July 16, 2020
Message from Mayor Weaver on Impacts to Kiawah’s Bobcat Population
I would like to take this opportunity to address the many communications I have received in the past week regarding the use of certain pesticides on Kiawah Island and their impact on Kiawah’s native bobcat population. As has been reported by the Town in multiple communications to property owners, the Town has been concerned about a decline in our bobcat population and the possible, if not likely, linkage of that decline to the use of Second-Generation Anticoagulants (SGA), frequently used by pest control companies for the control of rats. In the past year, two adult bobcats died as a result of SGA poisoning, and one of those deaths contributed to the death of four kittens. A third adult bobcat death is pending toxicology testing.
The Town’s goal is for the use of these chemicals to cease on the island and, over time, experience an increase in our healthy native bobcat population. There are many things we all can and must do to help make this happen. The Town, working closely with other partners such as the Kiawah Conservancy, will be the catalyst for these actions. All of our property owners and businesses will need to actively support these efforts if they are to be successful.
Why is this the case? 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 has petitioned for a one-year temporary ban on the use of these chemicals in the Town. I have already made the request by letter to the South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), which has regulatory authority over pesticide use in South Carolina. In prior discussions with DPR, they have been understanding and supportive of this issue and its impact on Kiawah. We are also considering other avenues to ensure that all residents are aware of the issues associated with the use of SGAs.
In the meantime, we must begin an aggressive and comprehensive campaign for voluntary action by all. We have already created, in partnership with the Kiawah Conservancy, a series of actions and communications that will begin next week aimed at each of the many different stakeholders in this issue. This includes property owners, property managers, businesses, rental managers, regime managers, and the many pesticide companies that provide their services to the community.
The first objective of this campaign will be to fully educate consumers about the issue, and better enable them to work with their pest control provider to ensure that they are providing these services without the use of these chemicals. The second objective will be to engage the local pest control businesses collaboratively and work toward eliminating the use of these chemicals and establishing acceptable replacement control programs. We feel confident that many companies currently doing business on the island will be full partners in seeking solutions to this issue. The third objective will be to introduce a voluntary program that will allow all stakeholders to sign on to a public pledge to use “bobcat friendly” practices. Information on all of these efforts will be forthcoming from the Town and Conservancy in the coming days.