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Coyotes don’t belong in Georgia

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I wrote my first news article about coyotes in North Fulton around 20 years ago. They were news then. Roswell residents were enjoying living next door to federal parkland and the solitude and beauty of the parks.

What they did not enjoy was losing their cats and other pets to coyotes. It made them uncomfortable for their small children to play outside alone. That was the news: Coyotes are in the suburbs.

It is not much news now. But what is news is the apparent brazenness of the beasts that have become so comfortable in the area. Some coyotes have taken up residence in neighborhoods themselves. That is disquieting. As they lose their fear of humans, they can become something more than a nuisance.

They resemble dogs and are often mistaken for dogs, at least at a distance. And as they lose their fear of humans, they become a possible threat to children. I haven’t written a story about a coyote attack on a child yet, and I don’t want to.

Like all wild animals, coyotes are susceptible to rabies. And a rabid coyote, like the rabid dog or raccoon, is a threat to public health.

Coyotes are not native to Georgia. That is why there is no hunting season for coyotes. They can be taken at any time.

Why did they migrate here? The main reason is there are no wolves in the Southeast anymore. Wolves saw coyotes as competitors and a wolf pack is rather discouraging to coyotes, which are mostly solitary creatures.

Coyote populations are growing all over the United States. The wolves are gone, and with them, nature’s check on coyote population. Now coyotes have settled into the Southeast.

They are back because they chiefly live off rodents, and in checking those populations, they perform a service. But coyotes are adept at finding their niche in our society, so they will continue to multiply and expand their range among humans if left unchecked.

Now the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife has deemed the coyote presence a nuisance and has offered a bounty program to hunters. It is in the form of a lottery for a lifetime hunting license. Your ticket is a dead coyote.

This sounds barbarous and cruel, but that is how nature operates. Predation is nature’s way of maintaining balance.

These coyotes feast mostly on rabbits, squirrels and mice but they also take small deer. And in addition to pets, they take domestic animals including chickens, goats, lambs and even calves.

There was one member of the General Assembly I saw who suggested a $1,000 bounty for a coyote. That’s ridiculous. I don’t want to see hunters from all over the Southeast bringing in their dead coyotes at a grand a pop.

I think that was just a sop to hunters. I sure don’t want to see less than able hunters prowling the national parks or neighborhoods trying to bag enough coyotes to buy a new F-150. And I sure don’t want taxpayers paying for it.

But thinning them out and making coyotes more shy of humans and the places where humans congregate makes sense.

The reality is the DNR allows thinning of most critters that threaten to upset the ecological balance. Hunters do the job quite well. Even with deer hunting season each year, it still becomes necessary sometimes to thin deer herds (harvest is the euphemism) when the populations outstrip the land’s ability to support them.

It keeps those populations healthier and more stable.

While it may seem cruel to hunt these animals, it is with a purpose. There is no “nice” way to deal with such nuisances. And we want the DNR to deal with such issues before they become larger problems.

And Mr. Whiskers will thank you for it.

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