About white-tail deer
Historically, deer populations in North America were controlled by natural predators, including cougars, wolves, and Native Americans. These predators are no longer present in most areas of the eastern United States. Today, deer populations are mostly controlled through regulated hunting. Without predation—natural or human—deer have the capacity to rapidly increase to a point where biological parameters of their population may become compromised. This is most typically demonstrated by reduced physical condition and subsequent declines in reproduction, recruitment, and survival.
Annual surveys of Dewees Island’s whitetail deer population showed an increase from 40 deer in 1994, to 117 deer in 1997. The SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) recommends a carrying capacity of 30—35 deer in order to support the island’s vegetative diversity*. In 1997, these estimates led to a proposal to implement a deer management program. The proposal was accepted by the POA and has proved to be a success. The safe, selective management of deer on Dewees Island benefits the health of its deer herd and contributes to a healthy, balanced ecosystem.
*Dewees Island has historically harvested fewer deer than recommended by SCDNR, and every effort is made to harvest the weak and unhealthy deer.
**Data from spotlight surveys, track counts, and trail camera surveys will be analyzed to determine if culling is recommended each season.
Environmental impact of the deer population
Research shows that whitetail deer populations dramatically affect native vegetation and can reduce or eliminate certain plant species. The impact of deer can also reduce the forest’s ability to recover from hurricanes and fire because of a lack of seedling replacement trees.
Whitetail deer overpopulation can result in the loss of wildlife species which depend on native plants, or the cover they afford. Painted buntings, ground doves, glass lizards, frogs, otter, mink, and butterflies are just a few of the species dependent on forest undergrowth for food and shelter.
Whitetail deer are carriers of Lyme Disease, particularly when populations are high. Starvation is a concern when deer are forced, due to overpopulation, to browse vegetation they normally do not eat. These non-typical foods act as filler and result in malnourished deer.
Rodent Control on Dewees Island
- Remove attraction
- Cut off access into the home
The Architectural & Environmental Design Guidelines state pesticides shall be limited to organic types and practices. Therefore using poison (bait) to kill rats is not permitted since many of the poisons used to control rats can affect pets and wildlife as well. The anticoagulants used in the poisons are cumulative and slow acting; dead rats may contain several lethal doses of toxicant. Secondary poisoning of pets and wildlife is very possible.
Organic Rodent Control
Several Dewees residents have had success with the following methods:
- Rat Zapper: uses 4 “AA” batteries to deliver an electric shock to rodents inside the trap.
- Snap traps. Use in conjunction with a rodent station to prevent un-targeted animals from becoming injured.
Rodent Prevention and Control
- Keep vegetation pruned off your home.
- Seal any cracks and openings for pilings, plumbing lines, electrical and mechanical conduits, gas lines, door sills and jambs, elevator cables and where the roof deck meets the fascia. No hole larger than ¼ inch should be left unsealed.
- Use bronze wool, hardware cloth or sheet metal to seal up holes. Expanding foam can be inserted into bronze wool to seal holes; expanding foam alone will not keep out rodents and steel wool will rust over time.
- To prevent rodents from gnawing on railings or chewing through porch screen; cover areas with galvanized hardware cloth ¼” or smaller.
- Fix leaking/dripping outdoor faucets and pipes (rodents are attracted to fresh water sources).
- A/C condensation lines constantly drip fresh water. Prevent rodent access to this water source by extending the line into a French Drain.
- Do not store pet food or trash on porches or under your home.
Local companies which offer less toxic and organic pest control include Gregory and Ledford’s.
Dewees Island is home to the native southern fire ant and the red imported fire ant. The southern fire ant is not considered a pest like the red imported fire ants. In fact, native fire ants are the best way to keep the more aggressive red imported fire ant at bay. Aggressive use of insecticides against the imported fire ant can have a negative impact on native ants thus increasing the dominance of the red imported fire ant. It is important when treating for red imported fire ants the effects on native ant populations are minimized.
How you can help…
Learn the difference between a native ant mound and imported fire ant mound (native ant mounds will have one central opening).
Treat only the imported fire ant mound; do not broadcast treatment.
Follow directions when using pesticides; using more than recommended does not mean faster results.
Use organic pesticides.
Lori Sheridan Wilson
Those pesky mosquitoes!
When the Island receives heavy rains or tropical storms there can be a lot of standing water. This is the perfect habitat for mosquitoes. You can reduce man-made habitat by eliminating places which collect water such as open boats or buckets. However, the majority of the lots on the island have at least some seasonal wetlands or depressions where water can collect. Charleston County does treat Dewees Island for mosquito larvae by dropping pellets from a plane/helicopter. If you would like to treat natural occurring standing water on your lot which may not be reached by the Charleston County treatment due to a dense tree canopy “Bactimos Briquettes” are very effective at killing the mosquito larvae which hatch in pools of standing water. Please make sure the briquettes you purchase contains Bt as the active ingredient. These briquettes have a naturally occurring bacteria or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) which gives up to 99% control of mosquito larvae. One briquette covers 100 square feet of water surface and lasts for a minimum of 30 days.
Terrapin Info Sheet
Coyotes on Dewees Island
A pair of coyotes first made their debut around August 2016 on Dewees Island. Throughout summer and fall of 2017 5 pups were sighted & in 2018 4 pups could be sighted on Dewees Island. During 2019 and 2020 no pups were sighted, however 2 adults were sighted in 2019 and three adults were sighted in 2020. During the month of January 2-3 adults have been sighted each year from 2016 to 2021.
The goal for management of all flora and fauna on Dewees Island is to protect the biodiversity of our ecosystem. While coyotes are new to Dewees Island, they have been on other coastal barrier islands for years and have adapted to living in close proximity to people in urban areas. There are many questions and opinions regarding coyotes. Management goals and objectives are based on dated collected on Dewees Island as well as research conducted at locations as similar to Dewees Island as possible, though no two sites will be exactly the same.
What is the POA’s plan to manage coyotes on Dewees Island?
Coyotes on Dewees Island will be managed as all wildlife are: to provide necessary habitat through wise development and manage individuals on a case by case basis. Wildlife camera surveys, scat analysis, population surveys of nesting sea turtles & nesting shorebirds and vegetation browse surveys by herbaceous animals will all be monitored to ensure coyotes are not causing negative biological effects to the ecology of the island. Research has shown that trapping or shooting the animals may actually increase the number of coyotes in an area due to the disrupted social structure of the family group and it is almost impossible to eliminate them since they will move in from nearby areas. The POA has decided to allow the coyote to fulfill a niche once occupied by red wolves on Dewees Island. A stable & balanced family group of coyotes is comprised of fewer individuals than several segregated groups in an area.
I heard coyotes howling and it sounds like we have a lot more than 3 animals.
Coyotes communicate with others in their family group by barks, howls or yips to stay in touch with each other. They will also vocalize to announce the boundaries of their territory to other coyotes. Coyotes can modulate the frequency and pitch of their vocalizations which often makes their group sound larger than it is.
What should I do if I encounter a coyote?
Coyotes want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. If you see a coyote it is most likely a chance encounter. Coyotes are curious and may stop to observe, this is not a sign of aggression. If a coyote comes into your yard or other community spaces please practice coyote hazing. Hazing utilizes deterrents to move an animal out of an area or to discourage an undesirable behavior. Use a variety of hazing methods so coyotes don’t get used to one stimulus. Hazing helps to maintain a coyote’s fear of humans; methods include:
- Stand tall, wave arms and yell at the coyote, approach if necessary until they run away.
- Using noise makers: blow whistle, banging pots and pans together, shake a can filled with pennies.
- Throwing projectiles, sticks or balls toward the animal but not hitting the animal.
- Spray the coyote with a garden hose or water gun filled with vinegar and water.
The coyote may run away, but then stop after a short distance and look at you. It is important to continue to haze until the animal has completely left the area. Do not haze a coyote if is cornered or you feel pups are around or if you have a pet with you; slowly back away.
Please take time to review what to do if you come across a coyote and understand the difference between hazing and harassing. For more information please click here
Current Coyote Sightings
Please pass along descriptions of all coyote sightings. All of your information is extremely helpful and helps us to understand coyote behavior on Dewees Island and make informed management decisions! If you have a sighting please click here to submit the details. Take note of location, number of coyotes, behaviors, time of day, and other factors (did you have a pet with you? Did you try to haze the coyote?) Please be on the lookout for melanistic (black) individuals.
You may also click here to map your sightings; mapping is important because it gives us a visual of how coyotes are moving around the island over time.
Should I be concerned about my dog?
Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and therefore will take advantage of available food sources. If you have a small dog then it would be in your best interest to keep it on a leash while on Dewees Island, even on the beach. Just as we are mindful of alligators and venomous snakes on Dewees Island as they relate to pets, good judgment should also be practiced for coyotes.
Anything else I should know about coyotes?
Feed pets indoors just as you would to deter rats and raccoons from your home.
If you have a bird feeder control small mammals from feeding in and around bird feeders.
Where did Coyotes come from?
Coyotes are not native to South Carolina; it is believed coyotes came here 38 years ago by one of two ways; 1) coyotes migrated to SC from the central US where they are native and 2) they were introduced into SC for illegal hound running. The decimation of Red Wolves from South Carolina provided an opportunity for coyotes to move in.
What do Coyotes eat?
Coyotes are an opportunistic predator species and they will eat a variety of food. Scat samples collected in several South Carolina research studies revealed the diet of a coyote changes based on seasonal availability. Coastal coyotes also scavenge for food at the high tide line. A research study at Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center, SC and Alligator River, NC in 2009-2011 compared scat samples of coyotes and red wolves. The study revealed the most common food groups of coyotes included small rodents, insects, birds and vegetation/fruit; this represents about 73% of a coastal coyote’s diet. The chart compares the diet of coyotes vs. red wolves during the study period. Based on the diet analysis, coyotes on Dewees Island should help to control the rodent population.
Will coyotes eat all the rabbits, raccoons, fawns, sea turtle eggs and nesting shorebirds?
Dewees Island is unique since we are an island and coyotes are a recent immigrant to the island. We can’t say for certain what will happen but we can make an educated guess of what we can expect based on scientific research at other locations. We are actively monitoring on Dewees.
The definition of carrying capacity is the maximum population that an area will support without undergoing deterioration. A small coyote family group may find the available resources necessary on Dewees Island to sustain themselves long-term or they may be here for a short time and then move on. As many of you have witnessed, the population of raccoons on Dewees Island fluctuates over the years; the coyote population will encounter a similar fluctuation as food availability changes.
Coyotes & Sea Turtles: Coyotes are opportunistic feeders. Since 2017 we have observed Sea Turtle nest predation occurring on the first night the nest is laid. We have not observed coyote predation on sea turtle nests after the first night on insitu nests or relocated nests.
Coyotes & Mammals: Studies looking at the relationships between coyotes and other medium sized predators like domestic cats, foxes, skunks and raccoons have shown that coyotes have little impact on medium sized predators outside of foxes and domestic cats in urban areas. We do not allow outdoor cats and we have very seldom seen foxes on the island. When we did have foxes, they predated turtle nests at about the same rate as coyotes. For more information on coyote relationships with other medium sized predators please click here and here.
As of 2020, current conditions on Dewees Island indicate a healthy deer and raccoon population indicated by trail camera images, plants over browsed by deer are starting to return, shorebirds such as Wilson’s Plovers are successfully nesting, and storms/tides are impacting sea turtle nests to a greater degree than mammals.
How many coyotes will we have on Dewees Island?
The size of the family group will depend on the availability of food and the size of the habitat. A family will consist of an alpha pair which breeds and several other non-breeding family members. This family group will defend their territory from other coyotes. This will help to keep the overall number of coyotes consistent.
I heard coyotes are detrimental to deer populations, is this true?
As noted above, coyotes are opportunistic predator species meaning they will take advantage of a meal when it is available – even vegetation, insects and carrion. A study conducted at the Savannah River site in GA analyzed coyote scat from 2005-2006. They found deer fawns were an important part of their diet during fawning but plant matter was also important during this time. Based on diet analysis, coyotes will harvest deer on Dewees Island but it does not appear they will deplete the deer population.
Is a coyote important to the ecology of an area?
Top predators in a habitat are necessary to prevent over grazing of native vegetation by herbaceous animals. Though a coyote is not an exact match to the red wolf as far as diet there is some feeding overlap and coyotes may help to fill a nitch that has been empty for some time.
The Urban Coyote Research Program has a wealth of information on coyotes including details on animals they have monitored through their tracking program as well as community education materials. To visit please click here