Surfside Beach addressing coyote problem

akelley@thesunnews.comAugust 30, 2012 

Lynn Zalli hopes Surfside Beach can find a solution to a coyote problem.

At first, she thought the animals she saw several months ago were just dogs. But when she got a closer look, she knew she wasn’t dealing with the average stray.

Zalli explains there are vacant, wooded lots between Fourth and Fifth Avenues South in Surfside Beach where she and her neighbors have seen coyotes for about six months.

Initially there weren’t any problems, but Zalli said that has changed. Neighborhood cats are disappearing, along with the rabbits and squirrels.

“It got to the point where the coyotes ate up all of their food source,” she said. “They’re looking for something else. They can’t just cohabitate here anymore.”

Now, she said she won’t even walk to visit her neighbor who lives a couple blocks away.

“I have my flashlight and a knife and a baseball bat,” she said. “We don’t walk the streets too much. They’re desperate and you can tell because you can’t scare them.”

One morning she said a coyote was standing in her driveway behind her car. She had to go to work, so she tried banging pots and pans hoping the noise would send the animal off. It didn’t.

She and her neighbors approached Town Council Tuesday night asking for help.

Council agreed to move forward in helping their resident authorizing newly named Town Administrator Micki Fellner to spend up to $5,000. Anything over that amount would require further approval from council.

“There were just too many people who signed a petition and came up to talk about it to not take it seriously,” said Mayor Doug Samples who said the decision was obvious and something needed to be done.

Jay Butfilowski, furbearer and alligator program coordinator with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said it’s not unusual for coyotes to be so close to the coast.

“They’ve been statewide for sometime,” He said. “It’s not unusual at all. In fact, there are quite a few suburban areas that are struggling with coyote problems.”

Generally, he said the animal isn’t a danger to humans.

“In the whole scheme of things, it’s extremely rare for them to attack people,” he said. “Normally, they’re shy and try to stay away from people.”

Coyotes, he said, are between 30 and 35 pounds on average and are in the canine family with domestic dogs. They are most active at night..

“Typically when you see them in the daytime during the summer, a lot of the time it’s related to pup-rearing,” Butfilowski said. “They may have had a den somewhere. The young animals are sort of naive, they tend to be more visible and they tend to be more active because they’re feeding [up to] four hungry mouths.”

Fellner updated council in an email Thursday on the situation saying the town plans to use traps to capture the coyotes and has sent letters to the property owners in the area requesting permission to set the traps on their lots.

In the meantime, she said the police department helped create a flyer that will be distributed to residents in the area with safety tips. Fellner said those flyers would be delivered door-to-door by the end of the week.

Residents are asked to stay as far away from the woods and surrounding area possible in order for the animals to be successfully caught once permission for the traps is obtained.

The coyotes should not be baited, and poisons should not be placed outside because that may harm domestic pets. Police also said to keep outdoor lights on at night, not to enter the woods and don’t keep pets outside unless supervised or in an area with a high fence.

Butfilowski said if pets are fed outside it should be done during the daylight and all food should be brought inside at night.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.

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