Coyotes don’t belong in Georgia

Footballs don’t belong on a baseball diamond. And track spikes don’t belong in a gym. Tennis balls don’t belong on a basketball court. And coyotes don’t belong in Georgia. 
The target group for this message might be limited. Or, maybe it’s not.
Granted, all of us are not hunters or own a herd of cattle, nor do we all own pets, but we all go outside. Folks, there is an invasive species that is now well established in all 159 counties in Georgia and is gobbling up wildlife, livestock and domestic pets. Yes, the recent spike in Georgia’s coyote population is definitely something to howl about. 
More than four years ago, I interviewed Charlie Killmaster, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. According to Killmaster, coyotes were first transplanted to the Appalachian Mountains in the 1950s. Fox hunters brought the coyotes, endemic to the western states, east to hunt with their hounds. This was prohibited at the time and continued into the ‘70s. “And at some point in time, the eastern expansion (of the western coyote) met the resident population and that’s when the population boomed,” Killmaster said. “Sometime in the ‘80s, we had coyotes in virtually every county in the state, but not in the numbers we see now.”
A coyote’s diet ranges from berries to dogs, and they like to prey on newborn calves, whitetail deer fawns and young turkey, among other things. Over the last few years, hunters have begun to notice a drastic decrease in fawns and young turkeys. Though extensive documentation of coyote devastation is still being built, I did ask Charlie about it. He said, “There are extreme cases, like the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, where they documented really high predator rates, up to 75 percent of the fawns being eaten by coyotes.” 
On Feb. 17, the DNR announced its Coyote Challenge. Though the state of Georgia has never paid a bounty for any animal, this is the DNR’s way to help reduce the coyote population. According to the DNR, “Each coyote killed, up to five per month per hunter/trapper, will earn an entry into a monthly drawing for a lifetime license (or equal credit for purchases of hunting/fishing licenses).” Complete information can be found at: georgiawildlife.com/hunting/resources/CoyoteChallenge.
Tuesday night, while feeding the boys’ dog, I could hear the yelping of a pack of coyotes in the Mud Creek community. Though I don’t feel the Coyote Challenge is enough to deal with this problem, at least it’s a start. I just hope it’s not too little too late.
The bottom line is: Georgia needs coyotes about as much as a ballerina needs cleats.
Alan NeSmith is publisher of The Northeast Georgian. Email him at anesmith@thenortheastgeorgian.com.

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