ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is encouraging more hunters to participate in the "Coyote Challenge."
The DNR started the state-wide contest to thin out high numbers of coyotes during a critical time when they're known to prey on small animals.
Coyotes are also often spotted in neighborhoods, going through trash or prowling near chicken coops. Officials said they frequently receive calls of coyote sightings or reports of coyote attacks on household pets. They said though coyote populations are at high numbers right now, residents should not be concerned.
"A lot of times, I'll be honest with you, coyotes get blamed when they're not even the culprit," said Alan Isler of the Georgia DNR. "They could be domesticated dogs attacking chickens and stuff like that, it's just people see the coyote and they automatically assume the coyote is the problem and he may just be passing through."
The Coyote Challenge opened on March 1, drawing criticism from groups of scientists who called the challenge inhumane. Isler said coyotes can be hunted at any time and the challenge is a way to control the population.
"This is simply a population control method, just like we allow deer hunting," he said. "Deer hunting is more, yes, it's out there for sports and recreation but its also a population control tool. And that's all the coyote challenge is about. It's about a population control measure, it is not to eradicate coyotes. There's no way you can eradicate a species like that."
So far, the department has tagged 70 coyotes through the contest, most of those coming from north Georgia.
Hunters can submit up to five coyote carcasses a month which will earn an entry into a monthly drawing for a free lifetime license.
For more information on the Coyote Challenge, visit the DNR's website.