–35 pounds, although their full coats often make them appear larger. Most importantly, coyotes can jump mid-height fences, using their hind legs to catapult them over.
Typically, coyotes are most active at midnight and continue their activity into the wee hours of the morning. In some areas, they may be seen during the day, especially when left undisturbed. They have a keen sense of smell and good eyesight. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders. While rabbits comprise the majority of their prey, they also eat rodents and other small mammals, and supplement their diet with fruits, berries and insects. Coyotes generally avoid humans, even when their home range encompasses largely urban or suburban habitat.
Feeding coyotes is illegal. Myrtle Beach City (Code Section 4-5) prohibits creating a neighborhood nuisance by feeding wildlife. However, the presence of a “free buffet” in the form of pet food, compost or garbage in neighborhood yards may lure coyotes into yards, creating the impression that these places are bountiful feeding areas. Without the temptation of food or other attractants, visits will be brief. But, a coyote that finds food in one yard may learn to search for food in other nearby yards.
Here are some general safety rules to protect your pets from coyotes:
- Allow pets outside only when you are with them, especially at night.
- Keep pet food and water inside. If you must feed outside, bring dishes in when your pet has finished eating.
- Keep garbage containing food well-secured.
- Keep dogs on a short leash in public areas. Never leave them outside unattended.
- Discourage or harass coyotes in a verbally aggressive manner to make the coyote uncomfortable when it invades your space.
Wildlife Removal by Property Owners
Coyote removal is difficult and should only be attempted by professionals with appropriate permits. Relocating coyotes is not an option, but trapping and killing are allowed under certain conditions. A person may trap on lands that he owns, or on lands owned by others, provided the trapper has written permission from the landowner. The written permission must be in the trapper’s possession at all times while engaged in trapping activities.
Property owners may obtain a permit from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to remove dangerous nuisance coyotes. Coyotes also may be hunted throughout the year with a valid hunting license. However, it is unlawful for any person to discharge or cause to be discharged any firearm of any kind or nature or any air rifle or slingshot at any place within the City of Myrtle Beach (Code Section 14-101).
Depredation permits are available for controlling destructive coyotes year-round. No hunting or trapping license is required with a depredation permit. For more information about depredation permits, contact the SC Department of Natural Resources Furbearer Project at 803-734-3609.
Trapping season is January 1 through March 1 with a valid commercial fur harvest license and a valid hunting license. For those property owners who wish to pay someone to trap coyotes for them, the list of wildlife control operators is available at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/docs/nwco.pdf.
The SC Department of Natural Resources publishes a separate coyote brochure with biological information and additional control tips including trap preparation and trap examples. The information is available online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/coyote/coyoteinfo.pdf.
Wildlife “emergencies” are incidents involving wild animals in which an immediate danger to public health and safety is present. Contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Emergency at 843-953-5291 and/or the Myrtle Beach Police Department at 843-918-1382. The Myrtle Beach Police Department may only respond to wild animal complaints in which the animal is sick or injured, or is an immediate and present danger to public health and safety. Contact SCDHEC at 843-915-8801 for rabies control inquiries.
Common Coyote Misconceptions
- Coyote activity is occurring now more than ever because humans are taking away their natural habitat (development).
False. Coyote mating season occurs in late winter. Coyotes are not indigenous to South Carolina; they are an invasive species. Our area is not their established habitat, so they are disturbing all aspects of the existing ecosystem.
- Government officials brought coyotes to South Carolina.
False. Historically, the species lived in the North American plains; the animals were brought eastward by hunters. Coyotes now occupy much of the Southeast.
- It is local government’s responsibility to pass laws to control the coyote issue.
False. State law sets forth how local governments can tackle issues like these, not the city itself. We do appreciate your feedback and encourage you to share your concerns with state lawmakers regarding any of the important issues facing our city and community. To learn about South Carolina laws regarding coyotes and nuisance animals, attend the public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, at the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center, 1101 North Oak Street.
- All coyotes can simply be relocated to end the population in our community.
False. State law dictates that relocating coyotes is not an option, but trapping and killing are allowed under certain conditions.
- Killing a large percentage of the coyotes will end the population in our community.
False. Coyotes that are trapped and killed from an area may be replaced by new ones. In some cases, immigrant coyotes may be more habituated to people than the previous animals.
- Poisoning the coyote population will end the issue.
False. No known registered toxicants for coyotes exist. The use of poison to attempt to control the coyote population is a violation of state and federal laws. And, poison does not discriminate; it may kill other wildlife and pets.