Unlike feral hogs, coyotes may be a Lowcountry nuisance we can live with

Post and Courie file photo of a coyote in Berkeley County. By Matt Winter/staff Buy this photo

CORDESVILLE — The wailing was one of the eerier things the Air Force veteran had ever heard. A C-5 cargo jet throttled back overhead, with its distinctive ear-splitting screech, and the coyotes in the woods around him began to howl.

“They lit up like the Fourth of July,” Bo Schupp said.

Dustin Carter, Schupp’s neighbor in the Cordesville area woods out toward the Cooper River, saw his first coyote in nearby Wadboo Swamp 13 years ago. The hunter killed it and placed it in a freezer so he could prove the “impossible” find to his friends.

Nowadays, a pack regularly runs through his backyard.

Coyotes are here and here to stay, for sure. The invasive species has the run of woods in every county in the state. They are a nuisance at the edges of the suburbs. One pack even made itself at home in woodland cover between Patriots Point and Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant, in among the residents and tourists.

Wildlife managers as well as hunters and trappers view them as a menace — ravaging young deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, pets and nearly anything else they can take a bite out of. They are a scourge for hunting plantations, fruit growers and pet owners alike.

But in contrast to the feral hog, the coyote appears to be a nuisance we can live with, managers say.

“There have been coyotes out West forever,” despite any number of eradication efforts, said Alvin Taylor, director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. “They’re still there. They’re part of the landscape. Now they’re part of our landscape.”

The animal, which closely resembles a small German shepherd, apparently doesn’t take over a habitat and its wildlife the way a feral hog can. It doesn’t breed as prolifically, is subject to a number of diseases and can be hunted all year long.

Although a recent Savannah River site study linked the canines to a serious loss of deer at that site, other factors such as drought could have contributed to that drop, said Sam Chappellear, S.C. Department of Natural Resources regional wildlife coordinator.

“I think the jury is still out on the impact coyotes have on wildlife,” Taylor said.

Schupp and Carter haven’t noticed much if any impact by the coyotes on deer or turkey around their homes. Those animals are plentiful enough that the woods are tracked with deer hoof marks, and a trip down the road is likely to scurry one, the other or both. Schupp steps outside night or day occasionally to find himself face-to-face with deer or turkey in his yard eating hickory nuts.

The impact on smaller game is tougher to gauge. Both men have seen fewer foxes recently. But bobcats also haunt the acres.

As for the coyotes, they’re not going anywhere.

“You can hear them out at night howling that high-pitched howl they do just like in the scary movies,” Carter said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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