Concern about the presence of coyotes in Mount Pleasant is rising in the Wakendaw Lakes subdivision, where some residents say they suspect the predators killed their cats.
Crystal Colgin, one of the worried residents, said she learned that at least eight cats have disappeared from the Mathis Ferry Road neighborhood.
"We have a huge problem," she said in an email.
Colgin said she placed a newspaper ad and put up signs in the neighborhood seeking information about her missing feline, Snickers, who was not one to wander. The family keeps its new dog and cat indoors because Snickers is gone, she said.
Rob Duren, president of the Wakendaw Lakes Civic Association, said his cat is missing too, and he suspects one or more coyotes killed it.
"There have been lots of coyote sightings," he said.
Discussion of the coyote problem regularly tops the agenda for civic association meetings, Duren said.
A coyote has been seen chasing a cat. A resident driving a truck also reported chasing coyotes out of the neighborhood late at night, he said.
Nearly four years ago, a tourist said a coyote slipped out of marsh reeds and nipped her on the foot just after midnight while she was sitting in the sand down by the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. The week before, a coyote attacked two dogs on a leash just before midnight near Renaissance Condominiums.
Mount Pleasant has placed signs in Memorial Waterfront Park warning of the presence of coyotes and advising people to stay away from them and never feed them.
"There are a lot of coyotes here," said Mayor Linda Page.
Images of the predators have been captured on a remote camera at Goat Island, she said.
A factor is the growth of Mount Pleasant.
"I don't know that there's anything that our municipality can do," she said.
Town Administrator Eric DeMoura said police officials have met with the residents about coyotes.
"We have been aware of a pocket of coyotes in that area for some time," he said.
The coyotes are tracked mainly through sightings. If a coyote is seen, pamphlets are handed out to the community providing information on the predators.
"If coyotes appear to be increasing their interaction with humans we will hire a private trapper," he said in an e-mail.
In the event an officer sees a coyote attack, weapons will be used against the animal, he said.
"Coyotes do not like to be around people and I would say we have received less coyote sightings recently which may indicate our public information efforts are working at some level," he said.
One of the biggest reasons coyotes approach human areas is because people feed them, he said.
"We strongly discourage this practice," he said.
On Sullivan's Island, residents have reported coyote sightings and missing cats. The town has a coyote awareness campaign. An island resident using a remote camera captured nighttime images of coyotes near Station 26. Another resident reported hearing coyotes howling near the beach path at Station 18.
The state Department of Natural Resources said it frequently gets calls from people concerned about coyotes, which first appeared in South Carolina about 30 years ago and have been reported in every county.
Coyotes will never be eliminated, but their numbers may be lowered through trapping and shooting, according to the Department of Natural Resources website.
Hunting coyotes on private lands during the day is allowed year-round. Night hunting is permitted with certain weapons restrictions. In both cases, a hunting license is required, DNR says.
No hunting license is required to shoot coyotes within 100 yards of a personal residence. However, in all situations, local laws and firearms ordinances apply.
Trapping season for coyotes is from Dec. 1 to March 1.
Eliminating outdoor pet food and garbage may reduce a coyote problem, DNR says.