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Minimize coyote damage to small pets and property

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What Doris Starnes thought was an act of vandalism instead was a pack of determined coyotes.

Some type of prey, most likely a rabbit, sought refuge in a drain pipe buried well beneath the ground in Starnes’ front yard.

Not ones to give up easy, the wild canines tore away the ground and destroyed about 80 feet of the drain pipe. The responding sheriff’s deputy said it probably took hours for the persistent pack to do the damage. The fate of the prey is unknown.

Starnes’s encounter is another example of the exploding coyote population in America, including South Carolina. According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, coyotes first appeared in the Palmetto State more than 30 years ago and the population continues to expand.

While there are no documented incidents of humans being hurt by the coyotes, they are a threat to deer, small game, feral and domesticated cats and small dogs.

Two local families reported coyotes killed their chickens, goats and cats.

Officials say coyotes are here to stay. Jay Butfiloski, Furbearer Project supervisor with DNR, said coyotes will be never be eliminated.

Their numbers can be lowered through diligent trapping or shooting or naturally after a disease setback, like distemper.

Coyotes can weigh between 35 to 50 pounds. They are usually grayish-brown to reddish-tan in color or nearly all black, according to DNR. An annual litter produces five to seven puppies.

Since coyotes will never be eradicated, there are steps people can take to protect their pets and discourage them from destroying their property.

Protect small pets

u When you feed outside pets – cats and small dogs – take up any leftover food. The food, as well as the small pet, entices the coyotes.

u If you allow inside pets to go outside keep an eye on them.

u If you feed feral cats, feed them during the day and elevate feeding stations where the cats can climb, but out of coyote’s reach.

DNR legal methods to control coyotes include:

u Shooting them. There is no closed season for hunting coyotes on private lands during the day. A hunting license is required.

u Night hunting is permitted with certain restrictions. Again, a hunting license is required.

u Electronic calls are permitted.

u Trapping season is from Dec. 1 to March 1 and a trapping license is required.

u Trapped coyotes must be destroyed, not relocated.

u No license or permit is required to trap a coyote on your property within 100 yards of your home.

For details about coyotes and control techniques, call DNR Furbearer Project at (803) 734-3609 or visit online.dnr.sc.gov.