Apparently those coyotes on Sullivan's Island aren't just vacationing - they've moved in.
And there goes the neighborhood.
Right now, town officials are trying to determine how big a problem they have here. In the meantime, they have supplied residents with a brochure on how to interact with these critters. No, it's not called "So You've Decided to Live Among the Coyotes."
Problem is, as the study continues, some locals have been forced to take matters into their own hands.
Kathy Anderegg got one of those brochures, but when a coyote stalked her near her house she realized none of the suggestions in it - make noise, make yourself look big, make tracks - actually worked. So she hired a professional trapper.
Who can blame her?
In a week, the trapper caught five coyotes on her property, although one of them got away. Funny thing is, she doesn't even live near the maritime forest. These things are now roaming the neighborhoods.
This whole thing disturbs people. They aren't criticizing Anderegg, but worry that bringing in private trappers is not the most humane way to deal with animals who don't realize they are violating city ordinances.
After all, even dogs are supposed to be on leashes on Sullivan's.
"Coyotes deserve the same respect given to a feral dog," says Vergie Barber DeAntonio, a local resident. "Dart them with lethal doses of the proper drugs."
That's a good idea. But who's going to step up and do it?
Sullivan's is about the last place you'd expect to hear the call of the wild.
But Nancy Fortiere, who lives next to the scrub forest on the beach, can hear coyotes yipping and howling from her front porch. It's more than unnerving.
"It's horrible," Fortiere says.
These are not the clumsy, oafish buffoons who can't catch the Roadrunner. These things are as big as collies and have devoured much of the other island wildlife. Several folks say they've haven't seen a rabbit, once common on Sullivan's, in ages.
Guess Wile E. should have focused on Bugs Bunny.
Mayor Mike Perkis says Anderegg was well within her rights to hire a private trapper. But state law is pretty clear: You can't catch a coyote and release him into the wild. He must be taken out - permanently.
"It's open season on coyotes in South Carolina," Perkis says.
Local resident Jo Cannon, who has had some experience with coyotes, says they are dangerous and this is a problem for the island. But, she says, using steel traps is a recipe for disaster. Traps don't distinguish between coyotes, cats and kids.
Yes, it's dangerous. And it's getting worse.
Allegedly, the hunters have become the hunted. A lot of Sullivan's Island residents are upset that no one has done anything, and a few of them are quietly going coyote hunting. Can't blame 'em.
A lot of things could go wrong here. It's time for officials to step in.
Call in the state
Sullivan's Island is a small town, and does not have the personnel or expertise to hunt big critters. But the state does.
Before South Carolina got cheap, the Department of Natural Resources hired trappers to remove gators of at least six feet in length when they got too close to people.
It was about public safety.
Well, this should fall into the same category. Coyotes may not be as dangerous as an alligator, but some of them could come close. So far the state has done nothing. When Anderegg called DHEC about the attack, all they did was come out and inspect her cat for rabies.
Kinda missing the point.
The animal rights folks have a point - you can't rid nature of animals. We shouldn't try. And there is no reason to torture an animal that is a public nuisance.
But if there are predators the size of German shepherds roaming a residential island, you can't ignore them either. The county or state needs to realize this is a problem. Somebody could get hurt. In fact, Anderegg says, a child is probably going to get attacked if nothing changes. The coyotes are running out of squirrels to eat.
So somebody needs to do something before this gets worse.
After all, mating season is just around the corner.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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