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Pawleys Island: Town looks for ways to eradicate nuisance raccoons

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

By land and by air Pawleys Island is under assault.

The town is used to dealing with the crush of summer visitors, which peaked at 7,300 cars on July 4. Town Council is trying to figure out how to deal with the latest challenges: Raccoons and drones.

Mayor Bill Otis has received several complaints about raccoons, particularly in the area around the North Causeway. “But not just there,” he said Monday. “One was trapped under my creek house yesterday.”

“I saw one swimming in the creek,” said Council Member Sarah Zimmerman, who lives on the island’s south end. “I stopped my car.”

A dozen years ago, the town established a trap-neuter-release program to deal with feral cats. An anonymous donor gave the town $10,000 to get it started. The town still puts out traps when property owners call and budgets $1,000 a year to spay or neuter the animals. Raccoons have replaced feral cats at the top of the list of nuisance animals, Otis said.

“These things, if they get into houses, will cause havoc,” he said. “We need to get them off this island if we can.”

In their search for food, raccoons will get into attics and dig their way into a house, said Larry Saunders, a partner in Nuisance Wildlife Specialty of Conway. He has trapped over 30 raccoons on the island this year, including the one at the mayor’s house.

While the town’s contract maintenance crew puts out traps for feral cats, raccoons are too dangerous. And unlike the cats, the raccoons won’t be coming back to the island to live out their days in celibacy.

“They’re going to disappear,” Otis said.

One thing raccoons have in common with feral cats is the ability to breed in exponential numbers. A female has two litters of four cubs a year, Saunders said. “It just takes a long time to eradicate them,” he said.

Otis got estimates from two firms to handle raccoons under contract for the town. Town Council members had no trouble deciding between them. They will use Nuisance Wildlife Specialty because they use live traps. The alternate bidder uses leg traps.

“It needs to be humane trapping,” Council Member Mike Adams said.

The town will work out the details of a contract with the firm.

Adams raised the drone issue with the council this week after one flew over a neighbor’s house on the Fourth of July. “There’s an invasion-of-privacy issue,” he said. “Sometimes we have celebrities staying on the island.”

Town Attorney David DuRant found a town in New Jersey with an ordinance that limits drone flights. “It’s full of all kinds of exceptions,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is working on regulations for drones. Those include a provision that drones can only fly over the people involved in their operation.

DuRant suggested the town wait until the final FAA regulations are approved before drafting its own. Council agreed.

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