May 21, 2019

Coyotes on the Run? Let’s Get Bears on the Run Too

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LonelyCoyoteI have never met V. Paul Reynolds, but I think I should. I was never blessed with the ability to see a half-filled glass of water as half full – it’s always half-empty. Perhaps his positive and optimistic attitude would rub off on me.

Reynold’s latest article in the Sun Journal extols the successes of Maine’s coyote “suppression program” saying this effort has “coyotes on the run.”

According to Reynolds this year’s effort to limit the damage to deer in deer wintering areas has realized a harvest of around 500 coyotes – combined total from hired state coyote hunters and trappers, and private citizens by hunting, trapping and coyote derbies. Ryan Robicheau, Maine’s Wildlife Management Section Supervisor, says the budgeted amount of money for this programs, and using 500 coyotes as the number of coyotes killed, works out to $175.00 a coyote. However, if my calculations are correct, and I’m understanding the information provided, aside from the state’s effort and coyote yield of 270 varmints, all the rest of the kills were paid for out of individuals’ or groups’ pockets. Therefore, the cost per coyote harvested by state officials runs well over $200.00 – a figure most of us have come to recognize, wishing that money could be allotted to citizen trappers and hunters. Alas!

Actually, I was a bit surprised that there was still an ongoing coyote control program. It’s been so quiet (Okay let’s blame this on no PR position at MDIFW) I just assumed, like many programs the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) undertakes, just abruptly ended.

The article in reference states that the money appropriated is used to pay “professional” hunters and trappers to kill coyotes in and around “52 major deer wintering areas.” This is good and, in my opinion, with the limited supply of money, efforts should be targeted in critical areas where coyotes do the most harm. I would like to also see targeting of coyotes in known deer fawning areas. Like deer yards, coyotes know where the does go to birth, as do bears.

Maybe this is all a difference of perspective from being very optimistic and being realistic. I intend to not take away from the effort or the results. Some is good. More is even better. Here’s the take away…or is it a giveaway?

Robicheau says that this math[cost per coyote], coupled with anecdotal reports from winter trappers, strongly suggests that this coyote suppression program is working.

“Our people are seeing fewer coyotes this year in our designated deer wintering areas,”

The only way this program can continue to be successful is that this “suppression program” must be continuous, because the following year other coyotes move to the deer yards and more deer killing will commence.

What readers should not be confused about is that it might be a bit unclear about the success of this program and a program that would be designed to control the coyote population state wide. Robicheau says that anecdotal reports show a reduction in coyotes. It appears he is clarifying that when he says in the next sentence, “in our designated deer wintering areas.”

Because without exact clarification, math and previous statements made by such deer professionals as Gerry Lavigne, could get confusing. We don’t need confusion and we don’t need suppression of information. For instance, Lavigne has stated before that in order to begin reducing coyote populations, an annual coyote harvest needs to be about 70% of the existing animals. Once coyote numbers are reduced to the desired levels, that 70% harvest would need to be adjusted smaller in order to maintain a desired number. The program has to be continuous and well-monitored. Will that ever happen? NOPE!

Math can get fuzzy if we attempt to use Lavigne’s logarithm and apply it to the 500 coyotes killed and claims that there are now fewer coyotes than before. On it’s face, if we took those numbers, then if killing 500 coyotes reduced the overall number of coyotes to a point where fewer coyotes are being seen, then one would have to ask just how many coyotes does Maine have?

I have read, and I don’t believe there is an “official” population number, that coyotes in Maine number between 15,000 and 20,000. Clearly we see that a 500-coyote harvest is NOT a 70% reduction. A 70% reduction would be somewhere around 11,000 coyotes.

My point is not to confuse Lavigne’s general statement about state-wide coyote population control and that done in targeted deer wintering areas. As far as helping to protect the deer herd in winter deer yards, the program is good and appears to be helping. Personally, I would like to see a more substantial effort, because too many coyotes can have real negative effects on many other wildlife species, not just deer. But, I’ll take what we can get that works at any level.

And, if officials can figure out a way to protect deer fawning areas, perhaps a joint effort can be undertaken to limit fawn kills of deer, by both coyotes and bear. Bears are sleeping during winter months, but when they wake up they are hungry. When the does fawn, like the coyotes, the bear knows where the does fawn.