S.C. beach dwellers and critters share space

Horry County, S.C., residents coexist with geese, coyotes and bears

01/22/2013 7:38 AM

01/22/2013 7:42 AM

Drivers in Horry County must be wary of many things: detours, pets, children and geese. Sometimes it seems the geese population has bloomed enough to warrant its own political party.

But they aren’t the only critters sharing the Strand with the humans. There are the coyotes that put fear into the hearts of Surfside Beach residents over the summer, and the farmers in Georgetown County who worry about their crops being overtaken by black bears.

“The thing is, they didn’t move from 50 miles away. They’ve always been there. (You) just saw them,” said Jay Butfiloski, furbearer and alligator program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Butfiloski says humans and animals can coexist. Sometimes, it just requires a change in thinking, and more education.

Duck, duck, goose

In many neighborhoods, walkers or joggers can find themselves bypassing throngs of resident Canada geese, or the “surprises” they leave behind on the pavement. Wayne Harris, with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Charleston office, said the Canada geese have become a nuisance across the country. They are prone to hang out in suburban areas and golf courses because there’s generally a water source and the animals feel safe because there aren’t hunters.

The geese have been so bad in The Lakes subdivision near Murrells Inlet that residents have gotten help from the federal government.

Pat Keelan, a member of The Lakes’ homeowners association, said 12 federal officials come every June and load the geese into six trucks, with help from the neighbors.

In 2012, 55 geese were rounded up in The Lakes, Keelan said. That’s a massive jump from the zero collected in 2011.

“They must have read an email we were coming or something,” Keelan joked.

From the woods to the beach

Surfside Beach residents were alarmed when coyotes made their way into the beach community in late August.

There were so many complaints that Town Council members hired Alpha Predator out of Conway to try and trap the coyotes, which average 30 to 35 pounds.

Butfiloski said he hasn’t heard from Surfside Beach residents or Town Council members in a while about the issue.

“We haven’t had a sighting in several months,” said interim Surfside Beach Police Chief Rodney Keziah.

From subdivisions to farms

Deanna Ruth, with the SCDNR’s Georgetown office, said bears were spotted foraging in the field along U.S. 701 in Georgetown County.

Ruth said this is the first year black bears have been seen during the day foraging in agriculture fields. Generally, there’d be evidence left behind during the day of the animals pilfering in a farmer’s crops at night.

As farm sightings have gone up, residential sightings have gone down. Ruth said that could partially be explained by a door-to-door education initiative to educate Grand Strand residents on how to keep bears out of their neighborhoods.

Or, maybe people are still seeing the bears but not reporting the sightings.

“I think people have just gotten used to seeing them,” Ruth said.

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