May 16, 2013
In a way I sort of chuckled yesterday when I read a short news story from a Maine NBC television affiliate, WCSH6 out of Portland, about hungry bears coming out of hibernation. Specifically I got a kick out of this statement:
Police on Tuesday advised residents of one Rumford neighborhood to take in their bird feeders, gas grills and garbage cans after a black bear was spotted wandering around. Police tell the Sun Journal that once the food sources are removed, the bears will return to the woods.
I mean really? The bears will return to the woods? Might I ask why they came out of the woods to begin with? Isn’t it because during this time of the year there is so little natural food, it drives them out of the woods in search for human assistance?
While it is good advice to do what you can to “bear proof” your home and property, the notion that doing so will send the bears back to the woods is more than a bit misleading. The bears will return to the woods as soon as they have natural food to eat; that is providing people don’t continue to feed the bears.
May 14, 2013
It is that time of year when in Maine black bears emerge from their wintering dens. More than likely they are all out by now and some are probably hungry. Such was the report from the Bangor Daily News of events occurring in downtown Ellsworth, a small village south of Bangor, toward the coast.
In the BDN report, it suggested, from earlier press releases from MDIFW, that increases in these bear encounters happen when spring comes early.
Last year, when the state saw an early spring, the Maine Warden Service received 870 bear-related complaints — up from 436 complaints in 2011 and just 395 in 2010.
While this information may be true, what should have been included in this was a statement of fact that as bear populations increase, so to do the number of incidents of bear meeting man. I bring this point up because recently the Joint Standing Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife voted “ought not to pass” a bill that would end bear hunting with dogs and trapping, among other limitations; a bill sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). However, HSUS has promised a referendum on this issue next year.
Maine, like most all other states, implements hunting and trapping as a means of regulating the desired populations of game species, including predators. Should HSUS be successful in their referendum, from the information I have received to date on what the proposed referendum will look like, basically all aspects of bear hunting will be eliminated with the exception of stalking.
Already the bear population in Maine is at perhaps record high numbers with MDIFW facing a difficult task in getting hunters and trappers in enough numbers to keep in check the population. Contrary to popular belief, wildlife does not “balance itself” and one can easily and logically conclude that, among other difficulties, Maine people would be facing increased problems with bears.
The MDIFW spokesman speaks of, “bear incidents tend to slow down as summer progresses, when it’s easier for hungry bears to find natural food.” Again, this is true under “normal” circumstances. With overgrown bear populations, too many bears will be competing for food. If natural food is not abundant, the competition becomes even greater and this circumstance will tend to drive bears into human populated areas in search of food. Now imagine a scenario of too many bears AND not enough natural food.
Maine residents should be encouraged to take the advice of MDIFW in making your homes as bear proof as possible and don’t allow HSUS, or any other animal rights groups, to force our fish and game experts into managing or not managing wildlife based on social demands rather than science. Sound wildlife management benefits both humans and wildlife.
April 22, 2013
BETH = Bears Eating Tasty Humans
January 22, 2013
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?
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.
October 1, 2012
Honest to God! You can’t make this stuff up….or can you?
A reader sent me a link to a bizarre and unbelievable claim coming out of Sweden that it is a bad practice to feed wild hogs sugary substances for bait because it will give them bad teeth. From the link, I tried several times to open the web page where the entire article supposedly is found but was unsuccessful in doing that. Here is that link. Perhaps it will work later.
According to Waznmentobe.com, the original piece said: “But local officials warn that the practice, while increasing the chances of a successful hunt, it increases the risk that the boar suffer from weight problems and poor dental hygiene.”
Evidently, in Sweden, hunters put out “sticky buns” to lure the hogs in in order to kill them. I guess that’s cheaper than a helicopter and paid snipers.
In Maine, hunters use bait in the same fashion for killing black bears. Often the bait for black bears is mostly junk food, i.e. donuts, candy, etc.
The same reader who sent me the link to this illogically reasoned display of mental incapacity, also sent along a picture of a sow bear he shot two years ago. The bear was later discovered to be 23 years old. The picture shows the condition of the bear’s teeth. Do you suppose this bear had been feasting on sugary treats for 23 years and perhaps would have lived to be 103 if she had practiced good dental hygiene?
September 20, 2012
Yesterday we learned that in one Maine community, “public education and a careful monitoring program” helped to solve problems with black bears. Now that we know that black bears can be educated in our public schools, a rumor has surfaced that a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife bear biolo-jest, whose community the bears were educated, has successfully cross bred a black bear with a crow. He calls it the black bear crow.
(* Editor’s Note: A reader sent me the above photo with the inane notion that black bear crows might be used to count deer in Maine. The suggestion coming the result of my previous blogs wondering why many other game species in Maine have a definite number attached but not the white tail deer. I went with his suggestion and expanded the insanity just a bit more.)
The story goes that this biolo-jest knew that crows are very intelligent creatures; bears a bit on the dumb side but loaded with brute strength. He fathomed that combining the brute strength with the intelligence of the crow, he would end up with a very strong and smart animal.
But what good would such a creature be?
In his first attempt, his cross-breeding gave him a specimen similar to the photograph above but being that it ended up with a bear’s head and brain, it was too stupid to fly. Something needed to be done. That’s when the biolo-jest came up with the scheme to send bears to his local community’s public school and get an education.
Fearing that if his bear got too smart, he would run away, once the bear learned his ABCs and how to count, he yanked him from the classroom and then cross-bred him with the crow and ended up with a flying bear that could read and count.
But what good would such a creature be?
The biolog-jest thought and thought and recalled reading my article I wrote about why, after Maine spent money with helicopters, they hadn’t provided sportsmen and Maine citizens with a population count of their precious deer. That’s when he came up with the idea to train the black bear crow to fly all over the state and count deer.
In the biolo-jest’s first attempt at using the black bear crow to count deer, he gave explicit instruction to the animal on what to do. After a test flight over the Maine Animal Park, the black bear crow returned with a count of 42 deer. The biolo-jest knew there were only 5 deer at that time in the park and couldn’t understand what the problem might be. He considered that perhaps the black bear crow learned enough to realize that he was working for free and that the other biolo-jests got handsome pay and excellent retirement benefits, but that didn’t seem likely.
After some serious thought and recruiting help from the commissioner, they were able to determine that the black bear crow was counting every animal it could see, not just deer. The bear, during his bout with the public education system, hadn’t been taught how to differentiate between different species.
Fearing the black bear crow would be treated differently in public school than the bears, being of mixed species, the biolo-jest opted for a private tutor. At first the biolo-jest thought of Bill Clinton, thinking he would make an excellent person to teach the black bear crow how to identify species, at least male and female. But he realized that probably a man who wasn’t sure what the word “is” is, might not get the job done.
After countless hours of research on the subject, the biolo-jest was talking to his neighbor about his dilemma. The neighbor’s 8-year-old son overheard the conversation and suggested that he could teach the black bear crow species identification. Baffled, the biolo-jest and his neighbor looked at each other with blank expressions. The boy explained that he had a video game where first you had to identify a species before it could be shot in simulation.
Within two weeks the black bear crow could spot a deer faster than the head deer biolo-jest at the MDIFW. The problem for the biolo-jest was not now being able to get the black bear crow up off the couch and go to work.
The biolo-jest took his black bear crow, who he named Aldo, to work one day and made his presentation to the commission, the Joint Committee for MDIFW and the governor’s office, to use Aldo to count white tail deer. He guaranteed an accurate account and that it would be done within one week from the time he started; at a cost of only $1.6 million……..per flight.
MDIFW will begin counting deer using the black bear crow this winter but on the condition that none of the data be released to the public.
The governor is setting up a task force to see if there isn’t some data that could be released to the public. They will provide the results of their research to the governor on or before August 1, 2018.
September 19, 2012
Actually, this is not true but when you read an article in the CBC News, online, titled, “Education, monitoring, key to getting rid of black bears, says biologist”, and read the opening paragraph, readers could take what it written at face value.
A wildlife biologist in Maine says public education and a careful monitoring program helped communities in his area get rid of a black bear problem similar to the one facing the Glovertown area.
I’m curious as to whether the bears are segregated from the rest of the public education participants and if so, is this legal?……and racial considering the bears are black?
September 17, 2012
I have used as an analogy many times over the years a story of my nephew, when at the age of perhaps 4 years, got me to laughing. I was visiting my brother one day and when I arrived he was struggling to get his son to eat his lunch. My brother and I retired to the living but only after he had told his son that he was to stay in the kitchen and eat his lunch and only then could he be free to play.
After about 5 minutes, my nephew walked into the living room and said to his dad, “Dad, I ate all my lunch….but don’t go look!”
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) deer biologist, Lee Kantar, told Mark Latti in an interview published in the Portland Press Herald yesterday, that concerning the state’s whitetail deer population, “(It’s) 150,000-200,000, but things are definitely towards the higher end (and) talk of a ‘declining’ deer herd is old news. We are trending up.”
BUT DON’T GO LOOK!!!
There are two issues worth discussing here. First, it is easy to say that the number of deer in Maine is “trending up” when there really is no other direction to go in. And from that perspective one could not be talking of a continuing decline in the population. However, calling it old news is pushing it just a bit. Sportsmen still want answers and action.
Secondly, Latti’s column is about game population estimates. He writes about black bears, turkey, woodcock, moose and grouse. According to what is written in the article, Maine has 31,000 black bears, 60,000 turkeys and 76,000 moose. The deer population is somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 but Kantar believes the actual number to be more towards the 200,000.
Why isn’t there a specific number for the deer? Maine announced it was going to spend $100,000 to aerial survey the whitetail deer population and while they were at it would do some moose counting as well. So, where’s the results of the deer count?
It seems it didn’t take very long to whip out a number for moose, being that everyone was making comments about how many there were and perhaps so many that the winter tick infestation is very high. Has all the complaining and grumbling about the deer herd scared the biologists away from publishing a more exact count of deer or are they trying to hide from sportsmen something?
They flew with helicopters to count moose and have determined there are 76,000 of them. They flew with helicopters to count deer and have determined that there are somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 deer and maybe it’s closer to 200,000. Or maybe there’s 50,000 or 350,000? Why don’t we know?
If the deer population in Maine is trending upwards, which I believe it is in places, it comes as the result of nothing MDIFW has done. The article linked to attributes the increases to, “After severe winters in 2008 and ’09, Maine’s deer herd was blessed with a relatively short winter in 2010, and then two mild winters in 2011 and ’12.” Lee Kantar takes credit for helping that increase by reducing the number of “Any-Deer” permits for a couple of years. This probably did help grow the population in zones where the herd isn’t in serious danger. In those zones where deer are in the most threat, there are no “Any-Deer” permits issued.
I would think that if MDIFW can state that there are 76,000 moose, then I think they can do a better job of informing sportsmen of what the real deer population is rather than a +/- 25% guess.
September 10, 2012
When I was perhaps 8 years old, I got one of my first lessons, through joke telling, of how sometimes the milkman delivered more than just milk….wink, wink! The joke goes something like this. A very young boy, with a very distinct speech impediment, came to his mother one day and asked, “Mom, why do I talk this way?” The mother did not want to address the issue and so told her son to go ask his father.
And so he did. “Dad, why do I talk this way?” The father also shirking his responsibilities told his son to go ask his brother, which he did and was told to go ask the milkman.
Waiting patiently for the milkman to arrive on the front steps, upon arrival the boy ran to the milkman and asked, “Mr. Milkman, why do I talk this way?” To which the milkman responded in an identical and very distinct speech impediment, “Gee, I don’t know son!”
In Maine, the hunting season on black bears is in full swing. I saved many of the news articles and press releases prior to the bear season telling hunters what they can expect this season. In addition to these news accounts, there also included stories of bears interacting with humans and some of the excuses given by officials as to why. And now with the bear season in progress, we are left wondering if anything we were told about the bear situation was even true at all. I suppose it’s time to go and ask the milkman.
In August the debates were numerous around the state of humans encountering bears as reports were doubled from a year ago. On August 28, the Portland Press Herald (PPH) carried a story of how bears were “on the prowl”. As was typical in just about every account I read and heard about, the selected excuse to pass on to the press was that there is no natural food for bears to eat.
Jennifer Vashon, a bear biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said of the bears, “There is a lot of opportunity for bear. The drought means natural food is low. And our bear season is really tied to the natural food crop.” The lack of natural food gets the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) off the hook to explain that the reason for so many bear encounters with humans is tied to food and not too many bears.
And of course in attempts to promote the upcoming bear hunt, explaining that bears are hungry and on the move and will be easier to bait and bag.
On the 27th of August, I received a press release in my email from MDIFW announcing the beginning of bear hunting season. I posted it on this same blog for readers. In that presser, MDIFW, once again, explained that the reason for such a lousy bear hunting season last year was because of too much food. And, just as was repeated in the PPH piece, MDIFW says there is no natural food and hunters should have a good season. Just to recap. Last year – poor hunting season = too much food. Expected this year – good hunting season = no natural food. Got it!
With no natural food, as MDIFW has blown their horn about, hunters probably shouldn’t expect to find big, fat bears as they would when there was ample food, even though they might not see so many. However, on September 7, 2012, John Holyoke, at the Bangor Daily News, gave us an informational article of one hunter who bagged a 600-pound bear on the second day of his hunt. An anomaly I guess? Or perhaps not.
Randy Cross, another biologist at MDIFW, said usually large black bears harvested in Maine, are taken later in the season, I assume meaning the bears have had more time to fatten up. Part of this assumption comes because the article spends a fair amount of time, quoting Randy Cross on how quickly bears can fatten up in the late fall readying themselves for hibernation. Cross relays two instances to note: one was a bear gaining 210 pounds in 12 weeks and another fattening up 65 pounds in 16 days. (Note to self: Lay off the Dunkin’ Donuts)
This one 600 pound bear was obviously not a lean mean fighting machine due to lack of eating. Perhaps he had been feasting on the bait set out by the guides prior to the opening of hunting season. But none of this explains what Randy Cross meant in this comment:
And while food is still available, bears are still growing rapidly during the early part of the season, Cross said.
Wait! “While food is still available?” We have been told all summer long that there was very little natural food. So where did this “available” food come from? Are there that many bait stations?
And if that isn’t enough to make sportsmen wonder just what the heck, the Portland Press Herald rushes in to save the day by publishing an article all about how the bear harvest is so low all due to a bad economy.
Mr. Milkman! Why do I talk this way?”
September 4, 2012
While Connecticut biology students are stringing barbed wire and stealing bear hair samples, aimed at examining DNA in hopes of making a better guess at how many bears there really are in Connecticut, other officials are killing nuisance bears.
The Connecticut black bear brass claim there’s 500 bears in the Constitution State. That guess is probably as good as me guessing the average number of whiskers on the face of a werewolf at midnight at the height of the full moon in foggy London town.
In the meantime, residents are having to deal with what appears to be an ever increasing number of encounters with bears. In Madison, one guy films a bear in his back yard from an open window in the house. The bear charges the man who quickly shuts the window. In the video below, note the matching set of earrings the bear is wearing. And, oh yeah, the bear was eventually killed.
View more videos at: http://nbcconnecticut.com.