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Living with Coyotes

Dewees Island, like other communities, has been wrestling with the new habitation of coyotes on our island.  We are still learning what it means to coexist with coyotes on the island as this incredibly adaptable predator colonizes our coastal island.  We first noticed the presence of coyotes in late summer 2016, and by early summer 2017 we were seeing them regularly and kits were playing on the beach.
dewees island coyoteLori has assembled a lot of information on this page: scroll to the bottom for the info about coyotes.
This fall, sightings have continued to increase, and residents have a lot of concerns and questions.
As part of understanding coyote wildlife biology, she invited Sean Poppy, of the Savannah River Ecology Lab, to come give a talk about coyotes on the island on Saturday, December 2.  We videotaped the presentation for the Dewees Island Environmental Board.  The videos are divided into smaller units.
In this video, Lori introduces Sean:

In this video, Sean gives us a glimpse of the coyotes he observes regularly,

In this one, we look at what they eat, how they communicate, and what tracks look like.

This one discusses what we can learn from coyote scat and how the species can actually benefit the island:

The downsides of living with coyotes, and how natural selection might be leading to darker colored animals:

Why killing coyotes doesn’t work:

How far do coyotes range?

Advice for living with coyotes:

And then, Sean got his captive coyote Scooter out of the box. He’s had Scooter since he was found at a few days old along the side of a road, and while Scooter is captive, he’s by no means a pet. Sean begins by looking at the color of Scooter’s eyes.

While holding the Scooter, Sean answers questions:

They discuss the size of coyotes, the relative dangers, and migration of animals.

In this segment, Sean addresses when to “haze” them and when to let them be, scare tactics, and indirect feeding which can complicate the problem.

And at the conclusion,Sean returns Scooter to the crate and answers more questions about apex predators, whether they are nocturnal or diurnal, whether they’re good for songbird populations, and final words.

The Dewees Island Environmental Board has created a coyote task force: for more information about how you can help, see Lori.

This book, Coyote Settles the South, introduces readers to the way coyotes have become part of the landscape in a really interesting and thoughtful way.  Sean and Scooter are even featured in it!

More helpful info from Lori:

Dewees Island Coyotes
Scroll to the bottom for coyotes

Howlin’ at the Moon, Sullivan’s Island Magazine p. 10
One note of clarification from Dr. Mowry who is quoted in the article “the article gives the impression that we asked Sullivan’s Island authorities to trap the coyotes so that we could get tissue samples from them, which was NOT the case.  They trapped (and killed) the animals despite our objections, but we did then ask for the tissue samples once we knew that they were being trapped anyway.”

South Carolina Wildlife, Coyote Science Sept/Oct 2015
“During the 1980s and 90s, deer populations in SC were booming.  Even very high levels of doe harvest were insufficient to control numbers.  But that trend began to change to the mid- to late- 1990s, at about the same time as coyotes became well established across the state.  In combination with the ongoing high doe harvest, heavy predation by coyotes on fawns was more than most deer populations could sustain, and statewide numbers began to decline.  But just as hunter harvest alone was incapable of controlling deer populations, coyotes also seem incapable of doing the job without hunter harvest.  Consider that deer remain abundant enough to be a nuisance in many urban and suburban areas around the state where coyotes are present but hunting is not allowed.”

Biology and Control In SC
“Coyotes and their associated damage are quickly becoming unpopular with livestock producers and sportsmen. Nevertheless, attempts in other states to eliminate or drastically reduce the coyote population on a large scale have proven largely unsuccessful. However, it is possible to control coyote-related damage at the local level by removing the offending animals. If coyotes in the area are not causing specific depredation problems, it is suggested they not be removed. Coyotes are territorial, and their removal may be replaced with coyotes that are more likely to cause depredation problems.” Pg. 4

South Carolina Wildlife, For Wildlife Watchers: Coyote Nov/Dec 2008

A beach town weighs options for controlling its coyote problem; Charleston City Paper February 2014

What creates a nuisance coyote?  Urban Coyote Research
“Are all coyotes a threat to people?  It continues to be surprising to find so many coyotes living near people in Cook County, IL, and yet relatively few conflicts have been reported. It was assumed that with an average of 350 coyotes removed each year from the area as nuisances, most urban coyotes would create problems. In contrast, only 14 of 446 radio-collared coyotes have been reported as nuisances (as defined by the local community). Apparently, few coyotes have become nuisances in Cook County, and it is likely that this is true of other metropolitan areas. It remains to be seen if conflicts will stay relatively rare or if they become more common as coyotes adjust to living with humans in this area.
For perspective, it is worth considering that no documented case of a coyotebiting a human has been reported for Cook County, IL. Contrast that result with domestic dogs, in which Cook County often records 2,000 to 3,000 dog bites each year (including some fatalities). In 2013, for example, there were no recorded bites to people by coyotes in Cook County but 3,822 bites from domestic pets were reported (data from Cook County Animal and Rabies Control).
Very few coyotes that have been studied in Cook County, IL have developed into “nuisance” animals. Those coyotes that became nuisances during the study typically became habituated through feeding by people. In other words, people were feeding wildlife and either intentionally, or unintentionally, fed coyotes.  Once coyotes associate human buildings or yards with food, they may increase daytime activities and thus are seen more easily by people. In those areas in southern California where attacks have been common, researchers have reported a higher frequency of human-related food in the diet of nuisance coyotes. This was indicative of feeding by people, or coyotes seeking food in garbage. In either case, feeding of coyotes should be heavily discouraged. A common pattern for many human attacks has been feeding prior to the incident — in many cases intentional feeding. Click the link above to read an example of how intentional feeding of wildlife led to the creation of a nuisance coyote.”