MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Wildlife experts say it’s mating season for coyotes and some communities in Myrtle Beach are seeing more of them roaming the neighborhood.
"I want to feel safe, and I do not feel safe. I’m constantly looking around me to make sure nothing comes after my puppies,” said Kathy Eckert, a Pine Lakes resident.
Neighbors in the Plantation Point community said within the month of January, there were at least two coyote attacks involving pets.
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said coyotes were first seen in the state in the 1970s and now the population has grown so much, they’re in every county. They’re drawn to small animals, pet food and garbage, and are frightened by loud noise.
To protect pets, wildlife experts encourage pet owners to keep them indoors beginning around dusk and continuing into the early morning, because that’s when coyotes are most active.
They also said setting traps is the best solution for these animals. However, in order to do that, the community must get permission from every land owner.
Eckert lives in the Pine Lakes community just down the street from Plantation Point. She said the coyote problem has forced her to live in fear for her pets and her own safety.
“Even myself walking to the car now, I find myself looking down the street. This neighborhood is hard to see at night because it doesn’t have the modern street light. We’re a shadow, there’s so many shadows and mature trees that anything can come out of anywhere. So, at night, I’m very scared. We don’t go out at night; we go out as a team. Somebody’s got a golf club, somebody’s got a Maglite flashlight, thinking a coyote’s going to come up on us,” said Eckert.
She added that over the years, the coyote sightings in the neighborhood have increased significantly.
“Now, with the increased coyote activity and our new puppies, I can’t keep them inside all the time. I can’t put them in our fenced-in backyard because the coyotes can jump the fence and I just think that when I’m scared to go out to walk a new puppy that something’s got to be done collaboratively,” Eckert said.
State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, has taken notice and is now introducing a bill that would reduce the state’s coyote population by making it illegal to transport coyotes into South Carolina or within the state.
"We’re at a coyote epidemic, if that’s the right way to put it, a severe coyote problem and the state has a policy that allows for live transfer of coyotes. I just think that’s inconsistent with what our priorities are,” said Goldfinch.
In addition to this proposal, Goldfinch said he’s looking to extend the coyote trapping season in S.C. and issue a bounty by $1 or $2 on fees. Local wildlife experts said the problem with trapping coyotes is it’s very difficult.
“(Because) they’re very intelligent, you have to use either foot hold or snare traps, and those traps are designed to catch canines and if you catch someone’s dog in one of those traps, then it’s an issue. Of course, you have to be able to specifically trap on a certain property. So, you have to have homeowner’s permission to trap on a property," said Russel Cavender, who is known as “The Snakechaser.”
Cavender said there’s some things people should keep in mind if you do happen to run into a coyote, such as having something that makes a lot of noise.
“A can of coins, a whistle, even clapping your hands really hard and yelling and screaming will usually frighten them away," he said. “The presence of a human will usually do that itself, but if they’re hungry and they see a small dog on a leash, and they will sometimes come and attack that. But as far as human beings, it’s very, very uncommon.”
Now, the city of Myrtle Beach and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources want to educate the community about this problem. They’re hosting a public forum about coyotes on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center.
To learn more, click here.