Intown Coyotes: Organization works to erase misconceptions about wildlife

A coyote in Piedmont Park (Photo by Larry Wilson)

Yes, that probably was a coyote you saw at dusk in Piedmont Park.

This could be the same animal previously spotted near The Carter Center, who may have used The Path or Atlanta BeltLine to arrive in the park. Are you curious or concerned? Either way, the Atlanta Coyote Project is here to explain how we can co-exist peacefully.

“These are really interesting, smart animals that are not out to do us harm. As a biologist, I would encourage people to appreciate them as you do all wildlife. We owe it to other species to share the planet with them,” Atlanta Coyote Project co-founder Dr. Chris Mowry said.

The Atlanta Coyote Project consists of scientists and students primarily from Berry College and Emory University. The project’s work includes public education, a centralized database of Atlanta coyote sightings, activity, and incidents, and peer-reviewed, scientific research.

In 2014, 2,000 metro Atlanta residents responded to the project’s survey about human-coyote interactions. More than three-quarters of the respondents expressed concern for their pets’ safety. However, less than three percent reported a verifiable incident of an injured or killed pet.

“The number one misconception is that coyotes are dangerous to people and pets. They are shy, very secretive animals. Cats are not natural prey items for coyotes. That would have to be a learned behavior and there are plenty of other things out there for coyotes to eat,” Mowry said, noting that pet owners should still bring their animals inside at night to be safe.

Actual human attacks reported were almost non-existent. By contrast, every day nearly 1,000 people in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms for dog bites.

Did you know that any coyote captured by a trapper will be euthanized and that killing coyotes will actually increase their numbers? It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

Chris Mowry, associate professor Department of Biology at Berry College sets-up a trail camera. (Photo by Brant Sanderlin/Berry College)

Territorial by nature, coyotes occupy an area where their needs are met. Killing a coyote creates a vacancy that a transient in search of territory will fill. With less competition, more food is available to the new occupant and enables more pups to survive. Thus setting in motion a vicious cycle of trapping followed by repopulation.

“When you trap and kill, coyotes respond with larger litter sizes and so you’ll end up with more coyotes,” Mowry said.

Tragically, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) launched the “Georgia Coyote Challenge” last March in a misguided attempt to reduce state coyote numbers, Mowry said. Georgian’s were encouraged to hunt coyotes. This killing contest was announced two weeks before it went into effect with no public comment. There was immediate public outcry about animal cruelty and public safety concerns.

“People may not understand fire arm regulations and may take shots at coyotes in more urban areas,” Mowry said.

Plus, there is little or no hard data that coyotes significantly impact wildlife species. In fact, DNR’s own website stated that the presence of coyotes in an ecosystem “proves to be an asset in maintaining the balance of wildlife in Georgia.” For instance, coyotes can help keep the rodent population down.

A closer look at the coyote in Piedmont Park (Photo by Larry Wilson)

This challenge is more likely to increase the coyote population over time. The Atlanta Coyote Project urges Georgians to reach out to Gov. Nathan Deal and elected state officials to end the program and initiate legislation to stop future wildlife killing contests.

“Coyotes are here because humans wiped out red wolves. That paved the way for coyotes to move in. It’s a smaller animal with a broader diet (small mammals, fruit, and insects). They are here to stay. Trying to eradicate them is futile. But they are only going to produce the offspring that the environment can support,” Mowry said.

Intown resident can co-exist peacefully with coyotes by keeping their diet limited to the natural world. Don’t feed your pets outside, secure your garbage and compost, and avoid overflowing bird feeders that attract chipmunks and squirrels that coyotes feed on.

On the rare occasion of a coyote that is too close to your home – make loud noises, squirt them with a water hose, or install motion detector lights.

If we are proactive and “keep pets inside at night and don’t let coyotes get access to our food, they will control their own numbers. But it does take cooperation throughout the community,” Mowry said.

To learn more about coyotes, oppose the DNR Georgia Coyote Challenge, document a coyote sighting, or making a donation, visit atlantacoyoteproject.org.

4 Comments
  1. Coyotes attack and/or kill dogs in my area constantly. My dog’s life was saved after I heard her scream and my yelling scared a coyote away. They don’t even kill dogs for food or survival – simply for sport. After over $2,000 in vet bills and my little dog suffering needlessly, I’m not a big proponent for their survival. AND I LOVE ANIMALS!!!

  2. This article is a propaganda piece for coyote lovers. Some of the article is true, but certainly not all. Coyotes are opportunistic and will take small dogs and cats if they are hungry and can surprise one. There didn’t used to be as many coyotes, but then neighborhood dogs ran free, with an entirely different set of attendant problems.

    I don’t want coyotes anywhere near where I live, and having lived in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota I have plenty of experience with these predators. I have a fenced yard and the coyotes jump the fences to go after the squirrels and chipmunks that also love the forrest.

    No more propaganda please.

  3. When coyotes started showing up in yards less than a mile from downtown Decatur, I finally knew what happened to my rescue’s cats! Until then I thought a neighbor was poisoning them. The cats were fully vetted and ready for adoption, going into storefronts. 18 disappeared over that 1st summer even after we had a fence AND cat fence installed–they just sailed right over it. One snatched a neighbor’s old cat off of her front porch while she was just feet away IN THE a.m.

    Sorry for them, but not a fan. ( Have not posted this before now)

  4. Coyotes were extinct east of Mississippi River until idiots reintroduced them in the 80s. They eat every catsnd dog they can catch. They will eventually kill a child.

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