July 16, 2018

A Call for a Possible Bounty on Coyotes Because of Disease Spread

Jon Lund is the owner and publisher of the Maine Sportsman magazine. In the March 2018 edition, he asks, “Are Coyotes to Blame for Increase in Ticks?” His simple explanation is that the presence of an increased population of coyotes in Maine is causing a reduction in the fox population – the trickle-down effect of an increase in ticks, particularly the tick that carries Lyme disease. The reality is that coyotes compete with and kill, directly and indirectly, the red fox that is sufficiently more adept at killing the small rodents that carry and perpetuate the Deer (Lyme) tick. In an effort to mitigate what appears to be a festering and growing incidence of Lyme disease in Maine, Lund is wondering if it is time, due to the necessity of a public health risk, to make a more serious effort at reducing the coyote population.

Maine got along just fine before the coyote took over the countryside and contrary to the many statements made otherwise, we don’t need them.

However, there is something else I’d like to touch base with readers about that Mr. Lund brings up in his article. This has to do with the use of chemicals and/or “natural” elements to ward off ticks and insect bites.

I’m sure that the pharmaceutical industry, and anyone else who stands to make a profit from their drugs to treat Lyme and other diseases, has thoroughly hyped the presence of ticks and instilled ample fear into the masses. After all, when the people live in fear they will do most anything.

Lund speaks specifically about permethrin. Permethrin is a common ingredient found in compounds marketed as insect repellents or killers. Basically, it attacks the central nervous system of insects.

Permethrin is a synthetic, or man-made, product derived from pyrethrin.

Most fact sheets available to the consumer paint the picture of permethrin/pyrethrin as mostly harmless even though long-term effects have not been studied. Some believe that using products that contain permethrin presents a higher risk of health issues than the odds of getting bit by a tick that will infect you with Lyme or other diseases. This is something you will have to decide for yourself. But to make that decision honestly, you should make the effort to understand the presented “remedies” and “threats.” It’s your health. Know what you are doing.

Lund takes the time to explain how ticks are spread around (I don’t find any factual claims that global warming is the culprit) and refers to a study where “…a growing body of evidence suggests that Lyme disease risk may now be more dynamically linked to fluctuations in the abundance of small-mammal hosts that are thought to infect the majority of ticks.”

The same study tells us that the incidence and presence of Lyme disease are not related to the abundance of deer but to the absence of key small predators. “We then show that increases in Lyme disease in the northeastern and midwestern United States over the past three decades are frequently uncorrelated with deer abundance and instead coincide with a range-wide decline of a key small-mammal predator, the red fox, likely due to expansion of coyote populations. Further, across four states we find poor spatial correlation between deer abundance and Lyme disease incidence, but coyote abundance and fox rarity effectively predict the spatial distribution of Lyme disease in New York. These results suggest that changes in predator communities may have cascading impacts that facilitate the emergence of zoonotic diseases, the vast majority of which rely on hosts that occupy low trophic levels.”

This claim is in direct contradiction to the theory that predators kill only the sick of the prey species and justifies the “need” for predators to keep our ecosystems healthy. Not only is there no evidence that the presence of large predators reduces the presence of disease in ecosystems, this study seems to prove the exact opposite.

We forget or never learned history. Large predators like wolves and coyotes were not tolerated on the landscape by early settlers. And there were reasons for that, some of which include not only the destruction of property caused by these critters but it was known that they carried and spread diseases, many of which are harmful and even deadly to humans.

And yet, today, there is an all-out effort to protect these same predators. It appears that for some anyway, the demand for an abundance of coyotes at the expense of public health is just fine and dandy. I don’t see it that way at all and I’m not alone.

As the trend continues in the direction that it is headed, it should be fairly easy to predict there will be increased fall-out about protecting any animal that spreads dangerous diseases among the people. Few tolerate the presence of rats knowing and remembering the unbelievable death and destruction caused by the bubonic plague. Is there a difference in protecting the health and safety of the public because one culprit is a nasty rat and the other is a nasty wild dog?

Mr. Lund is correct in asking the question about the role of coyotes in Maine, or anywhere else, where, according to provided data, the coyote is directly affecting the growth, perpetuation and spread of Lyme disease.

If Maine cannot effectively control the population of coyotes for public health and safety with the current management strategies, then it may be time to look at something more effective.

It is dishonest by the many who blame hunting and trapping for the decimation and/or extirpation of wolves and coyotes but go out of their way to deny that hunting and trapping of the same animals today have any effect on reducing their population numbers.

Many decades ago when it was decided by governments that wolves and coyotes were destroying property and spreading diseases, one of the elements employed to rid the landscape of the nasty canines and the diseases they spread was a bounty system. Any bounty must be attractive enough to draw enough to the plan. What is the limit in the cost of healthcare?

Such a suggestion will be vehemently opposed by many, especially those who hate hunting and trapping. They are wrong that think people like Jon Lund and myself might promote a bounty system for coyotes only for improving deer hunting. Little do these people know and understand the real conservation of wildlife.

In the normal world which is being left in the dust, there would be no question as to what is the right thing to do. Normalcy tells us public health and safety take precedence over animals and the spread of disease. One has to wonder what the extent of the bubonic plague would have been like if people had known and took real action to get rid of the rats that spread the disease.

But, we live in a Post-Normal world now where many things are upside-down. Are we to wait until more and more people get sick and die before we begin to act? Are we serious about finding a cure to a problem or is there just too much money to be made along with the genocide many promote?

It appears so.

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More than 7K coyotes killed in Utah for bounties in 2014

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s controversial coyote bounty program continues to rack up huge numbers. In a recently released report, the Division of Wildlife Resources said that 7,041 coyotes were turned in for the $50 reward in 2014. While that’s just shy of last year’s tally, more people participated in 2014, so the program appears to have maintained its momentum. <<<Read More>>>

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PA House Passes Bill to Establish Coyote Bounty

HARRISBURG – The state House on Wednesday passed a bill authorizing the Pennsylvania Game Commission to set a bounty on coyotes.

The bill, approved by a vote of 111-78, would establish a “coyote incentive program” by offering $25 for coyotes killed in the commonwealth. It’s the first such bounty offered on a wild animal in 50 years.<<<Read More>>>

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Maine: Deer Population Goals and 5-Year Benchmark Report

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife presents its Annual Deer Report. You can find a copy of the 8-page report by clicking on this link (PDF).

There’s not a lot of new information contained in this report, however I would like to point out a couple of things of interest, at least from my perspective.

1. The report places a fair amount of emphasis on the fact that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has used appropriated money for predator control to focus on remote areas where the department deems a need for coyote reduction. MDIFW claim in this report that without proper funding it was impossible to get hunters and trappers into remote deer yards. As such, that leaves much of the coyote control in not so remote areas up to volunteers and efforts of coyote contests, along with efforts to increase participation in coyote hunting through marketing and education.

2. It also appears quite clearly that MDIFW needs to act quickly and seriously in dealing with an overblown black bear population. Bear population target goals, it is said in this report, are to be similar to numbers from 1999 (23,000). Current estimates place the population in excess of 30,000. The same report states that deer fawn mortality by black bears can range from 20%-60%. Knowing that the easiest and perhaps fastest way to destroy a deer herd is to eliminate fawn recruitment, it should be a no-brainer that MDIFW needs to figure out ways to cut those numbers down.

One point brought up in the report was the reduction of hunter participation for bears. Does MDIFW have data that might show a reduction in participation coinciding with the increase in bear hunting permit fees?

3. Coyote control, evidently focused on remote areas, over the past three seasons has amounted to the killing of 398 wild dogs, at a cost of $49,765.00 or $125.03 per coyote. We need to assess whether this effort and the cost of killing one coyote is accomplishing what was hoped for. I’m not sure how this can be honestly assessed at this point.

If we take a look at the past three years, we see that for the 2010/2011 season, the cost for killing coyotes ran at $146.27 per animal while harvesting 11. For 2011/2012, that cost dropped to $127.36, while harvesting 119. And for 2012/2013, the cost dropped again slightly to $123.13, while killing 268 coyotes.

What can we conclude from this? Not much. Perhaps it is easy to say that even at $123.00 an animal, that’s a lot of money. But we have no way of knowing if it’s even possible to get that cost any lower. If you examine the information this report gives us, one thing that jumps out should be that in the three years nothing is consistent. It’s pretty difficult to assess effectiveness if there’s no consistency in which to make any kind of comparative assessment.

We can’t control the weather, which determines where both deer and coyotes will be and when and the susceptibility of deer to coyote predation and coyotes to human predation. We can control where we choose to target coyotes and the amount of money to be used to accomplish specific goals.

I guess then the question really becomes two fold. Do we have enough information to form an honest assessment? Has the program been running long enough and if not how many more years before we can make a determination?

This season MDIFW decided to use the majority of the money to focus on killing coyotes in remote deer yards. This is different from last year. Obviously the costs of traveling farther and into more remote areas is higher than it would be targeting nearby areas. If any kind of conclusion could be made, then perhaps with the higher costs and the result being 268 dead coyotes to show for it at a price tag of $123.13 per dog, success rates are going up causing cost per animal to come down. Therefore, perhaps as the program runs long enough to get the bugs out, numbers might look differently.

Will Maine run out of money for this program before it has had time to run long enough to know and understand any effectiveness?

I’d also like to know if MDIFW is considering killing coyotes in targeted deer fawning areas? We know that deer are targets in deep snow years in their deer wintering areas. We also know that fawns are targets in fawning areas. Shouldn’t we be targeting those areas as well?

I’ll leave readers with one more question. At and average so far of $125.03 per dead coyote could an attractive bounty system work the same or better if that money was paid to Maine hunters and trappers? Perhaps the bounty program could be set up in a lottery/permit allocation system in which higher bounties are paid for coyotes taken in high need or difficult to access areas.

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Dealing With Deer Herd Rebuilding: Maine Sportsmen Groups vs. Utah Sportsmen Groups

Two states that face similar problems with dwindling deer herds are Maine and Utah. In Utah, efforts are underway to improve habitat but the sportsmen there recognize that those efforts are limited. What they do recognize is that the number one problem and one that they CAN do something about is reducing coyote populations that have driven the fawn survival rate to near zero.

In Maine much of the effort is talk and complaining that loss of habitat, loss of quality wintering habitat and severe winters are killing the deer and there are no serious plans to address an overblown coyote population; again something that CAN be done while implementing programs to deal with habitat.

Recently sportsman’s groups in both states have launched efforts to address withering deer herds. In Maine it was announced that a conglomeration of “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, were going to work with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to address the deer herd issue.

In Utah, efforts are already underway by similar “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, to address the deer herd issue.

Below is a comparison of ideas and plans by each of the two groups. Please compare and then decide which one stands the best chance of actually accomplishing the goals of rebuilding a deer herd.

Maine: (According to the statement made by the “outdoor partnership”)

1.) Create a “network” of sportsman’s clubs.
2.) Provide access to information Online.
3.) Host meetings, conferences, and training seminars dealing with habitat management, trapping and predator hunting, and a variety of other topics related to deer restoration and management.
4.) Produce DVDs and other educational materials.
5.) Provide a place where hunters and landowners can share tips, tactics and ideas that may help others succeed at protecting and managing deer.
6.) Support the Maine Deer Management Network at the Legislature and in other political venues.
7.) Provide outreach.
8.) Provide information in the print media by providing feature articles on deer management and outdoor recreation topics.
9.) Coordinate closely with MDIFW to assure mutual progress in restoring and then maintaining healthy deer populations again.
10.) Manage habitat.
11.) Manage predators.
12.) Manage hunting.
13.) Eager to support Dept. efforts to reduce predation losses near deer wintering areas.
14.) Develop coyote hunting into the next big hunting activity in Maine by transitioning the coyote from varmint status, to the valuable, huntable furbearer resource.
15.) Envisioning a volunteer “Adopt a Deer Yard” program targeting coyote hunting near deer wintering areas by individual hunters, or clubs.
16.) Intending to be a resource that individuals can turn to for information on coyote biology, hunting tactics, available equipment, bait sources, etc.
17.) Find opportunities to strengthen the connection between hunters and the non-hunting public and be a resource where hunters can find information on the latest hunting regulations, including legislative changes as they occur.
18.) Stress the importance of ethical hunting behavior, encourage active participation in game law compliance, and help define the importance of hunting and trapping as a means of keeping wildlife populations at compatible levels.

Utah: (According to the most recent email on future plans)

1.) Continue the aerial gunning of coyote pairs in the spring with $470,000. Better efforts will be made to target paired coyotes.

2.) Hire 5 Full time – NON Biologist – Regional coyote trappers/trapping coordinators. Job requirements: proven track record of knowing how to kill coyotes, and teach and motivate thousands of sportsmen to join the effort. Every day, the job is to wake up and kill coyotes, and additionally teach other sportsmen how to trap, snare, and otherwise kill coyotes. These full time people would also coordinate county bounty programs, and help target and measure – hopefully – increased fawn survival. These coordinators will also come up with some new and creative efforts to get sportsmen out killing coyotes.

3.) Have some current DWR Employees participate in coyote control efforts while doing spring and fall counts, etc.

4.) See coyote $1 Million coyote bounty below

Since it is not in the current Governors budget submitted on December 8, the bounty money will have to come from Legislative leaders like Senator Hinkins and Okerlund, who take the Governors budget and tweak it. I also think the Governor, after the meeting in Cache, and having aides see the turnout at other meetings, and realizing the need, will be supportive. So, the new piece of the puzzle? see Number five below:

5.) With the help of Sportsmen, obtain $1 Million in additional funds to pay $50 coyote bounty. This would lead to 20,000 dead coyotes, a DRAMATIC increase in coyote kill.

Let me give you some numbers.

1.) Last year, after seeing the dismal fawn survival on 4 central Utah deer units – Pavant, boulder, beaver – the Director spent an additional $100,000 on coyote control

a.) Fawn Survival from 2010 to 2011 went from approximately 43 fawns per 100 to 62 per 100

It is estimated that there are 80,000 coyotes in Utah.

Last year it is estimated that the government professional trappers took 4,000 coyotes. This program would stay the same, but it would be better targeted in fawning areas.

$1 Million for a $50 bounty would result in 20,000 dead coyotes, plus all the coyotes taken by 5 full time coyote killers from the UDWR, plus all the coyotes taken by aerial gunning $470,000 in the spring on deer winter ranges.

I would like to point out some important differences between these two state’s ideas on how to rebuild a deer population. First, the proposals written about from Utah are actually those made by the fish and game director Jim Karpowitz. From most of the accounts I have read about Utah’s efforts, it appears that for the most part the fish and game department, Legislature, Governor and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sportsmen and citizens, understand the importance of hunting to their state and are committed at all levels to do what is necessary.

Second, I do not believe that Maine has the same commitment from the fish and wildlife department, the Governor or the Legislature and definitely not the U.S. Congressional Delegation. Sportsmen are split and citizens need to be educated. For this reason, I believe it is the major steering factor in the proposals that I’ve outlined above from Maine.

Governor Paul LePage campaigned on the promise that he was committed to rebuilding Maine’s deer herd. And what has transpired to date that has resulted in any effort to that end? I am not an advocate to fund the MDIFW with general fund taxpayer money. If Maine and the governor honestly are committed to the rebuilding of the deer herd to keep a vibrant industry providing jobs and upholding traditions and heritage, the value of investment would be realized and the Governor and Legislature would find the money to kill a lot of coyotes, reduce bear populations, protect wintering habitat, etc.

I’m not suggesting throwing money at a problem. The Governor must demand change and accountability for any state investment in rebuilding the deer herd. One can argue and spin the information anyway they so choose but the fact is the current management plans for deer failed miserably. Blame it on winter, blame it on habitat or predators, the realization is there are no deer left in many of Maine’s locations. Therefore, the plan fails simply because it doesn’t deal with these issues in a realistic manner. Winters have been around in Maine for longer than MDIFW and loggers have cut trees for centuries, and we still can’t deal with those two issues?

Whether you are from Maine or Utah or points in between, you decide from the information that I’ve provided which state has the biggest commitment to herd rebuilding and which plans have a better chance at seeing real results.

Tom Remington
 

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