By HEATHER WALTERS
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is asking deer hunters to help save the state’s deer population by helping to control a growing coyote population.
According to DNR, coyotes first appeared in SC about 30 years ago and continue to expand greatly in numbers. Coyotes are negatively impacting our official State Animal, the White-tailed deer, by preying heavily on deer fawns.
Since 2002, DNR officials report that South Carolina’s deer population has declined by more than 30 percent. “While our deer population is still healthy, we do not want to see it decline further,” according to information provided by SCDNR.
To help with this problem, deer hunters are asked to trap coyotes.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has a Coyote Harvest Incentive Program. This was created in 2016 and is meant to be a coyote tagging and reward program.
Here’s how it works: the S.C. DNR traps, tags and releases four coyotes per game zone. Anyone who successfully takes and reports a tagged coyote will be rewarded with a free lifetime hunting license.
The person reporting the tagged coyote has the option to designate anyone for the lifetime license, such as a child, relative or friend, as stated by SCDNR in its program information.
In the last three years, 64 coyotes have been tagged and released. An additional 16 were tagged in 2020.
The trapping and harvest programs seem to be working in South Carolina.
According to statistics provided by the S.C. DNR, coyote populations have declined by 25 percent since 2014.
Average adult coyote is 35 pounds, but can exceed 50 pounds.
Coyotes are mostly grayish-brown to reddish-tan; nearly all black is not uncommon.
Coyotes reproduce in late winter, have a 63-day gestation period, and produce 5-7 pups per litter.
Expanding coyote populations are likely to impact local deer and small game. However, overtime coyote populations are expected to stabilize allowing deer, turkey and small game to still exist in healthy numbers in South Carolina, said DNR.
Where did coyotes come from?
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has never imported and released coyotes into the state for any reason, including deer management.
Coyotes first appeared in the upstate in 1978, they are now present in all counties of South Carolina.
Coyotes were illegally imported into South Carolina for hound running.
Eastern migration of coyotes has also resulted in natural expansion of the species in South Carolina.