Sadly, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced the “Georgia Coyote Challenge” in a misguided attempt to reduce state coyote numbers. The Atlanta Coyote Project strongly rejects this wildlife-killing contest as both inhumane and unwise. For a state agency whose mission is to “sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources” to sponsor such a program is reprehensible.
Hard data showing that coyotes significantly impact the populations of other wildlife species is scant to nonexistent. In fact, the presence of coyotes in an ecosystem “proves to be an asset in maintaining the balance of wildlife in Georgia.” This statement comes from the DNR’s own website. And recent studies in South Carolina concluded that the negative impact of coyotes on deer populations is minimal (Kilgo et al., 2016).
The contention that coyote “removal” will reduce the population long-term is also highly suspect. More than likely, it will lead to an INCREASE in coyote numbers over time as competition is reduced and a resurgence occurs. To see the ineffectiveness of lethal control as a wildlife management strategy, one needs to look no further than the estimated 70,000 coyotes that are killed each year by the USDA’s Wildlife Services.
The “Coyote Challenge” announcement refers to coyotes as “non-native predators.” While it is true that coyotes are relatively recent immigrants into the southeastern US, they are here because humans eliminated the wolves that preceded them. And archeological sites from the late Pleistocene have actually yielded coyote remains from as far east as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, so referring to these animals as invaders is misleading. Killing predators leads to unintended ecological consequences. DNR biologists should know better. Past efforts to eradicate wolves have clearly shown this.
Encouraging the killing of coyotes beginning in March (the beginning of pup-rearing season) is intended to maximize the lethal effect. Both coyote parents are involved in and are necessary for the rearing of the offspring by bringing food back to the den. As a result, pups will starve to death as their parents are killed off.
Predator killing contests have appeared recently in a number of states and they are often instigated by misinformed legislators. If you are opposed to the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife, please speak out by contacting the Georgia DNR and by voicing your opposition to your state legislators.