From The Blog
Containing Coyotes on Kiawah
You sit on your porch, sipping a cocktail and enjoying a warm summer breeze as the sun sets over the horizon, when a long howl interrupts the silence, echoing across the island. Had an experience like this on Kiawah recently? You’re probably not alone. Kiawah has recently become the home to an uninvited and unwelcome predator, the coyote.
Coyotes are not native to South Carolina and, historically, were only found west of the Mississippi River. As they begun to spread to the eastern states, the first coyotes were seen in the upstate of South Carolina in 1978 and not found on Kiawah until more than five years ago. Over the past few years, numbers have increased, and coyotes can now be found in all 46 counties in the state.
How do I spot a coyote?
Coyotes are typically grayish or reddish-brown in color and look similar to a medium-sized shepard-type dog or our native gray fox. They have slim muzzles (jaw/nose area), pointed ears and a bushy tail.
On average, they stand 23 – 26 inches high at the shoulder and weigh between 25 – 40 pounds.
Due to its resemblance, people often think of coyotes like wolves, forming large packs. However, coyotes are typically solitary animals, though they can sometimes be found in pairs or in family groups in which the young have not yet dispersed. Coyotes, like humans, are omnivorous. Their diets include a wide variety of prey items, such as: rodents, rabbits, deer fawns, persimmons and even muscadine grapes.
In an effort to communicate with one another across distances, coyotes often howl and bark at dusk and during nighttime hours. This is typically done to call other members of the family group back together, or to mark their individual territory to other coyotes in the area. Next time you are out around sunset, listen carefully and you may hear one of our new residents off in the distance.
Are coyotes harmful to me or my pets?
Despite their resemblance to other more dangerous predators, such as wolves, coyotes are, in general, not a threat to people. Like many wild animals, they have a natural fear of people and will not approach a person unless they have become accustomed to being fed. As such, members should never feed coyotes or leave pet food outside after dark.
Though not a common occurrence, coyotes will occasionally prey on unattended domestic pets. Pet attacks or predation is usually due to the territorial nature of the coyote or a lack of other available prey. Members should always keep unattended pets indoors after dark. If you encounter a coyote while walking your dog, make plenty of noise and raise your arms to be sure the coyote is aware of your presence. You should also keep your leashed pet as close to you as possible.
Does a coyote have any value?
Coyotes do have some value to the wildlife community. They feed on rodents, helping to prevent the damage that an abundant rodent population might otherwise cause. They also eat old, sick or injured wild animals who are unable to survive. As a scavenger of dead animals, both wild and domestic, they help clean up the woods and fields.
What can be done to control coyote numbers on Kiawah?
There is no single, simple solution to the growing number of coyotes on the island, though biologists from the Town of Kiawah Island are working diligently to monitor them. Coyotes are a non-native species that will continue to compete with native gray foxes and bobcats for food and habitat. They are very intelligent and extremely difficult to trap or shoot, making it near impossible to completely eradicate them from the island. Town biologists are monitoring coyote numbers on Kiawah and will continue to evaluate potential options for control. The coyote population is also naturally controlled by diseases.
What can KICA members do to help?
The most helpful thing that members, guests and visitors can do is report any coyote sightings to the Town of Kiawah Island. Town biologists are working on a management plan for coyotes on Kiawah, but the first step in this process is to understand the distribution and abundance of the predator on the island.
Coyote sighting reports should be emailed to the town at [email protected] wildlifeatkiawah.com. Please include the date, time and specific location of the sighting, as well as any other pertinent details.
The town has also created a coyote sighting map with all of the reports they have received to date. The map can be viewed online at www. wildlifeatkiawah.com/coyotesightings.html. For additional questions regarding coyotes, members can email town biologists at [email protected] wildlifeatkiawah.com or call 843-768-9166.