Coyotes generally pose little threat to humans, but they are wild animals and should be treated with caution. Reported cases of humans being bitten or attacked by coyotes are extremely rare. By contrast, every day nearly 1,000 people in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms for dog bites.
The incidence of rabies in coyotes is also quite low. For example, in 2010 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported only 10 cases of rabies in coyotes nationwide, while there were reports of 2,246 rabid raccoons and 1,430 rabid bats.
Preventive measures and passive management are the best ways to avoid coyote conflict.
The presence of coyotes in an urban setting usually triggers a predictable set of responses from the community, ranging from fear and concern to curiosity and wonder. One of our goals with the Atlanta Coyote Project is to serve as a source for information and to provide the public with a centralized place to report coyote sightings, activity, and/or human-coyote conflict across the metro area. Passive management – working to prevent conflict before it develops – is the key to coexisting peacefully with wildlife, including coyotes. Understanding coyote behavior and being proactive can prevent conflict from developing or escalating.Public agencies (e.g., law enforcement, animal control, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources) will generally not respond to complaints about coyotes unless there is a clear and imminent threat to public safety, which is rarely the case. Relocation of coyotes is not an option. Any coyote that is captured by a trapper will be euthanized.
The territorial behavior of coyotes helps to explain why trapping and killing is not a good management option. If coyotes are regularly occupying an area (i.e., have established a territory), it means they’ve found a good place to live where their needs are being met. Removal of these resident coyotes creates a vacancy that can eventually be filled by a transient who is in search of a territory.
Additionally, removal of resident coyotes decreases competition with any remaining coyotes in the area, which means that more food is now available. More food enables more pups to survive and the local population grows. A vicious cycle of trapping followed by repopulation is now set in motion.
Finally, trapping is costly and can only be done by a licensed professional in the state of Georgia.
Shoot or poison coyotes and you will have just as many again within a year or two. Kill one or both members of the alpha pair (A)—the only one that normally reproduces—and other pairs will form and reproduce. At the same time, lone coyotes will move in to mate, young coyotes will start having offspring sooner, and litter sizes will grow.
The Humane Society of the United States has conducted extensive research on coyote behavior and human-coyote interactions. Using this research, they have developed guidelines for communities to follow in order to peacefully co-exist with coyotes.download plan
Sadly, in 2017 the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the “Georgia Coyote Challenge” in a misguided attempt to reduce state coyote numbers. The Atlanta Coyote Project strongly rejected this wildlife-killing contest as both inhumane and unwise. For a state agency whose mission is to “sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources” to sponsor such a program is reprehensible.
Hard data showing that coyotes significantly impact the populations of other wildlife species is scant to nonexistent. In fact, the presence of coyotes in an ecosystem “proves to be an asset in maintaining the balance of wildlife in Georgia.” This statement comes from the DNR’s own website. And recent studies in South Carolina concluded that the negative impact of coyotes on deer populations is minimal (Kilgo et al., 2016).
The contention that coyote “removal” will reduce the population long-term is also highly suspect. More than likely, it will lead to an INCREASE in coyote numbers over time as competition is reduced and a resurgence occurs. To see the ineffectiveness of lethal control as a wildlife management strategy, one needs to look no further than the estimated 70,000 coyotes that are killed each year by the USDA’s Wildlife Services.
The “Coyote Challenge” announcement refers to coyotes as “non-native predators.” While it is true that coyotes are relatively recent immigrants into the southeastern US, they are here because humans eliminated the wolves that preceded them. And archeological sites from the late Pleistocene have actually yielded coyote remains from as far east as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, so referring to these animals as invaders is misleading. Killing predators leads to unintended ecological consequences. DNR biologists should know better. Past efforts to eradicate wolves have clearly shown this.
Encouraging the killing of coyotes beginning in March (the beginning of pup-rearing season) is intended to maximize the lethal effect. Both coyote parents are involved in and are necessary for the rearing of the offspring by bringing food back to the den. As a result, pups will starve to death as their parents are killed off.
Predator killing contests have appeared recently in a number of states and they are often instigated by misinformed legislators. If you are opposed to the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife, please speak out by contacting the Georgia DNR and by voicing your opposition to your state legislators.
You can read the entire letter that we sent to Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia DNR.