Coyotes might not be the only big, meat-eating creature that Mount Pleasant and other Charleston-area suburban residents have to fret about.
A recent study by an environment and natural resources professor suggests that once conditions are rife for coyotes to populate an urban area, they’re just as rife for even bigger mammals to make themselves at home.
As in: mountain lions, wolves and bears.
That’s just the sort of thing you need to hear in a nice, quiet bedroom community like Mount Pleasant, where a pack of a few dozen coyotes last year surprised residents near Patriots Point by menacing their dogs.
Coyotes, in fact, are now found almost everywhere in the state.
“We used to think only little carnivores could live in cities,” said Stan Gehrt, an Ohio State University associate professor, in a news release. “But we’re finding that these animals are much more flexible than we give them credit for, and they’re adjusting to our cities.”
How disconcerting is that? Gehrt’s finding comes from a 12-year study in Chicago, the third largest city in the country, where a modest 2.7 million people live.
OK, so wolves aren’t an immediate threat in the Lowcountry. But a few hundred black bears now roam the coast. From 2005 to 2010, their range expanded from the forests of upper Berkeley and Charleston counties through Dorchester County to southern Charleston County.
A bear was spotted in 2011 between Jedburg and Moncks Corner. In 2008, a car struck a bear on Interstate 26 near Summerville.
Unconfirmed sightings of Eastern cougars continue in the Lowcountry, and confirmed sightings are occurring little more than 100 miles away.
When it comes to a young male cougar, “you’re talking about an animal that could travel a couple hundred miles,” said wildlife biologist Jay Butfiloski, of S.C. Department of Natural Resources. “He’s looking for love, but he’s heading in the wrong direction.”
Butfiloski doesn’t believe there’s any direct correlation between coyotes making themselves at home and bears or cougars turning up.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.
This coyote sneaked into a Berkeley County field in March 2010 to check out a set of turkey decoys placed in the field by a pair of hunters. Though somewhat rare, coyotes live throughout rural areas of the Lowcountry.×