“Everybody knows the DNR stocked coyotes in South Carolina to control the deer population.”
“I’ve got a buddy that was a game warden in the ’80s and he told me the DNR stocked all these coyotes in South Carolina.”
“The DNR stocked coyotes to kill all the black panthers in the state.”
If you’ve been around enough hunting camps, country stores, or cookouts in South Carolina, you’ve either heard statements similar to the ones above, or you haven’t been listening. It’s a widespread – let’s call it theory – among some folks, that the large numbers of coyotes we are dealing with are all because of a semi-secret stocking program led by the SCDNR.
You’ll hear similar arguments in North Carolina, and probably other states on the east coast as well. But according to the SCDNR, the truth is, the agency has never stocked coyotes in any part of the state for any reason.
“Contrary to popular belief, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) did not stock coyotes in South Carolina to control the white-tailed deer population, or for any other reason,” is stated simply in the department’s literature on coyotes. The statement is repeated by staff members at various outdoor festivals throughout the state each year.
Still, plenty of doubters exist.
“Of course they’re not going to own up to it,” the conspiracy theorists say.
Despite the damage the state’s deer population has taken for the past 20-years or so by the presence of coyotes, it still seems like a whole lot of trouble for the SCDNR to have gone through, if in fact, they had stocked coyotes to control the deer population. Lengthening the season, allowing night hunting, and making it legal to trap deer, all seem like better alternatives to thinning the deer herd, and would almost surely have thinned the herd much more quickly. Plus, those steps could easily be reversed once the agency felt deer numbers were in check.
Besides that, coyotes don’t commonly eat deer out west, their native range, so why would the SCDNR have ever believed they would eat them here? It took them a decade of study and a lot of money, resources, and manpower to finally realize that the coyotes were hurting our deer numbers, and doing it by preying on deer fawns in the first few weeks of those fawns’ lives. Did the agency just get lucky and guess the coyote would adapt their diet to eating baby deer, but were so short-sighted that they didn’t see how bad it would get?
The official word from the SCDNR on how coyotes got here is similar to what wildlife agencies in other states say. The animals migrated here, and some were brought in illegally by fox pen owners to train hunting dogs in large, fenced-in enclosures. Over time, some escaped, and along with the ones that migrated here, bred with others, leading to the numbers we have now.