MOUNT PLEASANT — A Mount Pleasant man said two of his cats have been killed in the past eight months, and he thinks coyotes are to blame.
Robert Harris, who lives in the fenced Sandpiper Pointe II neighborhood, said that area is becoming a haven for coyotes because their habitat has been mostly eradicated with new construction.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has called on hunters to help control the coyote population throughout the state.
David Lucas, an agency spokesman, said there is not a lot they can do about coyotes because they are wild animals. And while they aren't native to South Carolina, the predators have established themselves here and have a presence in each county.
According to DNR, the animals first appeared in the Upstate in 1978. Some were illegally imported into South Carolina for hound running, and eastern migration has also resulted in the species' natural expansion in the state.
Lucas said coyotes are extremely adaptable and thrive in suburban environments.
"There's little that you can do," Lucas said. "People — if they have big pieces of private property — you can hire trappers to come, and they'll try to trap them for you. Though, coyotes are notoriously difficult to trap."
Lucas said it is not really feasible to set out traps in suburban settings where people may only have about a quarter of an acre of land in the backyard.
The DNR is encouraging deer hunters to shoot any coyotes they see while hunting. This may not put a big dent in the population, though, because, much like wild hogs, coyotes are prolific reproducers.
People are allowed to hunt coyotes at night on private property as long as DNR is notified beforehand, Lucas said.
Municipalities and counties have different methods for controlling coyotes. Harris said he reached out to animal control in Mount Pleasant and was told there was nothing the department could do.
He said he has lived in the same neighborhood for 20 years and had only seen one coyote in person. But now he has them recorded on camera about 100 feet from his door. And there have been reported sightings in nearby neighborhoods such as Scanlonville.
"It didn't used to be a problem," Harris said. "You could let a pet outside and didn't have to worry about it."
Lucas said coyotes typically run away from people, but have been known to kill small pets like dogs or cats. DNR encourages people to keep pets fenced-in and watch them if the neighborhood is known to have coyotes roaming the area.
"We're all for getting rid of them, but the reality of it is they're here to stay," Lucas said. "There's no way to eradicate them. They're too well established, and its a good niche for them."
Coyotes do have a detrimental impact on deer, turkeys and other native species that are important in the Palmetto State. So the more they can be controlled, the better, Lucas said.