Information & Resources
Our Bobcat Population
Kiawah is world-renowned for its bobcat population, which historically was one of the healthiest, densest bobcat populations in the country. Bobcats on Kiawah Island have been tracked annually using GPS collars since 2007 and this study is the longest continuous study on bobcats in the world. Beginning in 2017, Town Biologists started seeing an increase in bobcat deaths on the island and a subsequent decrease in bobcat numbers. Since August 2019, seven bobcats (one of which was a female pregnant with 4 kittens) have died due to SGA toxicity or exposure.
Eliminate the Toxic Foursome
Tell your pest control provider not to use second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGAs) on your property. These include:
Pest control companies are required to disclose the active ingredient in all pesticides they are using. Ask your pest control provider to provide in writing what they are using on your property. If you do your own pest control, check the active ingredient on the label to make sure you are not using any of the active ingredients above.
Rethink Your Control Strategy
Use Integrated Pest Management to address rodent problems:
- Identify specific rodent problems and locations by doing a thorough survey of the property. Only take action if a problem exists. Seeing a rodent in your yard is not a rodent problem.
- Use non-chemical methods of rodent control (eliminate food/water sources, exclude rodents from structures by sealing exterior holes and cracks, use traps).
- Pesticides should only be used as a last resort for large infestations inside structures. The pesticide should only be applied for a short time (typically 10 days) and then stopped once the problem is resolved.
Know Pesticides – It’s All About Ingredients
If pesticides are necessary, first-generation anticoagulants (warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone) are slightly better than second-generation anticoagulants but still have secondary effects on wildlife and should not be used. The best option would be a product that uses bromethalin or cholecalciferol. While these products have significantly lower secondary effects on bobcats and other predators, they are still potentially toxic if consumed directly by pets and can only be used inside of a tamper-resistant bait station. Brand names of products containing these rodenticides are listed below:
- Cholecalciferol – Terad3 Blox, d-Con Pro Bait Station Blocks
- Bromethalin – Tomcat Bait Station Blocks, Victor Fast Kill Refillable Rat Bait Station
Federal law requires that all rodenticide packaging clearly display the active ingredient and instructions for use. Failure to follow the instructions on the label is a violation of state and federal law. Always check the label before using any rodenticide product.
Other Ways to Help
While Kiawah still has plenty of excellent bobcat habitat, it has less than it did ten years ago. This means that bobcats have to travel further and expand their home range size to meet their needs. Because bobcats are territorial, larger home range sizes mean fewer bobcats on the island. Also, increased travel by bobcats makes them more susceptible to vehicle collisions and other mortality events.
Residents can easily help replace their habitat by exchanging or adding native landscaping to their property that promotes bobcat habitat (Saw Palmettos, Yaupon Holly, Black Needlerush, Wax Myrtle, Saltmeadow Cordgrass, Little Bluestem, and Broomsedge) and let buffer areas grow back naturally. More information is available through the Town’s Grow Native initiative at www.grownativekiawah.com
Kiawah’s bobcat population may never recover unless action is taken now. Biologists estimate Kiawah has 10 or fewer bobcats on the island at this time, down from a historic population of 30-35. If we continue to lose bobcats and don’t fix this problem immediately, bobcats likely won’t be able to successfully breed and produce viable offspring. Even if the small number remaining do successfully produce offspring, they would be doing so in a genetic bottleneck. This effectively means that the resulting offspring and their offspring would be a product of inbreeding and would have diminished survival. This is one of the mechanisms that cause animal populations to become extinct.
It is a critical, time-sensitive issue that is having profound effects on the island and our residents. The decline of bobcat numbers has resulted in almost double the number of deer on the island. This is causing more deer-car collisions, an increased risk of contracting Lyme Disease and other illnesses associated with deer, more damage to landscape shrubbery, and has forced the Town to implement a deer management program in our community for the first time in our history.
The Town currently cannot regulate or prohibit the use of SGAs. In April, Town Council was prepared to pass an ordinance that would have done this. That action was challenged, and legal opinions since have confirmed that South Carolina law broadly prohibits municipalities from enacting local regulations to control pesticide use. The Town has not ruled out the possibility of challenging that law, but such a challenge will be costly, time-consuming, and in the meantime, the use of these chemicals would continue unabated. The Town and the Kiawah Conservancy have both petitioned the SC Department of Pesticide Regulation for a one-year temporary ban on the use of these chemicals in the Town. The request is pending.
Update August 13, 2020
The Clemson Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has denied the Town’s request for a temporary, one-year prohibition on second-generation anticoagulant (SGA) use on Kiawah Island. The temporary ban would have immediately removed these products from our ecosystem and mitigated any further damage to our bobcat population and other wildlife while our community works on a permanent solution to this issue.
The public announcement is provided here.
Department of Pesticide Regulation Letter