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Herd of Beaufort County goats recovering after ferocious attack. Was it dogs or coyotes?

Coyotes are now more common than ever in South Carolina. Here’s what you need to know

Coyotes are now present in every county in South Carolina — and are increasingly spotted in peoples' backyards. Here are some facts about the species from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and a clip of what they sound like.
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Coyotes are now present in every county in South Carolina — and are increasingly spotted in peoples' backyards. Here are some facts about the species from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and a clip of what they sound like.

Two baby goats slept in Laura Sterling’s spare bed Monday night.

The animals were among the survivors from a herd attacked by an unknown animals in northern Beaufort County over the weekend. The owner discovered the dead and injured animals on his Grays Hill property Monday after a couple of days away.

Ten goats were killed or had to be euthanized because of severe throat gashes. Eight of the animals are in Sterling’s care at Laura’s Little Critter Barn, her animal rescue in Bluffton.

Dogs or coyotes could have been responsible for the slaughter, Sterling said.

She and other animal officials believe dogs mangled the goats, because coyotes would have eaten the animals.

A pack of dogs among a herd of goats will take down one at a time, Sterling said. “Once that one’s not moving, they’ll move on to the next one.”

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A visual representation of the differences between normal dog tracks and coyote tracks. SCDNR coyote guide, released.

Jay Butfiloski, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, agreed that the case sounded like dogs — either a roaming feral pack or pets running free.

Coyotes are typically more selective and drag prey away to eat, he said.

“What you see with dogs is they just kill stuff, and that’s it,” said Butfiloski, who heads workshops on coyote biology and control. “They’re not fed on, they’re just dead.”

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Megan Foy, left, and Erin Parker interact with baby goats Mocha and Cocoa after the animals were taken in by Erin’s mom, Laura Sterling, who operates Laura’s Little Critter Barn in Bluffton. The goats survived an attack in Grays Hill over the weekend while 10 others died. Laura Sterling Submitted

Coyote populations have been a growing concern in South Carolina.

A state lawmaker proposed a law last month that would give hunters a $75 bounty for coyotes and allow the animals to be trapped throughout the year, The State newspaper reported. Myrtle Beach adopted a plan to limit waste that might attract coyotes and to educate the public in response to the perceived growing number of sightings, according to the Sun News.

Beaufort County Animal Services director Tallulah Trice said dogs were the more likely culprit. She noted that the baby goats, prime targets for a hungry coyote, received less severe injuries than the adults.

Animal control officers are investigating which animals might be responsible.

If pet dogs attacked the goats, the owners could be cited for letting their animals run free and held responsible for vet bills and restitution for the animals killed, Trice said.

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Coco, a goat less than a week old, receives fluids after being attacked by a dog or coyote in Grays Hill. A flock of 19 goats was attacked by an unknown animal, and 10 were killed or euthanized. Laura Sterling Submitted

Animal control officers have responded to multiple recent incidents of dogs killing chickens, she said.

“Which is their instinct in a lot of ways, but people need to keep their animals on their property,” Trice said.

The owner found the goats, many with gashed throats, Monday morning. Responding veterinarian Dessie Carter was on site for three hours, and surviving animals were treated by Coastal Veterinary Clinic, Trice said.

The man surrendered the remaining goats in the face of vet bills and not wanting the animals to return to where they might be attacked again, Sterling and Trice said.

The goats’ owner had the animals properly fenced and had provided them with food and water. Having other animals with the flock, like donkeys or certain breeds of dog, can help fend off such attacks, Trice said.

One baby goat is still receiving treatment at a local veterinary office. While some of the goats will be sent to nearby farms, two of the baby goats will probably become permanent residents of Sterling’s farm in Bluffton’s Alljoy area.

Sterling’s daughter cuddled the babies, Mocha and Coco, in the hay outside until 9:30 p.m. Monday night before they moved inside to the spare bed.

“They were traumatized, so they were in major shock,” Sterling said. “A lot of what keeps them alive is human contact.”

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.


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