Coyotes Devouring Loggerhead Sea Turtle Eggs On South Carolina Barrier Islands

February 26, 2015

Feral hogs that decimated loggerhead sea turtle  (Caretta caretta) nests on an island off South Carolina have been replaced by coyotes after a fairly successful effort to reduce the hog population on North Island. The coyotes, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources have taken up where the hogs left off, eating up more than half of North Island’s 90 loggerhead sea turtle nests last year. 

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The hog population was culled significantly by state sanctioned hunts to help the sea turtle nests stay unmolested, but coyotes have created a new challenge for DNR biologist Jamie Dozier, who works to keep the turtle eggs from being devoured by predators. 

The coyotes, which are estimated to be a pack of 20 on North Island alone, are now known to populate seven barrier islands in South Carolina. They have been documented eating turtle eggs on Kiawah and Seabrook islands, Hilton Head, Botany, and Sand and South islands, according to TheState.com. Officials said that the coyotes swam to the islands from the mainland and have been on the islands since at least the late 1990s.

The state’s wildlife agencies are working on a plan to eliminated the coyotes from North Island. The DNR will hire a trapper to catch the pack. Dozier said that it is vital that the coyotes are removed from North Island to protect the sea turtle nests. 

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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