Bobcat Preservation Efforts

Kiawah’s historically healthy bobcat population has declined dramatically over the last two years. The use of second-generation anticoagulant (SGAs) rodenticides is the primary contributing factor and is responsible for at least seven bobcat deaths in the last year. Biologists estimate Kiawah has ten or fewer bobcats on the island at this time, down from a historic population of 30-35. Kiawah’s bobcat population may never recover unless action is taken now.

Kiawah’s Bobcat Guardians

Featured here are Kiawah’s Bobcat Guardians which consist of residents, pest management providers, and business partners who have committed to protecting our bobcats by ceasing the use of SGAs.

Resident Bobcat Guardians

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:

  • Brodifacoum
  • Bromadiolone
  • Difenacoum
  • Difethialone

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.

Concerning Trends

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.

Regulation Information

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.