November 24, 2017

Maine’s Coyote Management Plan: Poorly Planned or Planned in Fear? Designed to Fail?

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It was nearly 2 weeks ago that I shared with readers some facts about what was taking place on the ground regarding Maine’s Predation Management effort. In that report, it was determined that the cost of dispensing one coyote/wolf had risen to $146.00 from $106.00 last year. This is absolutely no good.

Last year the entire blame of the failure of the program was laid at the feet of a mild winter in which deer didn’t “yard up” and no coyotes in the yard. While an acceptable excuse at the time, what did the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) do to counter this natural phenomenon should it happen again? After all, while mild winters is helpful to the deer, is does nothing about reducing coyote depredation.

Also in the previous report, I included a snowfall map of Maine. It showed some portions of Maine with waist deep snow and others with under a foot. If you look at the latest NOAA snow depth map, one can see that the amount of snow has actually diminished since January 10. This seems to mostly go along with the most recent Predation Management Report and what was said in an email that was sent to me that originated at MDIFW, from John Pratt, Wildlife Management Section Supervisor.

Please find attached an update on this year’s Predation Management effort. Regional biologists maintain weekly contact with program participants to make adjustments as needed and every two weeks we evaluate the effort statewide considering; coyote activity, deer mobility, snow conditions, hunter success, hunter effort and our budget. Based on these factors we have added two more priority areas and a few more program participants.

In general, deer are highly mobile state wide as are coyotes which are observed to be favoring easier prey. Because of good mobility, food abundance and low coyote densities, coyotes are not responding well to bait sites. Per our protocol we continue to monitor these priority areas and remove coyotes as presence and conditions allow. In addition, we closely watch our budget for opportunities to activate additional pre-identified priority areas to maximize our effort.

Conditions can change rapidly and our biologists and participants adjust accordingly. –John

Sounds good doesn’t it? But obviously it is not working. Enough coyotes/wolves are not being killed and the cost per animal keeps rising.

And I do question one particular comment in the above email. Pratt said, “low coyote densities” was one of the things hampering predator control. Should that be better defined to say low coyote densities in deer yards? Or is he trying to convince somebody there aren’t enough coyotes to kill?

So what should be done to control coyotes? Is there a better plan? Of course there is but it is doubtful Mainers will ever see any parts of a better plan due to a number of things; mostly fear combined with indoctrinated beliefs that coyotes, i.e. large predators are “good” for the ecosystem. But let’s not get off track.

Let’s start at the beginning and the first tell tale sign that this so-called plan is doomed to failure. When the reports are sent out, notice if you will in the below report (the latest one I have received) that in the upper right hand corner it is titled, “2012/2013 Predation Management, Interim Update.” Predators should not be “managed.” They need to be controlled. The term management intimates that a species is being taken care of to provide surplus populations for harvest opportunities, i.e. trapping and hunting. Maine, at the present time does not need to be “managing” coyotes for surplus harvest. The goal here, or at least Maine sportsmen were told as such and it’s written in Maine’s Plan for Deer, was to implement a program to reduce the number of coyotes in those areas where deer are struggling to survive. So the question might be asked, is it called management because the MDIFW is actually trying to manage instead of control coyotes or is MDIFW attempting to be politically correct and not offend the animal rights perverts who don’t want their precious dogs killed that are killing deer and other animals, while spreading disease?

coyotereport3

I spent some time communicating with trappers and hunters about this program. Some of those I emailed with are participants in the “management” program. What I wanted to find out from these people, because they are representative of those with continuous boots on the ground and have an excellent perspective on what is actually taking place. Having collected those ideas, along with some of my own, I thought I would offer up some suggestions on how to improve this coyote program and turn it into a control program.

But before I get into suggestions, I might point out that suggestions can be damned if the state of Maine is not actually serious about saving the whitetail deer. Talk is cheap but doing what needs to be done, regardless of who it might offend, is what is absolutely necessary to save deer in those regions of Maine severely affected. Anything short of that will not work and it appears MDIFW has that proof right in front of them.

Here are the ideas in no particular order or priority:

* – Establish a set of criteria to use to determine what constitutes a “priority area.” Perhaps MDIFW already has this but it is unknown to me and all those that I communicated with. This leads me to suspect that either there is not established criteria and/or the boots on the ground stakeholders were not sought out in establishing priority areas.

One trapper indicated that he was led to believe MDIFW was using historical deer wintering areas as “priority areas”. It has been over a decade now that I have been writing to explain that deer are a much more adaptive animal than biologists sometimes give them credit for. Going wherever the coyotes are is a must for successful trapping and hunting. In other areas of the country, ungulates are changing their habits because of the threat from large predators. The question arises as to whether or not MDIFW understands this and is adapting their game management and predator control programs to meet the changes.

* – If MDIFW insists they will continue to attempt predator control by hiring trappers and hunters, these hunters and trappers must be permitted to go where the coyotes are. I’ve read, researched and followed nationwide programs designed for deer, elk and moose management and predator control, and any plan design to target specific areas only is not about predator control but about being politically correct and appeasing the environmentalists. One trapper reported to me that trappers involved in this program knowingly drive by areas loaded with coyotes, just to get to their designated “priority” sight. There appears to be some flexibility in this as one trapper did indicate the biologist he was working with agreed to let him expand his coverage area.

* – If MDIFW insists on hiring predator trappers, then let them keep the incidentals they trap.

* – The current program needs serious revamping. Start with allowing trapping by everyone, year round until predators are brought under control and the deer have responded. This trapping will be allowed in and during fawning season as well and along migration routes. Coyotes and bears target fawns. They know where the fawning areas are and go there for their easy meals.

* – Do away with the current hired trappers and hunters and open the opportunity up for all. As I said, just targeting special areas, while a part of the program, should not be the only part. The failure that exists for two years running is the ridiculous costs associated with killing a coyote. $25,000 took out 115 coyotes by paid trappers and hunters at over $200 an animal.

* – Implement an incentive program, perhaps similar to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. We learned that when the price of coyotes pelts went up, so did the kill numbers. Maine can create a flexible pelt incentive program designed to insure each trapper and hunter will receive a minimum amount for each coyote taken. As the price of pelts goes up or down, the incentive bonus goes up and down. I was told by one trapper that $40 per coyote would be about a break even proposition. Let’s pump that up a little and see the harvest go up while at the same time putting a little extra cash in these people’s pockets.

* – I am told that the Passamaquoddy Indians are seeing some good success with their predator control programs and the deer are responding. Have we gone and talked with them about the rest of the state’s problem? Again, how serious are we about this?

* – A mapping program was suggested. If mapping of large areas of land were conducted in order to pinpoint known deer wintering areas, drainage, forests, fields, fawning areas and deer migration routes, it would not only aid in how to approach predator control and deer management but working with land owners in such a fashion might go a long ways in cutting down on the deer habitat destruction everybody rants about. I realize there is a cost associated with this but there must be grant monies, etc. available. Get our U.S. Senators and Congressmen busy.

* – We must also, if serious about saving the deer, reduce the state’s bear population. New studies are suggesting that black bears contribute as much to deer mortality as coyotes. We might start by including a fee-free bear tag on a resident big game hunting license the way it used to be. In addition, it sounds as though MDIFW is in favor of a spring bear hunt, so why don’t we have one? If MIDFW opts not to implement a spring hunt, at least up the bag limit to 2 bears.

* – Increase number of moose permits. Maine’s moose population has now grown to an official estimate of 75,000 animals and some have estimated that number to be closer to 90,000. Moose compete with deer to some degree with food and habitat and it doesn’t require a degree in wildlife biology to understand that moose are plentiful in regions where deer are not. If only temporary, up the number of moose permits being issued in order to not hinder the deer herd regrowth. While not a huge determining factor, at this point any little bit might help.

These are mostly the ideas of trappers and hunters I have talked with, along with a few of my own. I tried to include mostly those that seemed in agreement with all that I communicated with. The current plan simply is not working and it’s time to rethink it. If Maine and the Governor are serious about the value in saving the deer herd, we can’t wait on the weather. Maine must act seriously and decisively. Hunters and trappers must figure out a way to make this work.

On a further note, none of this is about coyote or predator eradication. It’s about reasonable and responsible wildlife management. This nation has implemented the North American Wildlife Conservation Model for decades with overwhelming success; the envy of the free world. And now environmentalists are attempting to destroy that for their own mislead programs and agendas. Allowing predators to grow uncontrolled is irresponsible. Maine sportsmen will not tolerate thoughtless wildlife management.

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