pc-113017-ne-coyote (copy)

A coyote was captured on camera on Isle of Palms, where residents in recent years have been posting coyote sightings on Facebook calling for more action. File/Provided

A bounty on coyotes — a controversial proposal the state already passed on once — is back on the table for the current legislative session.

State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, introduced a bill calling for a $75 bounty on each animal taken, paid for by adding $1 to state hunting license fees.

The fees now generate about $500,000 per year for S.C. Department of Natural Resources' wildlife management.

Coyotes have become a costly nuisance and somewhat of a threat across the state, including beach towns near Charleston. Goldfinch introduced the bill largely because of an outcry from residents in beach communities he represents along the state's northeast coast, he said.

"I think it's time for hunters and other sportsmen to go to war with coyotes, and there has to be some incentive to keep them engaged," Goldfinch said, adding he thinks hunters would be willing, if not eager, to pay.

Hunters aren't likely to have any problem with paying for a bounty. About 25,000 coyotes are killed in the state each year already.

"I support any action stance that takes aggressive measures, not including poison, to control the population densities of the coyote," said David Strickland of the public land hunting advocate Carolina Wildlife Syndicate. He added the population has gotten far out of hand.

DNR staffers are studying the bill and the department isn't ready to comment, said spokesman Robert McCullough.

Hunting hasn't made much of dent in the coyote population so far. An estimated 350,000 of the animals now roam the state. They are found in all 46 counties. The mates produce a half-dozen or so pups with each litter.

Roadrunner cartoons or not, coyotes are nothing to laugh at. The animals have become a scary nuisance in towns and even cities, and a threat to pets. 

They are killing fawns at a rate of more than 50 percent in some places. Since the animal started to prey in South Carolina, the number of deer statewide has fallen about 30 percent, biologists and hunters say. The predators have become the de facto population control for the deer.

They also are considered a threat to the wild turkey population, which is declining again after a remarkable recovery.

South Carolina does not have a bounty on coyotes now; few states do.

The S.C. DNR released 16 tagged coyotes last year in an annual program that rewards the hunter with a lifetime hunting license. So far, 20 of those coyotes have been turned in.

The state Legislature in 2016 quashed a proposal to reward hunters with $1,000 per kill of a tagged coyote.

Few states appear to have an active bounty in place. Utah has a $50 bounty for coyote kills but has had to deal with fraud in the thousands of dollars, according to media reports. Louisiana has a bounty on nutria, the large rodent tearing up swamps, but none on coyote.

A number of states have similar license reward programs in place. Most states allow virtually an open season on coyotes, particularly for animals immediately threatening a household. That's created its own problem: under-the-radar wildlife killing contests, which have been decried by conservation organizations such as the Sierra Club.

Goldfinch said DNR's position on coyotes — that they are here, they are going to be here and the state will have to deal with them as part of the ecosystem — isn't acceptable when they are threatening residents and hunters are getting their take restricted because coyotes are depleting sought-after game animals.

"I totally believe we're going to be dealing with coyote for the rest of our lives," Goldfinch said. But "most of the people I know like it (the bounty idea)."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the best of The Post and Courier, handpicked and delivered to your inbox every morning.

Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.