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 Created: 12/03/07


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— Coyote Carnage —

December 3, 2007 — Okay, folks, I need your advice. Four weeks ago we lost one of the Mad Hatters, a sweet Sebastopol goose who had been with us for six months. He was taken in the dark of night, presumably by a coyote, the first we've encountered on our property. I discovered he was missing in the morning when he didn't appear for breakfast. With a sinking feeling, I walked down to the pond looking for clues as to where he could be. There was a distinct white feather trail that indicated he'd been grabbed at the edge of the pond and dragged across open territory into deep woods. I tracked the trail 200+ yards through dense undergrowth punctuated by snagging brambles until I found what was left of the carcass (not much) under a thick canopy of bushes and vines.

The Scene of the Crime
Back at the scene of the crime I found, and photographed, distinct prints left by the perpetrator. I then consulted our dictionary of animal tracks hoping to find a match. The tracks looked a lot like coyote tracks but they were just too big. Wolf tracks seemed closer in size, but wolves are extinct in central South Carolina. Puzzled, I phoned our old friend Alan Shoemaker. Alan, now retired, was Mammal Curator at the Riverbanks Zoo for 12 years. If anybody would know what we're dealing with, Alan would. His judgment? Behavior and prints point to a coyote. He warned me, "Now that he knows where the supermarket is, that coyote will probably be back — and unless you do something, eventually you'll lose every bird on your pond."

Another Victim
Okay, so I've been doing a head count every morning just as soon as I get up. One Mute swan? Check. Two Bar-headed geese? Check. Three Sebastopols? Check. Five Black swans? Horrors! This week one was missing. We found the remains of our beautiful swan on the shoreline approximately 150 yards from where the birds typically roost at night. The body, or what was left of it, was resting among the branches of a fallen tree, half in and half out of the water. There were no visible canine tracks, just the usual deer, raccoon and possum prints.

What to Do?
Alan had warned me that if the coyote came back we'd need to hire a trapper to save the rest of the flock. I guess that means now. According to the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Depredation Permits for controlling destructive coyotes are available year round. Their literature promotes trapping as the best method for removing problem coyotes, however, the foot-hold traps they describe sound painful and cruel. Also, I would worry that an unintended animal such as a deer might might become a victim. Your thoughts?


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