Coyotes raising concerns in Blythewood neighborhoods

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood has a coyote problem.

But it is not unique to the Blythewood community. Once native to the western states, coyotes now inhabit almost every available habitat in the Eastern United States, including residential and urban areas.

Reports are rampart of the wily predator being sighted in highly-populated communities like Cobblestone Park and Abney Hills Estate and killing chickens and goats in more rural areas like Loner and Muller Roads. Even pets are not safe, as coyotes are known to prey on cats and small dogs, along with wild species such as squirrels, rabbits, rodents and even wild turkeys and deer fawns.

The loss of pets, chickens, goats and small livestock, plus reports of rabid coyotes in West Columbia and attacks on children and a few adults in other parts of the country have some Blythewood residents in fear and frustrated that no government agency is charged with coyote eradication or removal.

“It’s an ongoing, horrible problem,” said Melanie Chastain who lives on Loner Road. “One came after me in February. Thank goodness I had another neighbor there, blowing her horn at it.” The coyote ducked through or over a fence and ran away. The coyotes also raided Chastain’s chicken flock.

“I had 40 chickens and now I am down to 12,” she said. “Occasionally, you might lose a chicken, but I lost all those in a month. One night they walked off with an 80-pound goat.”

Chastain complained that she has not been able to find any government agency that will help with coyote control in her area. In fact, no local or state government agency is charged with coyote removal in South Carolina – or apparently in any other Southeastern state.

“Animal Control says they don’t do coyotes and to call DNR. DNR says you can shoot them,” she said.

Richland County Animal Control’s mission is to deal with issues related primarily to dogs and cats. The agency does not deal with wildlife issues. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources deals with wildlife issues, but only tries to capture or kill a coyote when it presents an immediate danger to the public such as wandering into a schoolyard or shopping mall.

“DNR has no role for removing coyotes. That is up to the private landowner,” said Charles Ruth, the DNR’s Deer and Turkey Project Supervisor, who also oversees scientific studies on wildlife species, including coyotes. But, he added, DNR has made it extremely easy for state residents to remove coyotes on their property and in their neighborhoods.

“There is not a lot that you cannot do to coyotes,” Ruth said. “Coyotes can be hunted year-round.”

He said property owners have to register their property with DNR to hunt coyotes year-round. Registration is done on-line and no fee is involved. A hunting license is required.

Although there are no figures on how many coyotes are in South Carolina, Ruth said DNR estimates that hunters and trappers take at least 30,000 annually. Many are killed by deer hunters, he noted.

A federal agency that conducts coyote controls in Western states does not provide that service in Eastern states, including South Carolina. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Columbia said the agency does some coyote control in Western states where they create problems with livestock.

“But here in South Carolina coyotes have really not become a significant problem affecting livestock because there is not a large livestock industry here, other than chicken houses and we’ve never had a request (from chicken growers) for dealing with coyotes,” said Noel Myers. “There are backyard farm operations, such as people raising goats for milk, and they could experience some predation from coyotes and bobcats.”

Myers said his office does get some calls, mainly from people who see coyotes in an urban area, but his agency does not relocate animals.

“As we have more and more people, more growth and more urbanization, people are going to see more coyotes moving into their backyards,” he said.

And that is what has some Blythewood area residents concerned. Chastain noted that several children were attacked by coyotes in North Carolina last year, both in Davie County between Statesville and Winston-Salem.

Newspapers and television news reported that in March, 2018, a 9-year-old girl was bitten as she tried to escape a coyote and get into her house outside Advance, N.C. Two months later a father and his 7-year-old daughter were bitten by a coyote that attacked the girl as she was swinging on a swing set in the back yard of their home in Mocksville, N.C.

These reports concern Clarence Bibbins, who has observed a coyote eating a dead deer in his backyard in Cobblestone Park.

“I have small kids that play in my backyard. It’s kind of nerve wracking knowing the coyotes are out there.”

Carol Propps-Wright, who lives in Abney Hill Estates said she can hear the coyotes howling in her neighborhood.

“My neighbor and I used to walk in the neighborhood, but not any more. We are afraid of being attacked by the coyotes.”

Every resident who expressed concern also expressed the desire that some agency, local or state, come in and trap or eradicate the coyotes. Under current laws and funding directives that is not likely to happen.

Ruth suggested property owners and property owner associations should pay for hiring a wildlife control business to attempt to remove coyotes from local neighborhoods. DNR has a list of Wildlife Control Operators (WCOs), who perform wildlife control services on a contract-fee basis, at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/control.html.

The agency notes that WCOs are not DNR employees and are not affiliated with the DNR. DNR recommends asking for references and make sure all fees and guarantees are in writing

The situation in South Carolina is basically the same as it is in all the other states in the Southeast and the situation in Blythewood is basically the same as it is in other communities throughout the region.

Wildlife biologists in most states believe that reducing the coyote problem in a specific area is a short-term solution and basically lasts for only one breeding season.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently drafted a coyote management plan which noted that coyote reproduction is density dependent. According to the CMP, if there are more coyotes than an area can support, coyote litter sizes will decrease, fewer pups will survive to adulthood and young coyotes will wait longer before first mating. If there are fewer coyotes but abundant food, then coyotes will produce bigger litters, will start breeding at younger ages and the odds of pups surviving to adulthood will increase.

“Surprisingly, when as much as 60 percent of the coyote population is removed from an area, the population can recover within a year,” the management plan says. “Even if 90 percent of coyotes are removed, the population can recover in 5 years.”

An NCWRC spokesman said capture and relocation of coyotes is not an option for the agency. The spokesman said NCWRC provides advice for local entities and residents to conduct their own removal programs. Adding: “We have no funding for local agencies to remove or eliminate coyotes.”

Nor does Davie County where the two coyote attacks were reported last year.

A spokesman for Davie County Animal Control said there is no government or public funding available for coyote control or eradication.

“That would cost a lot of money and it’s very expensive just providing for dogs and cats,” the spokesman said. “We do advise people when they call that they can hunt coyotes year-round.”

That doesn’t sit well with Chastain.

“It’s just a matter of time before they attack some child here,” she said.