Despite requests from some property owners and the mayor pro tem, Bald Head Island Village Council continues to support a lethal cull of coyotes, possibly in January.
Coyotes have been spotted on the island for years, but this past summer they destroyed sea turtle eggs in significant numbers for the first time. Coyotes disturbed 57 of the island’s 170 nests and were blamed for destroying 2,088 eggs - about 12-percent of the total, according to the Bald Head Island Conservancy.
The predation occurred in spite of all-night-long patrols by turtle protectors from the Conservancy. In some cases, the coyotes tunneled under metal protective cages to get at the sea turtle eggs.
Loggerhead sea turtles are federally listed as threatened. Coyotes are not native to North Carolina and are considered an invasive species.
Those labels have not affected the strong opinions of some property owners, who are not in favor of killing the coyotes. One biologist who works in the area called the plan for trapping and culling “torture.”
At the regular November 15 council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Kit Adcock asked council to establish a task force to further study the matter, in conjunction with the Conservancy. She noted the village has until March to employ traps. The apparent consensus was not to take up the matter further.
Adcock said she wanted experts to determine the size of the coyote population, which is currently unknown. With that information, it would be easier to determine what would constitute a successful cull, she said.
Adcock also wants the village to consider whether non-lethal means could be used to protect sea turtles from coyotes, such as different types of protective cages or fencing.
“We need to be working together on this,” she said. “What are the best strategies?”
Establishing a study group would also provide a forum for residents who are against a lethal cull to have their views formally heard, she said.
The plan is to hire a contractor to set multiple soft leg-hold traps for one week in January, said Village Manager Chris McCall. While the village has not worked out the details, it also plans to hire a Wilmington veterinarian to administer a lethal injection to the trapped animals and dispose of them. Originally, the idea was to shoot them in the head with a small-caliber firearm, but the village has moved away from that plan.
McCall said there is no specific target number for the coyote cull. “There are some unknowns because we’ve not done this before,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adcock said she and a group of concerned residents were researching the matter on their own and holding weekly meetings.
“I’m going to keep going,” she said. “It’s outrageous to me.”
Bald Head Association is sponsoring an educational session about how people can best coexist with coyotes. It will be from 2-3 p.m. on Friday, December 6 at the Association’s meeting room at 111 Lightouse Wynd. The featured speaker will be Becky Skiba, an educator and wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.