Trapping urban coyotes is an effective way to remove nuisance animals and instill fear in the creatures, but won't eliminate the predators from an area, an experienced coyote trapper told a small crowd of Decatur and Druid Hills residents Tuesday night.
Trapper Chip Elliot, owner of Atlanta Wildlife Relocator, said metro Atlanta "is never going to be clear of coyotes ever again. They're here to stay."
Tuesday's meeting at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany was organized by Decatur resident Christy Bosarge, whose cat was attacked and killed by coyotes, and the Druid Hills Civic Association, which is monitoring residents' concerns about coyotes.
Bosarge has been alarmed about the threat coyotes pose to humans since the normally nocturnal animals attacked and killed her family cat at 11:45 a.m. on her doorstep on East Parkwood.
Urban coyotes are "neurologically and behaviorally evolving" from timid, nocturnal creatures into brazen beasts that don't fear humans that have attacked and killed people, Bosarge said.
She cited instances in which an Atlanta teenager was attacked, a Cobb County woman's dog was ripped from her leash, and coyotes were filmed stalking a young child in a back yard. In Canada, a woman hiking in a national park was attacked, killed and eaten by coyotes.
"This is not just a Decatur problem, it's a metro Atlanta problem," said Bosarge. She urged greater education of people about the threat posed by coyotes as well as a more coordinated system for monitoring their whereabouts.
In Decatur, residents who spot coyotes should fill out a coyote tracking form that the city has posted online.
The city created the form after a December meeting at which Bosarge described aggressive coyotes and urged the city to do something. The city, however, says the best strategy is to coexist with the coyotes, don't leave food outside and keep small animals inside.
Kathy Mooneyham, director of Dekalb County Animal Services, and field supervisor Kevin Hearst said their office does not handle complaints about wildlife unless the animal is inside a home. Coyotes are a species known to carry rabies, although rabies does not appear prevalent in coyotes.
Since coyotes are not considered endangered animals or livestock, no governmental agency tracks the animals, said Mooneyham.
When DeKalb gets calls about coyotes, they refer callers to AWARE, Atlanta Wildlife Animal Rescue Effort, a wildlife group based in DeKalb County.
Trapping the animals disrupts the pack and reinstills their normal fear of humans, said Elliott.
An Atlanta area golf course that had been seeing coyotes daily hired Elliott to trap the animals, and after capturing seven coyotes in two weeks, the golf course stopped seeing the animals, Elliott said.
He showed the padded leg traps that don't break the animal's leg. Traps may only be placed on land with an owner's permission, and Elliott posts signs in areas where he traps to prevent pets from being snared.
On rare occasions when he traps a pet, the pets have escaped from their owner and have not been harmed, Elliott says.
A Vinings neighborhood hired Elliott after losing more than 50 pets in 60 days, Elliott said. But Elliott says his trapping won't eliminate coyotes from an area, because new animals will move in.
Coyotes are "the most successful predator in the world," Elliott said, and they eat everything
By state law, any coyotes captured must be destroyed. Of the three approved methods for killing the animals --gas, injection or shooting -- Elliott prefers shooting the animal because it's quick and safest for the human handler.
February is the time of year when coyotes are breeding, and Elliott says he stays busy from September until the end of April trapping the animals.
Urban coyotes in metro Atlanta weight 30-40 pounds, but 50-pound animals are not unusual. They can be gray, black, red or blonde, says Elliott, who has been a trapper for 24 years.
Some members of the audience were opposed to trapping the animals, noting that dogs threaten people and other dogs and cats kill songbirds.
Jeff Bragg, a resident of Chelsea Heights, said coyotes were prevalent in his native Texas but coyotes aren't among the predator animals, such as rattlesnakes, that Texans are taught to fear.
Bragg said herders of goats and sheet will "kill coyotes every chance they get" or erect 6-to-8-foot fences, but coyotes aren't a real threat.
"Coyotes haven't killed as many people in a century as loose dogs kill in a year," Bragg said. The way to control coyotes is "to control their food sources" by not leaving pet food and garbage out for the animals, he said.
Bob Ballou of the Druid Hills Civic Association said he would post notes about Tuesday night's meeting on the Eastlake Neighborhood web site later in the week, and invited residents to post questions and concerns there.
Bruce MacGregor, president of the Druid Hills Civic Association, also attended the meeting to find out more about the problem, he said.