On March 1st, Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources will open its second annual Coyote Challenge. It invites hunters to present coyotes they’ve killed in exchange for the chance to win some free prizes. The mysterious southern coyote is considered a nuisance to some people and other wildlife. First, we heard a report from GPB’s Grant Blankenship on researchers who catch and release coyotes to give them GPS tags. Then we were joined by Chris Mowry, associate professor of Biology at Berry College and cofounder of the Atlanta Coyote Project, to talk more about the Coyote Challenge.
Adam Ragusea: You are not a supporter of incentivizing coyote hunting in Georgia, is that correct?
Chris Mowry: Yes, that’s correct. Our organization, which is based in science, has very much opposed the Georgia Coyote Challenge.
Ragusea: Why is that?
Mowry: Well, we have to understand first of all why coyotes are here in the first place. They’re here because we as humans have eliminated the red wolf in the southeast through extensive trapping efforts hunting, poisoning, you know really a government sponsored eradication program that occurred throughout the early parts of the 20th century and nature’s going to fill a vacuum and certain in this case it did. So, the coyote simply moved in to fill that void.
Ragusea: What are these folks [hunters] missing in how they consider coyotes to be nuisance animals?
Mowry: Well I would point to the DNR zone website that used to say that the coyote is a largely misunderstood creature and despite its nuisance reputation, it proves to be an asset in maintain the balance of wildlife in Georgia. Now conveniently that quote disappeared at the instigation of this Georgia Coyote Challenge. The DNR also published a deer management plan. The deer management plan also said similarly that coyote bounties are viewed as an ineffective tool. Wildlife Resources Division and the Georgia State General Assembly oppose coyote bounty programs so they’re clearly contradicting what they originally said.
Ragusea: Are you saying that the hunt itself would be ineffective at controlling the coyote population even if that were a goal to be pursued?
Mowry: That’s right. There is lots of evidence that shows that it would be counterproductive. Coyotes are social animals. There are only adult males and females that breed. The alpha animals live in small family groups and those adults essentially impeded the subordinate animals from breeding. Once you disrupt that social structure by indiscriminately killing, you’re not sure whom you’re killing. You’re now freeing up the subordinate animals to then breed and so you end up with more coyotes then you actually started with.