August 14, 2018

Maine Bobcat: The Only Wild Predator in the East That “Regularly” Kills Deer?

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I was reading an article this morning from Mount Desert Island, Maine about how the presence of bobcats helps to control the deer population on the island. Puzzling was this comment: “This interesting member of the cat family is our only wild predator in the east that regularly kills deer.” 

Like with any words in a written document and no author to explain, we are often left with guessing what certain words were intended to mean. Such is the case here.

First, is the author intending to refer to “our only” as meaning the bobcat is Mount Desert Island’s only large wild predator? Second, we are uncertain whether the author’s reference to “in the east” means in eastern Mount Desert Island, eastern Maine or the eastern United States. Third, what is meant when the author says “regularly kills deer?”

Guessing the precise definition really doesn’t matter in the accuracy of the claim. Either way you look at this, the statement is incomplete, at best, and also misleading, whether intended to be that way or not.

I would have serious doubts that Mount Desert Island has only bobcats as a large predator. As common as coyotes are in Maine now, it is almost certain they can be found there.

There are several “wild predators” in the east of Maine or in the east, that regularly (that’s a value-weighted perspective so this is my perspective) kills deer, although many refuse to acknowledge and understand the fact.

Excluding man, black bears, coyotes/coyote-wolf hybrids, bobcats, and Canada lynx regularly kill deer in Maine. Black bears regularly kill deer in Maine. This happens most often during the springtime when doe deer are fawning. Bears learn where deer go to fawn, as do all other predators. However, we must also remember that when any predator gets hungry enough they will take up doing things they might not normally do when food is plentiful. Black bears, under the right conditions, have been known to “ambush” a deer, sometimes taking one deer out of a traveling family of deer.

Maine’s coyotes, which we now have learned are actually a cross-breed mix of assorted coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs, kill deer sometimes at rates that leave us astonished. For ease of writing, I’ll just call them coyotes.

Coyotes and bears both can smell a fawn soon after it has been born. They often move in and take the fawn while it is basically helpless. In winter, coyotes regularly visit winter deer yards. When conditions are right, a winter deer yard can take on the appearance of a bloody battlefield.

I once spoke with a Maine Warden who told me that one particularly “harsh” winter, while conducting aerial fly-overs, several areas were shockingly awash in blood on the white snows. His comment was he had never seen anything like it before.

When coyotes move into deer wintering areas, often they hamstring the pregnant does and, while still alive, eat through the vaginal canal of the deer and extract the unborn fetus. Evidently, this is a bit of a delicacy for the wild dogs.

Video exists of coyotes taking down adult, healthy deer. Partly because of genetic exchanges, these coyotes have learned to hunt in packs and, while perhaps not the method of choice, have proven they can take down a fully grown male deer.

The same is true for bobcats. The bobcat has a different method of killing a deer, but lethal nonetheless. Once again, photos and video readily show a bobcat latching onto an adult deer and persisting until the prey is killed.

The Canada lynx has been known to kill deer as well and shouldn’t be discounted as a threat at certain times to the deer.

Maine has several large predators and those predators will kill deer…regularly. Depending upon the conditions, a large predator may or may not kill deer. Depending on the conditions, a large predator may or may not attack a man. Nothing within a wild ecosystem is all that predictable. There are so many instances that are driven by conditions at present.

One thing is for certain. The bobcat is NOT the only wild predator that kills deer regularly.

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