Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Copy Editor
|PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY WILSON|
Biologists like Chris Mowry with the Atlanta Coyote Project disapprove of the unethical and ineffective nature of the DNR’s recently introduced Georgia Coyote Challenge.
Associate professor of biology and developer of the Atlanta Coyote Project Chris Mowry has been speaking out against the Georgia Coyote Challenge.
On February 16, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources put out a press release announcing the Georgia Coyote Challenge. Starting in March, hunters are encouraged to kill up to five coyotes a month and bring the carcasses to a designated office for the opportunity to win a free lifetime hunting license.
The 16,000-acre Wildlife Management Area on Berry’s property is controlled by the DNR, meaning that this challenge hunting could potentially be occurring on Berry’s land.
“We find that really frustrating as biologists,” associate professor of biology Chris Mowry said. “This is likely going to have a detrimental effect on the community of wildlife that we have here.”
According to their website, the Atlanta Coyote Project hopes “to provide strategies for peaceful human-coyote coexistence.”
“We were absolutely stunned (when we heard about the challenge),” Mowry said. “We immediately started using our forum to come out against it officially and explain why we’re against it and why we believe it’s misguided.”
Mowry believes that this effort to reduce the coyotes’ impact on other wildlife will have the opposite of the desired effect. He explains that while coyote numbers will initially drop as a result of the challenge, there is no way that hunters will kill every coyote. The reduced population means less competition for the surviving coyotes, who will have more food and bigger litters.
“The population will bounce back and could potentially bounce back to higher numbers,” Mowry said.
“The timing of it is designed to have maximum lethal effect,” Mowry said.
He explained that pup-rearing season for coyotes begins in March, which is why the DNR has chosen to institute this program now. The DNR has instated this challenge to “encourage coyote removal efforts” in an attempt “to reduce the impact of predation on native wildlife,” since coyotes are not native to Georgia. Mowry says that there is evidence that coyotes were once native to this area, and that they have only recently moved back.
“They make the argument that the coyote is not native to the southeastern United States,” Mowry said. “That’s a very thin argument. We have fossil records of coyotes in the east that go back to the Pleistocene, which is 12,000 years ago.”
Mowry and his colleagues at the Atlanta Coyote Project pointed out that though coyotes have moved back to Georgia relatively recently, “they are here because humans eliminated the wolves that preceded them.”
Those involved with the Atlanta Coyote Project also hope to educate the public about why they believe this practice is inhumane. Mowry says that several states have been sued for implementing programs like this, and that some states have even banned these programs.