Politics & Government

Senate debates fox, coyote hunting bans

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Maybe you're getting baptized and you don't know whether or not you will be able to control your bowels or bladder."

- Rep. Seth Whipper, D-Charleston, explaining the lifelong complications from personal injuries and arguing against a bill that would cap the amount of punitive damages a jury could award a victim. The $350,000 cap passed the House on Wednesday.

SCHMOOZING

When and where S.C. lawmakers will eat and drink for free this week - and who's buying:

Seen any coyotes in South Carolina lately?

If so, you're not alone.

Though coyotes are not indigenous to the Palmetto State, their population is on the rise, according to Department of Natural Resources statistics - up 638 percent on average over the past 35 years.

At the same time, the state's home-grown gray fox herd is down by nearly 49 percent, and red foxes are down by almost 35 percent.

A Senate panel is considering legislation that would ban coyote and fox hunting in enclosed areas, or pens, in the state, and discontinue the issue of permits for such pens.

Professional trappers, who make their living thinning out coyote, beaver, otter, bobcats and other small animals, which often can be nuisances to humans, told the Senate panel Wednesday such a move would be unwise.

"Your constituents will pay," said Ricky Williams, S.C. Trapper's Association president, who traps animals and sells them to pen owners. "If we take the monetary value off these coyotes, there is no reason to do it."

Right now, a trapper can earn from $65 to $100 a head for coyote, when legally sold to pen owners in South Carolina. Pens can be any size enclosed area, from a small farm of several acres to a plantation of several thousand acres, to huge hunting preserves. Pens often are used to train dogs to hunt.

Trappers often are hired by landowners to rid their properties of coyote, which cause a number of problems.

Trappers say coyotes are at the top of the predatory food chain in South Carolina and are a threat to any ground-nesting species of bird or other small animal, including wild turkeys, deer and other small hunting game.

The trappers also say coyote prey on small farm animals, such as chickens, pigs and goats, and also prey on family pets.

Sen. Dick Elliott, D-Horry, bill sponsor, said the legislation was introduced to halt the import of coyote across state lines and to establish setbacks for the pens.

A Berkeley County resident told the panel such a pen had been established within 25 feet of her residence, and that coyote, purchased by pen owners from trappers and others, posed considerable threats to her and elderly family members.

Elliott said 14 pens operate in Horry County, but when a nuisance confronts the public, lawmakers have an obligation at either the local or state level to take action.

The panel did not take action on the coyote bill Wednesday.

Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said the subcommittee would gather more information and seek a way to address the different concerns, possibly without banning the pens altogether.

SCHMOOZING

8-10 a.m. - Breakfast, Blatt Building, Room 112, Behavioral Health Services Association

  Comments