One of South Carolina’s most popular beach communities is warning visitors they may run into aggressive coyotes among the sand dunes.
The Isle of Palms police posted the Facebook alert Wednesday, one day after a woman told the Charleston Post & Courier her dog was attacked by four coyotes as she took a sunrise walk on the beach.
Karen Britton said she began screaming and the coyotes scattered, but her dog suffered five bites serious enough to require staples and stitches, WCIV reported.
Police say they found at least one coyote den at the island’s 25th Avenue beach access.
“So there is an increase in activity in this area. Please make sure, just like every other beach access, you are keeping your pets leashed,” the department posted.
“It is important that dogs stay close to you on these beach access paths. … While domesticated dogs are not normally prey for coyotes, they might feel threatened by other animals near their dens.”
The issue may be seasonal, police said. April is when coyotes “feed and protect their young in dens and surrounding areas,” officials wrote.
“During this time, coyotes can be more active during the daytime hours. While a coyote might stand their ground close to their dens, they are afraid of contact with humans,” police said.
Coyotes are not native to South Carolina and can be killed year round by licensed hunters, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. The species typically stands 26 inches at the shoulder, can weigh 60 pounds and live as long as 14 years, the state says.
The canines first appeared in the western part of the state in 1978 and have since spread to every county, the state says.
Multiple coyote attacks on people have been reported in the Carolinas in recent years, including four in September at Camp Lejeune outside Jacksonville, N.C. In 2018, a father and daughter were hospitalized in Davie County, N.C., after being attacked by a coyote, McClatchy News reported.
Isle of Palms of police say beachgoers should “maintain eye contact while slowly backing away” if they run into a coyote.
“Never turn your back on the coyote,” the department wrote. “Do not look afraid or scared because they will see you as being submissive. … If you are with a small child, place them behind you as you back away and do not allow them to run away from you.”