ISLE OF PALMS — Co-existing with coyotes isn't working, some residents say, and they want the city to do more to tackle a growing problem for which there is no apparent easy solution.
Trapping and trying to scare away coyotes using "hazing" techniques has been ineffective, critics say. Photos posted on several Facebook pages that have sprung up in response to the situation appear to show coyotes on the beach and trotting down residential streets. Residents have blamed coyotes for their missing cats.
Islander Sherri Redline Musser said this week that three coyotes chased her cat until it found a safe spot under a car across the street from her home. She grabbed a rake for protection and approached the coyotes while making a bunch of noise.
"I was really scared," she said.
The coyotes fled.
Musser, who lives on 23rd Avenue, said the incident happened last year. Since then, the problem has gotten worse.
"They (coyotes) are seen on my street almost every night. They're not afraid at all," she said.
Last year, the city hired a nuisance wildlife removal expert who put out traps on public property and in Wild Dunes near the Harbor Golf Course. Only one coyote was caught. Another round of trapping is planned, said Linda Tucker, city administrator.
"The city is increasing the number of traps deployed, but not changing the type of trap used," she said.
Kevin Murphy of Critter Control said the city instructed him to use box traps because they are considered more humane. Soft leg traps were ruled out because officials worried about pets being snared and possibly injured, he said.
Box traps are cages with trap doors triggered if an animal goes inside. Murphy said he has tried all kinds of vegetables and meats to lure coyotes into the traps, which he disguised to look more natural.
But coyotes haven't taken the bait.
Meanwhile, several Facebook pages call for a renewed effort to find a more effective way to control coyotes. Isle of Palms Coyote Control Coalition has gathered signatures of 125 residents who support the city and Wild Dunes Community Association taking aggressive action to significantly and humanely reduce the growing coyote population.
Colleen Conley urged residents to sign the Facebook petition. She is afraid to let her cats go outdoors because of coyotes.
"It's very difficult because these coyotes are very wiley," she said. "They're ubiquitous. A lot of people won't go out after dark with their pets."
State wildlife experts have recommended that residents "haze" coyotes. Banging pots and pans to make a lot of noise, throwing rocks or spraying water from a garden hose are some suggested ways to haze. The idea is to make coyotes uncomfortable around humans so they will stay away. Securing garbage and keeping pet food indoors also is recommended.
Councilman and Mayor-elect Jimmy Carroll said trying to change coyote behavior through hazing isn't working.
"There is not an easy solution," he said. "Everybody's talking about it right now, and we're going to need to do something. We need to be more proactive."
Clearing brush where coyotes live could help, but it would require cooperation with landowners. Many coyote sightings occur in maritime forest between 21st and 37th avenues and in Wild Dunes, he said.
Wild Dunes Community Association spokesman Dave Kynoski said the resort has at least a few reports of coyotes weekly.
"We are hearing of more sightings here," he added. "It does seem to be an ongoing issue."
Wild Dunes also has tried trapping but without much success, he said.
Monthly coyote sightings reported to the city were in the single digits this year until September and October, when they spiked at 15 and 11, respectively. Last year, coyote sightings swelled to 33 in February. The numbers are based on IOP police reports, said resident Justin Miklas, who publishes the data online at betteriop.com/coyotes.
Police received more than 150 reports of coyote encounters from September 2015 to October 2017, according to his web page.
Sullivan's Island officials recommended that residents use the coyote "hazing" techniques. Trapping isn't happening on the island because there have been no coyote problems, said Andy Benke, town administrator.
Coyotes have moved into every county in the state and have been reported in urban and suburban areas around the country. In South Carolina, nearly 30,000 are trapped or shot by hunters annually, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.