Coyotes have found a home on Sullivan's Island, but Town Council may be kicking them out.
"I will ask council to take the most aggressive action possible to rid the island of coyotes. Whatever measures are available to us," said Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Kaynard.
Kaynard's position on the issue is a shift from the current town approach that emphasizes educating residents about living with coyotes. Information on the predators, their behavior and how to co-exist safely with them is posted on the town website. It also was included in recent water bills.
A maritime forest that covers much of the island is thought to be the habitat for coyotes, which have no natural predators.
At 9 a.m. today, the Town Council Public Safety Committee will discuss the coyote issue as part of the agenda for a meeting at the Sullivan's Fire Station Training Room, according to information posted at the town web site.
Nancy Fortiere, who lives near Station 17, said the town should do more about the "wild beasts" she has seen on her property.
"I am absolutely astounded that you or anyone else feels you can ask us to live with coyotes in our front yards," she said in a letter to the town.
In an interview, Fortiere said the coyotes should be trapped and relocated. Because of the situation, she keeps her cat indoors.
"We just live in terror over here that something is going to happen to us. It's just not a natural thing for a family island," she said.
Fortiere tells her guests to stay off the beach path that leads from her house through the maritime forest. She worries about the predators lurking there.
"I won't go out there," she said.
The town advises owners of small dogs to keep close watch over them. It says the canines should be on a short leash and supervised when roaming free in the yard.
"I believe small children are also at risk," Kaynard said.
Island officials have received about two dozen reports of coyote sightings. Cats are missing and some say the squirrel population has fallen.
Stanford Joel Kirshtein has been chronicling the coyotes with a remote video camera he first set up in October on a fence at his property near Station 26. Kirshtein said he put up the fence to keep coyotes out of his yard that faces the maritime forest and the beach.
He has heard the predators howling, sometimes in response to an emergency siren.
"It sounds like numerous coyotes out there. I find it fascinating. I've always loved nature and wildlife," he said.
But he worries for the safety of his dog.
"I would be mortified if something happened," he said.
First thing in the morning, Kirshtein checks his camera to see if he has any new coyote video, which he finds once or twice a week. He posts the video on You Tube and Facebook. He plans to set up a second camera at another location.
The maritime forest has plenty of coyote prey such as rabbits, squirrel and rats, he said.
"We've never had this experience on Sullivan's Island," he said.
The problem also exists in Mount Pleasant. Last week, some residents of the Wakendaw Lakes subdivision off Mathis Ferry Road expressed concern about the presence of coyotes, which they suspect killed cats that are missing.
A coyote has been seen chasing a cat in the neighborhood. A resident reported using his truck to chase coyotes away late at night.
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.
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 the problem escalates, Mount Pleasant will hire a private trapper, officials said.
Trapping is probably the most effective tool for removing problem coyotes, but their wary nature and keen sense of smell can also make them difficult to catch. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources set trapping season as Dec. 1 through March 1.
Poison is banned for eradicating coyotes because it can kill pets and other wildlife.
Coyotes may be hunted year-round on private lands. No hunting license or permit is required to shoot coyotes on personal property within 100 yards of a home. Local laws and firearms ordinances apply, according to DNR.