If you see a canine animal in your yard at night, you might think it’s a dog or fox. But especially in the cooler months, the creature could be a coyote.
While coyotes can kill pets and livestock, like goats or calves, they are generally not dangerous to humans. Usually weighing between 30-45 pounds, coyotes are most active from dusk to dawn.
Learn why you’re encountering these predators in your neighborhood and how to keep them off your land.
Why are coyotes in South Carolina?
Coyotes only came to South Carolina in the 1970’s — when they lost their native habitats in the Midwest, they migrated east. Since coyotes don’t have natural predators here, like wolves, they took hold.
Myrtle Beach’s rapid development has contributed to increased coyote sightings, said Jay Butfiloski, the Furbearer Project Leader with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in Dec. 2022. “As you get more people moving into the state, there’s more potential for interactions.”
Why do I see coyotes during cooler months?
Coyote sightings during fall and winter have to do with changes in human and coyote behavior, said Butfiloski this week. More people are out and about after dark after the end of daylight savings time, making them more likely to spot the nocturnal predators. Forest-dwelling coyotes are more visible when surrounded by leafless trees.
During the cooler months, coyotes venture out because food is sparse, mating season is about to begin and young animals are finding their own territory.
How do I keep them from coming on my land?
The best way to get coyotes off your property is to avoid attracting them in the first place.
“Coyotes are very resourceful, so they are going to find food when they can,” Butfiloski said in December.
Spraying your property with homemade or store bought remedies can work temporarily, but if the coyotes are hungry enough, they’ll ignore the strong scent. Fences can deter coyotes, especially tall, wooden fences, but some animals will jump or dig under them.
Here are some tips to keep coyotes away:
Keep pets and pet food indoors. If your pets cannot go inside, put their food away overnight.
Take down your bird feeders. Coyotes will not only eat the birdseed but also the small animals.
Avoid keeping garbage outside and put trash out the morning of collection.
Can I hunt coyotes?
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources encourages hunting coyotes to protect the deer population. You do not need a license to shoot or trap a nuisance coyote within 100 yards of your house, as long as discharging a firearm is permitted in your area.
If you have a hunting license, you can hunt coyotes on private property year round. Trapping coyotes is allowed with a license during trapping season — Dec. 1 to March 1. For added incentive, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources tags a limited number of coyotes each year. If you shoot or trap a tagged coyote, you will receive a free lifetime hunting license.
In urban and suburban areas, check with your local ordinances before discharging a weapon.
SCDNR estimated that in 2022, hunters and trappers killed almost 26,000 coyotes in South Carolina, successfully bringing the state’s coyote population down by 40% since 2011.