MOUNT PLEASANT - A pink collar hanging from a makeshift memorial in the backyard of Lynn White's Mount Pleasant home marks the final resting place of Midnite, his cat who may have been attacked in the front yard this week by a coyote.
Midnite's partially eaten body was found Monday by a neighbor who lives nearby and came over to feed what she and others thought of as the "community cat."
"I started screaming. I just went nuts," Patsy Phipps said of the gory discovery. "I'm going to start crying. I've looked after her for 14 years."
According to her owner, Midnite was about 20 years old. White's neighbors on Williamson Drive in Cooper Estates had come to think of Midnight as their cat, also, he said.
"I feel terrible," White said Wednesday. "Everybody in this neighborhood knew that cat."
White said he hasn't seen any coyotes in the central Mount Pleasant area, but others have told him that they've heard their howling.
Another neighbor, Ed Schwabe, said he immediately thought of coyotes when he heard about what happened to Midnite.
"A coyote probably got the cat," he said.
Schwabe said he is careful when riding his bike in Memorial Waterfront Park, where coyote warning signs are posted.
Phipps said she recently saw two coyotes prowling the nearby woods.
"People need to be aware of what's going on around here. It's a shame when your animal can't even be in its own front yard," she said.
Mount Pleasant Police spokesman Stan Gragg said that if the department determines there is a problem with an aggressive coyote then it will call a trapper.
"(They're) making the assumption it's a coyote. We definitely wouldn't set out a trap for that," he said.
The town Coyote Management Plan calls for public education, tracking and monitoring of coyotes and use of lethal force when humans are threatened or attacked.
On neighboring Sullivan's Island, residents have reported coyote sightings and missing cats. Like Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's has a coyote awareness campaign.
Island resident Stan Kirshtein captures nighttime images of coyotes near Station 26 that he posts on Facebook. The latest videos, taken by a stationary camera outside his home, were recorded overnight on Aug. 3-4. He also filmed a feral pig on the morning of July 31 at about 9 a.m. On July 25, police captured a feral pig that swam ashore at Station 26.
"It seems like there has been much more coyote activity lately. I think the pups born in April are now being seen as they're growing up and moving around," he said.
In December, residents of Wakendaw Lakes in Mount Pleasant said they suspected coyotes were killing cats. One resident said at least eight cats had disappeared from the Mathis Ferry Road neighborhood.
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 by the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. The week before, a coyote attacked two dogs on a leash just before midnight near Renaissance Condominiums.
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.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.