The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is bringing back its controversial Coyote Challenge for a second year. The program was conceived of to rein in the growing coyote population across the state.
A year ago, hunters were encouraged to take down a coyote and bring the carcass to any of a number of DNR offices. Hunters could take an unlimited number of coyotes, but could only enter five a month in a monthly drawing for lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.
This year hunters will earn up to 10 entries into three drawings that will be held every other month from March through August for the lifetime licenses, a $750 value.
Berry College associate professor of biology Chris Mowry said the hunt is a bad idea for several reasons. Mowry, the leader of the Atlanta Coyote Project, said killing top predators disrupts the ecosystem.
"The coyote is now probably assuming the role of top predator. Some will argue that they are not native, but they are here because we wiped out the red wolf and it allowed the coyote to move in."
"Negative interactions with coyotes are an ongoing issue for many citizens, from rural land managers to suburban homeowners," says John Bowers, Chief of Game Management for the DNR Wildlife Resources Division in a press release. "While many hunters, trappers and landowners already make use of the fact that coyotes can be taken year round, the Coyote Challenge emphasizes the utility of removing these non-native predators during the critical spring-summer period for landowners concerned about native wildlife."
Mowry said that at one point the DNR's own website said that despite its reputation as a nuisance species, the coyote is actually beneficial in keeping other species in check.
"They are predators, but there are studies that have come out recently that have shown that there is no strong evidence that coyotes are impacting, in any great way, deer populations. Will they take the occasional deer? Sure, more than likely in the form of a fawn," Mowry said. "We just don't see any evidence that they are decimating some population of any particular species."
Sportsmen are being asked to take a photo of the coyote with a smartphone and email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos must include the entire, intact carcass. Hunters will then receive an auto-reply that will provide a link to the entry form.