Radio collar reveals movements of Kiawah Island coyote

Coyotes revealed by night vision camera.

- Coyotes don't especially like to hang around people, if the canine radio-collared here earlier this year is anything to judge by.

That might be the best takeaway on dealing with the animals, for Sullivan's Island and other coastal residents.

The adult male on Kiawah kept mostly to the marsh and woods on Cougar and Little Bear islands, on the far east end of Kiawah near the Ocean Course. That's the most expansive unpopulated stretch of the resort island. In the spring and summer, the coyote moved more to the beach dunes, presumably to hunt sea turtle eggs. Nests were depredated, said Jim Jordan, town of Kiawah Island wildlife biologist.

The animal was captured and radio-collared in February near the golf course and mostly stayed within a 400- to 500-acre area in that vicinity. He was tracked for some eight or nine months until the signal failed.

"He roamed a smaller area than I would have thought, and he stayed away from developed areas more than I would have thought," Jordan said.

The town collared the coyote, in response to residents' concerns about sightings, to learn more about the animals' behavior and how they interact with other animals and people. Jordan hopes to collar two more this year.

The town also keeps track of coyote sightings. More than 50 have been reported since 2010, from one end of the island to the other. Jordan guesses there might be six to eight coyotes on the island.

Kiawah puts a premium on preserving natural areas and champions its wildlife. The town actively monitors a bobcat population and has found the cats cause little trouble for people.

Sullivan's Island decided Friday to try to cull a newly established coyote population, mostly as a protection for pets. That might not be the best approach, said Jay Butfiloski, S.C. Department of Natural Resources fur bearer and alligator program coordinator.

"I suspect the results may only be temporary. At some point more are likely to move back in," he said. "It may be more effective to target where problems are occurring rather than trying to rid the island of coyotes. Otherwise, they will be expected to act every time someone sees a coyote."

The canines now roam all 46 counties in the state. They tend to stay put so long as there's a ready food source but can travel a long way.

A coyote radio-collared at Fort Bragg, N.C., was spotted on a deer camera near Chapin.

"It went all the way to Anderson and back to Prosperity/Little Mountain - 250 miles all together," Butfiloski said.

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