Coyotes are roaming the county and while residents may find them to be a nuisance or even a threat, some officials said they aren’t that big of a problem.
Neither Aiken City or County animal control have received many coyote-related calls over the last few months or even years.
According to Aiken City Animal Control Officer Jeff Wilson, his last call was several months ago and it was because a coyote was struck by a car. The last time a domestic pet was killed by a coyote in the city limits, to Wilson’s knowledge, was a little more than a decade ago.
Aiken County Animal Control Chief Enforcement Officer Bobby Arthurs said they will get an occasional call from a concerned farmer but it’s not a big issue that he’s aware of.
Coyotes were first spotted in Upstate South Carolina in 1978 after they were illegally brought in for hound running, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Now, coyotes are in every county of the state, and though there haven’t been too many reports of coyotes killing or hurting domestic animals in this county, S.C. DNR said they prey heavily on fawns, and the deer population has declined 30 percent across the state since 2002.
According to Dr. John Kilgo, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service-Savannah River, coyotes first appeared in Aiken County in the 1980s and the population has been increasing ever since.
Coyote counts have been surveyed since 2005 on SRS property and Kilgo said they haven’t seen evidence of an increase on the site itself. But, since coyotes are quite sneaky and mostly afraid of people, Kilgo said counting them can be difficult. A method used to count this animal is to play a coyote call over loud speakers and count their howling response.
Kilgo said his impression is that they are still increasing in surrounding areas around the county.
“The bottom line is, yes, there is a well-established and abundant population of coyotes,” Kilgo said.
Michael Caudell with S.C. DNR said coyotes are omnivores and will eat small animals like rats and rabbits or fruits like blackberries and even watermelons. They have also been known to actively prey on small dogs and cats, Caudell said.
“They can exist in the city limits just like everything else because there’s a lot of food out there but they are most likely to occur in the rural areas,” Caudell said.
Though occurrences of coyotes attacking domestic animals are not widely reported, Arthurs said it’s a good idea to keep a small dog on a leash if it is a concern where one lives and to supervise the pet when it’s outdoors.
Residents are advised to call the Region 3 S.C. DNR Wildlife Office at (803) 734-3886 if they experience any issues with coyotes.