Golfers playing a round at Augusta Municipal Golf Course are used to hearing chirping birds, buzzing insects and the occasional waterfowl.
In recent weeks the howling of coyotes have become part of the chorus at the course affectionately known as the Patch.
“We used to notice them, but now they’re beginning to come out a little bit more than what they were in the beginning,” course general manager Ira Miller said. “A lot of people have said they’ve seen dogs out here, I’ve heard everything from a dog to a fox.”
Coyotes are not native to Georgia and began making a home in the Southeast as early as the 1970s, said Mark Whitney, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources assistant director of Wildlife Resources.
By the mid-’90s, the omnivorous predators had populated all 159 Georgia counties. Though widespread, Whitney doesn’t believe they pose as much of a threat as the public thinks.
“People see them as a nuisance. It’s more of a potential individual perception issue,” he said. “Obviously if they show up in someone’s backyard, they’ll have concerns.”
When they showed up at neighboring Daniel Field Airport, Augusta Aviation was more than concerned. Wildlife on the runways can create hazardous conditions for pilots when they are attempting to take off or land.
Miller believes the coyotes are finding ways through the chain link fence separating his course from the airport.
“We’re talking with the airport now,” Miller said. “ We’re going to see if we can do some type of joint venture here to eliminate this problem.”
Coyotes have been known to prey on pets such as dogs and cats, but Georgia has never dealt with a case of the mammal attacking humans.
Still, the Department of Wildlife Resources is giving Georgia residents incentives to help rid them from the Georgia ecosystem.
The Georgia Coyote Challenge program gives hunters a chance to win a lifetime hunting license for each coyote they kill until August.
“It’s a way to call attention to the problem,” Whitney said. “We recognize we’ve got coyotes everywhere and people see them as a nuisance. We’ve got research in Georgia showing their impacts on other wildlife. As it works its way into the food web, it will have some effect there.”