Coyote sightings: Myrtle Beach officials consider plan to deal with growing issue

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Coyotes began migrating to SC 30 years ago. Now you may find them in your backyard.
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Coyotes began migrating to SC 30 years ago. Now you may find them in your backyard.

With coyote sightings on the rise, Myrtle Beach officials are working to devise a suitable course of action to deal with such encounters in the community.

Growing concerns about a spiraling number of coyote sightings in Myrtle Beach prompted officials to create a coyote response plan to ease residential woes. City Manager John Pedersen presented the city council with several action plans on Thursday to improve public safety and regulate coyote encounters.

“I think we’re reaching a point where they’re becoming more comfortable being around human beings and around our neighborhood,” Councilman Mike Lowder said. “I don’t think this is a hit-and-miss thing, I really believe we’ve got to hit the ground running on this.”

Pedersen suggested the city increase educational efforts, regulate waste and work with state lawmakers to increase emergency resources that would allow the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to handle emergency situations more rapidly and frequently.

“I think we need to make clear that this is an ongoing statewide issue which we addressed with a recurring funding of DNR,” Councilman Phil Render said.

Lowder added if SCDNR can rapidly address bear and alligator sightings, they should be willing to do the same with coyotes.

“There’s no predator to take the coyotes out so they’re going to continue to grow,” Lowder said. “From what I’m seeing, coyotes are really becoming a problem in the area.”

Currently, there has been only one report of a pet being killed within the last two years, Pedersen noted.

Pedersen advised the city refrain from trapping coyotes on private property for liability reasons and instead develop a program that would reimburse residents for a portion of the cost of hiring a private wildlife expert to remove and dispose an aggressive coyote. He said the council should set aside $5,000 to provide reimbursements of $75 per incident to a private property owner that traps a coyote.

The city would not be a party to the agreement between the wildlife removal expert and the private property owner, he said.

Mayor Brenda Bethune expressed concern, explaining that the property owner and trapper could fabricate an invoice and split the city’s reimbursement.

“I’d hate to see us start something that could potentially snowball and not be good,” Bethune said.

Pedersen also recommended appropriating $10,000 for any wildlife emergency and hiring an inspector to trail sanitation crews to limit the availability of food sources in residential and commercial areas. Pedersen said the staff is working on a proposal to create the position.

The city is currently developing a system for documenting encounters with coyotes that would categorize the location, time and type of encounter, and description of the animal’s behavior. Pedersen said the information will be used to document emergency depredation action requests to SCDNR.

Pedersen advised pet owners never to leave their pets unattended in a yard, specifically at night, and for them to be walked on a short leash. He also recommended residents carry an air horn, stick or whistle when they take their dogs out on walks.

Councilman Gregg Smith said if a coyote approaches, residents should make themselves appear aggressive or throw rocks to scare the coyote away.

The board plans to vote on the proposed coyote response plan at a later date.