Growing concerns over an uptick in coyote sightings forced Myrtle Beach officials on Tuesday to adopt several action plans that attempt to regulate the coyote population and create a safer environment for residents.
The coyote response plan, which was unanimously approved by the Myrtle Beach City Council, aims to better monitor actual and perceived coyote threats throughout the community. It also hopes to control waste, increase state funding to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and encourage public education to improve public safety.
Council members Jackie Vereen, Mike Lowder and Phil Render were not in attendance.
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. City Manager John Pedersen said the information will be used to issue emergency depredation action requests to SCDNR.
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“It’s important for us to document the encounters but also determine the nature of the encounter,” Pedersen said. “That information will be used to document any emergency situation or emergency response.”
Mayor Brenda Bethune urged residents to use the city website to report an incident, stressing that residents should refrain from using social media when they have a concern or experience an encounter.
The response plan would also look to hire an inspector to trail sanitation crews to limit the availability of food sources for coyotes in residential and commercial areas. Pedersen said they will discuss the inspector position at the council’s next workshop meeting. Additionally, the city will appropriate $15,000 in the event of a wildlife emergency.
Pedersen originally recommended establishing a cost-sharing program that would allocate $5,000 to provide reimbursements of $75 to a property owner who traps a coyote, but Bethune and Councilman Gregg Smith scrapped the proposal from the plan.
“I’m uncomfortable with the city paying for the actual capture of coyotes, especially if they’re not ones that are habituated and causing problems,” Smith said. “I don’t believe any of the information I’ve read said that just capturing coyotes that aren’t causing danger to people is going to do anything to reduce the population or change the dynamics of what’s going on.”
Council members agreed to reallocate the $5,000 to the emergency response plan.
Citizen action steps within the plan suggest residents become familiar with what coyotes feast on to monitor their trash. Pet owners are advised never to leave their pets unattended in a yard, specifically at night, and for them to be walked on a short leash. It is also recommended residents carry an air horn, stick or whistle when they take their dogs out on walks.
“The best thing we can do is scare them,” Pedersen said. “Do not let them get comfortable in a human’s environment.”
Pedersen said that while there has been no documented cases of coyote attacks on people within the city, there have been several reported attacks on pets, although none of those attacks occurred while the pet was controlled on a leash.
Representatives from Trutech Wildlife Removal and The Snake Chaser told council members that coyotes aren’t going to disappear, explaining that housing developments are creating a habitat they rapidly adjust to. Cutting down trees doesn’t remove their habitat, they said.
Bethune said that while she supports the coyote response plan, she stressed that it won’t eliminate the coyote population.
“We can do everything that we can possibly try to do, and what I worry about is the unrealistic expectations of the public that we can get rid of this problem and we cannot,” Bethune said. “We can do things to help, which is what we’re trying to do, but we’re not going to get rid of the problem.”