Shardai Figgures

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Last month, the Winthrop University Police Department (WUPD) announced that several coyote sightings had been reported at the school’s Recreational and Research Complex, which is sometimes called the farm area.

Charles Yearta, assistant chief of police, informed students, faculty and staff of the sightings via email April 8.

“Usually when we get complaints they’re always out at the recreational lake (or) farm area. A lot of that is because it’s a wooded area, it’s got a natural water source, and it’s the natural habitat of a coyote. For the most part they are more scared of you, than you are of them,” said Yearta.

None of the coyotes that have been sighted have shown any indications of being aggressive or hostile, according to Yearta.

Loren Atkins, a veterinarian who was visiting the Recreational and Research Complex, said she was unaware of the sightings, but wasn’t surprise to hear about them.

“Coyotes are a really common animal that are out in urban and rural areas. It is completely predictable that someone sees a coyote here and even downtown. Just like any wildlife interaction you need to stay away from wildlife,” said Atkins.

Jay Foloski, a wildlife biologist with the S.C Department of Natural Resources in Columbia, said people shouldn’t be too concerned about the sightings.

“Not too worried at all,” said Foloski. “We have coyotes all throughout the state. I wouldn’t be surprised if there has been some running through the town here. Obviously, you don’t try to approach it. You don’t want to run, because sometimes with certain animals it triggers a response. Just like if you encounter a strange dog, you back away while looking at it. Give it its distance.”

WUPD says this continues to be an issue at the recreational complex, because of the natural habitat provided for animals.

“Not only is that a natural habitat on that farm area, but it supplies them food. What I mean by that is the high geese population we have out there. We did get a report that it’s obvious a coyote attacked a goose and took it off into the woods with him. That is part of the other problem we have, we’re supplying them the food chain,” said Yearta.

It appears it could be one coyote that was spotted on several occasions, Yearta said. While the animal didn’t appear to be harmful, he said it could become more defensive and territorial, because it’s mating season.

WUPD is working with Facilities Management to bring in a wildlife specialist to place several humane traps in the area. Once captured, the coyote will be returned to the wild, Yearta said.

If anyone sees a wild animal on campus in the future, they can contact campus police at 803-323-3333 to report it.