- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) - More than 160 coyotes have been killed in Georgia since the state’s “coyote challenge” for hunters and trappers began in April.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s program allows hunters and trappers the chance to win a lifetime sporting license by killing up to five coyotes each month, The Times reported (https://bit.ly/2seCJhl).

Each kill counts as an entry in the monthly raffle.

So far, more than 40 people have participated in the program, which continues until August, the Gainesville newspaper reported.

“The only thing that would prevent you from removing one would be local ordinances, which control discharges of firearms,” said Tina Johannsen, program operations manager at the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.

State wildlife officials say coyotes are now present in large numbers in every county in Georgia. They range from 15 to 30 pounds and usually travel in packs.

State officials say the animals are unprotected, invasive animals that prey on calves, chickens, other livestock and pets.

The DNR plans to continue its coyote challenge from April to August next year, Johannsen said. That covers fawning season for deer and nesting season for turkeys - when coyotes can do the most damage to game populations.

The department is considering changing the program to increase participation next year to allow hunters and trappers to submit timestamped photos of their kills instead of requiring them to bring a carcass to a DNR office.

“By no means are we trying to remove coyotes from Georgia or do we think we would have a Georgia-level impact on their population,” Johannsen said last week. “What we are trying to do is highlight to land managers that this option is out there.”

The DNR estimates that deer hunters kill about 75,000 coyotes, which can be heavy predators of fawn, during the course of deer season.

Despite the huge culling every year, coyotes keep coming back.

They’ve caused serious problems for Elaine Kelley, who owns Potting Shed Nursery in Flowery Branch, she said.

“I’m next to the fire station. When the siren would go off, it sounded like an Alfred Hitchcock movie - it was just howling, unbelievable howling,” Kelley said. “… It sounded like 100 - I know there wasn’t 100 back there - but you could actually see their pups running for cover from the field into the edge of the tree line.”

“The whole meadow back there would just start waving like a windstorm with the pups trying to get back to the wood line with their mothers,” she added.

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