Kiawah’s bobcat population sees significant decline

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – At any given time, around 30-35 bobcats roam Kiawah Island but recently, the population is down to 10 or less.

This could be because of development and more people around the island, but local leaders say certain pesticides are to blame for the declining bobcat population.

These rodenticides are called second-generation anticoagulants, or SGA’s. They’ve been used as a common form of rodent control for decades. They have also been in use on Kiawah island for some time.

But, recently, a deceased Kiawah bobcat was sent off for testing and SGA chemicals were found in the cat’s system.

Local leaders, including Kiawah Mayor Craig Weaver, requested a temporary ban on the use of SGA’s on the island.

The request was sent to Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). This department oversees the sale and use of pesticides in South Carolina.

The request was denied.

Clemson’s DPR responded by saying in part:

Because of voluntary compliance exhibited by the pest control industry, coupled with our ongoing educational efforts, your requested regulatory action prohibiting the use of SGA rodenticides on the island is premature at this time.

Now, a campaign to save the bobcats is circling Kiawah. Property and business owners can take a pledge and become a Bobcat Guardian.

“We have a program, a bobcat pledge program in which we are asking property owners and businesses to voluntarily pledge not to use these rodenticide chemicals which is just getting started,” said Mayor Craig Weaver.

The campaign seeks to educate people about the reported dangers of SGA’s. Several licensed pesticide companies who cater to the island have also worked to stop the use of the chemicals.

State pesticide expert, Jim Wright, with the South Carolina Pest Control Association (SCSPA) says banning SGA’s on Kiawah may not have the desired results and would take at least a couple of years to take effect.

“The reality is, mandates, arent always the answer,” said Wright. “In my experience is that if you can come up with a way for the best brightest minds to tackle a problem to work together to voluntarily resolve that, that’s where your real benefit comes from.”

This is why the SCSPA, Clemson’s DPR, and Kiawah are working together to come up with an alternative method of rodent control that will enact no harm to the bobcat population.

Bobcats are native to South Carolina and offer many benefits to the ecosystem, such as controlling the deer population.

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