A controversial statewide coyote killing contest saw a dramatic increase in animal deaths over the previous year — an outcome disappointing to critics of the contest.
The Georgia Coyote Challenge conducted by the state’s Department of Natural Resources encourages people to kill the animals from March to August for a chance to win a lifetime hunting license or similarly valued prize. This year, 215 hunters killed 431 coyotes.
During the 2017 challenge period, 83 hunters turned in a total of 195 coyotes. That’s a 121 percent increase.
Tina Johannsen, a DNR wildlife biologist, said the increase was “a function of the entry system.” Last year, submissions were made by presenting a carcass at a field office; this year, people could apply much more accessibly by using a photo and online entry form.
Coyotes had to be killed in Georgia to be eligible, and officials said metadata would be analyzed to determine the date and location of the provided images.
Habersham County, near Helen and the Tennessee border, sent in the most photos of dead coyotes at 26. Only 10 other counties had entries in the double digits, with Bartow, Floyd, Gilmer, Banks, Franklin, Warren, Atkinson, Hall, Hancock and McDuffie submitting a collective 115 coyotes.
Atlanta area counties submitted far fewer. Gwinnett and Cobb had six each; Fulton had two and DeKalb submitted none.
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Officials say the contest is intended to remind the public that coyotes may be hunted year-round. Animal advocates say the contest is inhumane.
Berry College professor and Atlanta Coyote Project founder Chris Mowry said the year-over-year increase is “sad and shocking to me, although not surprising.”
There is no scientific evidence to support the challenge as a wildlife management tool, and killing predators disrupts functioning ecosystems, Mowry said. He added that many Georgians have “strong ethical objections” toward the Georgia Coyote Challenge.
“Submitting cell phone images of dead coyotes for a chance to win a prize makes those objections even stronger for many people, yet their voices are not being heard,” he said.
Coyote sightings in metro Atlanta are fairly common, and often cause a stir among residents who fear for the safety of their children or pets. Coyotes have been spotted in public places such as Piedmont Park and also in homeowners’ backyards. Shortly before the 2017 hunting challenge began, a rabid coyote attacked a Roswell man on his morning run.
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