Earlier this year, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Budget Proviso that created the Coyote Harvest Incentive Program in response to problems caused by the inundation of the Palmetto State by coyotes.
The proviso directed the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to implement a coyote tagging and reward program, which was established in late October.
“The legislators are trying to respond to the question of, ‘What are you going to do about these coyotes?’ ” said S.C. DNR’s Jay Butfiloski. “But there are no quick fixes. You could say you want less coyotes but how are you going to get there? The only real viable way is to convince people who are doing outdoor activities to take more coyotes.”
Coyotes are having a big impact on South Carolina’s population of white-tailed deer, particularly limiting fawn survival rates by preying on newborns.
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Coyotes moved in from the west, first appearing in the state in the late 1970s, and now can be found in all 46 counties.
The invasive predators are known to take down mature deer and have an impact on the numbers of small game. They also have a taste for unattended household pets.
The number of coyotes in the state is startling. Butfiloski notes that even before the incentive program was instituted, approximately 30,000 coyotes have been killed each year by deer hunters alone.
A total of 16 male coyotes were tagged as the target for the program with four released in each of the state’s four game zones earlier this autumn. Anyone who kills one of them receives a complimentary lifetime hunting license.
The coyotes were ear-tagged with contact information embossed on them. Hunters must save the carcass for verification to receive the lifetime hunting license.
Already, three of the tagged coyotes have been harvested – all in Game Zone 2 in the northwest portion of the state. While there are 13 more tagged coyotes out there for the taking, there are no guarantees they will stay in the zone in which they were released.
“We had (a coyote that was released) in Fort Bragg (N.C.) show up in Prosperity (35 miles northwest of Columbia) over a six-month period,” said Butfiloski. “Where they get dropped off isn’t necessarily where they’re going to stay.”
Anyone who registers for the program by April 1, 2017 will be entered into a drawing to receive a Yeti Roadie Cooler if they take one of the tagged coyotes by June 30, 2017.
Registration is voluntary, and anyone who takes one of the tagged coyotes will receive the lifetime license.
Thus far, 2,000 residents have registered for the incentive program, according to Butfiloski.
“This gives us a sample of people who said, ‘Hey I’m interested in doing this,’ ” said Butfiloski. “Then we can check with them on what they did. We have this incentive program, and we want to find out if there was additional effort (to harvest coyotes) caused by the program.”
Anyone interested can register at www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/coyote.
Gregg Holshouser: firstname.lastname@example.org