June 14, 2013
The below caption and photograph was sent to me via email. This occurred in “Downeast” Maine recently. The person who sent this to me is very trustworthy and I assume the photo and story to be authentic. This is about the time that whitetail deer in Maine have their fawns. The coyotes and bears have learned over the years where the deer traditionally have their fawns. They can actually smell the odor from a new-born fawn and move in for the kill and lunch. It is a reality of nature but when there are too many coyotes and too many bears, it raises hell with the deer herd.
“I found the head of a fawn yesterday while working for Norm in Jonesport. Fresh coyote tracks in the mud beside it were the only other clue. I assume that the dog was walking towards me on the woods road and dropped the head when it heard me coming. No sign of blood or other body parts. I’d walked in on the same trail six hours earlier. The head was about the size of my two hands laid palm to palm. Coyotes serenaded me further down the path.
“That’s a pretty impressive bite through the neck. Never know what you’ll find in the down east woods.”
June 13, 2013
Nearby our camp in Maine, this road winds up the side hill to a couple of houses at the end of the road. In the distance you can see a deer. She is our resident deer; been here for a few years. She has produced a few deer over the years but just as often as not, the coyotes get her young before they even have a chance to experience life. The coyotes know her favorite fawning grounds and can smell a newborn from a great distance.
Last year she had twins. They came to visit camp a few times while still in their spots. Don’t know if they made it through the winter. Judging by tracks, it looks like maybe they did.
Photo by Al Remington
May 17, 2013
And once inside the bus, the deer runs around acting like it has no clue and doesn’t know what to do or where to go. Kinda like Obama in the White House.
February 26, 2013
Once again readers of the Bangor Daily News, from out of Bangor, Maine, got to read about one retired Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) biologist who has the answer about why Maine’s deer herd has disappeared. Ready? Habitat. Yup, once again them damned landowners, and this time with government accomplices, cut down all the trees and thus the deer have all starved to death.
Unlike the author of this piece, I will concede that loss of habitat plays a role in the demise of the deer herd. Habitat is an important factor in deer management, along with many other issues. However, I am also willing to consider other contributing factors that it appears this author is not.
There’s two things in this opinion piece that need to be noted. The first is the author’s story telling of making a scientific determination in late March of 1989, by using an axe and chopping up deer bones, determining two things; the deer starved to death and the deer were not killed by coyotes, even though he admits the deer had been eaten by coyotes.
Amazing isn’t it that conclusions about animal health and death can be determined with an axe. People who are specialists at trying to ascertain whether livestock have been killed by predators or died first and then eaten by predators, struggle to make a determination, with even more tools than an axe, and often are left without a firm result, of which the benefit of the doubt goes to the predator being innocent. Are we to believe that this retired MDIFW biologist, 24 years ago, carried out a necropsy with an axe and made a determination that the deer he found dead in a deer yard starved to death? And that he remembers the details so well 24 years later?
I also wonder if this author understands that predator presence, also known as harassment, is a major contributing factor in accelerating the declining health of deer in wintering yards, and throughout the entire year for that matter? In a recent article written by Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecologist-Range Management Specialist, Utah State University, and published in Muley Crazy Magazine, he states the following:
In addition, under certain environmental conditions, such as deep, crusted snow, even relatively small-sized predators, like coyotes, can kill large-size prey, such as mule deer, at will and without regard to sex, age, or physical condition of the prey. Then too, there is the question of whether the prey animals are naturally substandard, or are they substandard because they are constantly being chased and harassed by wolves and other predators?
One need ask if this retired biologist, on his one trip into a deer yard in 1989, where 10 deer laid dead, was able to scientifically ascertain (with and axe) that these deer were substandard in health because they starved or had been harassed by predators, or both? Also, can he remember all the environmental conditions that year? That would help.
The second issue deals with the timing of the release of these stories and what appears to be the admission of complacency, or perhaps even neglect, on the part of the biologist back 24 years ago. The author accuses foresters of cutting down trees in deer yards or clear cutting around them, as well as intimating that some cover-ups were also taking place. These kinds of accusations, along with other information given in this Bangor Daily News opinion piece, for the purpose of pitting readers against landowners and promoting predator protection, leads me to ask: In 1989 what did this biologist (not retired) do about what he claims to have witnessed? Who did he speak to once he was told or supposedly witnessed what had happened? Did he go to his boss at the MDIFW to see what could be done? Who did he talk to, if anybody? Was it the MDIFW policy to overlook these actions and not bring it to anyone’s attention? If he got no cooperation from his hierarchy, did he take his concerns to perhaps the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine or to media outlets to let all Mainer’s know of the malpractice of foresters and what it was doing to our deer herd? And finally, the author makes no suggestions as to what he would do now if this same thing was brought to his attention, other than, in this opinion piece, suggest more government control and buying up land that he claims will protect the deer yards. If he was MDIFW boss, what would he tell his subordinates to do in such cases?
The timing of these stories are quite convenient and suspect, coming at a time when there exists efforts, including legislation, to do something about predator control. Because this author, obviously a predator protector, will never admit that predators play a significant role in deer depredation, his aim here is only geared toward protection of his beloved dog; a shame actually.
Efforts are underway to attempt to do something about protecting deer wintering areas. It’s not an easy task to accomplish. Deer management is a bigger task than hugging a tree. Saving a tree will NOT necessarily restore Maine’s deer. Studies exist that suggest that all attempts at habitat restoration has no effect on ungulate rebuilding without predator control.
Predator control is a task that can be undertaken much easier than finding ways to ask or force landowners to not cut their forests. Because predator control in an integral part of deer management, it should be undertaken while efforts continue to come up with better ways to protect the habitat needed to help the deer survive the winters. Making deer management one dimensional is not only ignorant but is irresponsible and suggesting habitat is the only problem wreaks of special interest.
February 18, 2013
Wisconsin’s and Maine’s deer management problems aren’t the same but both states say they want to “invest” in their deer herds because they see value in it and hopefully a return on their investments…..don’t they?
About 2 years ago, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife introduced to citizens of the state, “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer.” If you will also recall, the Plan laid out Five Elements, of which was going to rebuild the deer herd in those portions of the state where the deer seemingly all went on vacation, and better manage those areas that were not getting much attention but have a deer population a bit closer toward target goals than up North, Downeast and the Western Mountains.
Briefly, here are those five elements:
1. Deer Wintering Area and Winter Severity – The plan calls for finding active deer yards, and work with landowners for a number of ideas to help protect habitat.
2. Deer Population Management – Figure out how deer live. Stop people from feeding deer. Stop poaching. More laws to stop poaching.
3. Predation – Target coyotes in specific areas. Try to stabilize bear populations. Get an Incidental Take Permit. Try to find money to do this.
4. Deer Planning and Public Involvement – Ask the public how many deer they want to see when they go for a joy ride.
5. Information and Outreach – Ask the public how many deer they want to see when they go for a joy ride or from their office windows.
There’s no way of even catching a glimpse as to whether or not these five elements would have an affect of Maine’s deer because there’s no money to do any of it, with the exception of $100,000 allocated by the governor to kill coyotes. And even that isn’t working.
Any real attempts to do anything about the overgrowing bear population gets railroaded by the Maine guides and bear hunting camp owners. Odd that in one part of the Plan for Deer, it states how the game is a resource for all the people but I guess bears belong to guides and camp owners and what they tell the commissioner they want they get. I wish no ill will on guides and camp owners but……….what’s up with that?
So, in short, Maine has thrown a whopping $100,000 at their Plan and they can’t seem to find a way to efficiently spending much of that money. What would Maine do with $2 million? Pay more and bigger retirement pensions I would guess.
Wisconsin’s governor has invested $2 million in a better management plan for deer. Here’s a look at their 3 elements to better manage deer.
1. Forming a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) to improve the partnership among hunters, landowners and the DNR in managing deer on private land.
2. Updating technology to gather information on land cover to better inform decisions (satellite imagery for assessing habitat and a statewide trail camera monitoring program).
3. Adopting a more passive approach to chronic wasting disease management where the disease exists while providing the public improved access to deer testing.
Gosh, Maine can toss out step number 3; at least for now, as the state has no known cases of chronic wasting disease. Other than that, a certain amount of that $2 million is going to be spent on working with landowners (Maine’s plan calls for that.) and updating technology to help them in management decisions. (Maine is getting money from somewhere to rent helicopters and fly around counting moose. Haven’t heard much about counting deer.)
Which plan will work and which one will give the state a return on their investment? Oh wait! I think Maine has yet to make any real investment in their interest in deer. Perhaps if the state is fortunate enough to get, say, 10 straight years worth of global warming, the herd might come back enough to keep some interest among sportsmen.
And by the way. How’s that Incidental Take Permit for Canada lynx progressing?
February 2, 2013
You will notice on the below chart the question being asked if big bucks in Maine are beginning to make a comeback. While the data presented indicate an increase in the number of 200-pound and greater bucks taken as a percentage of the total harvest, one should probably not jump to too many conclusions. Bucks’ weight is determined by many things, as has been historically, in which we will see small fluctuations up and down. There’s always the possibility as well that a larger size buck, if it relates to a slightly older or more mature deer, may be an indication of an aging deer population which may not be such a good thing.
However, a slight uptick in deer harvest and percentage of large bucks taken, generally speaking and all factors relative, can be taken as probably positive signs.
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.
January 7, 2013
The interview below was done in June of 2011, I believe. Jim Slinsky, Outdoor Talk Network, talks with Lee Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife head deer and moose biologist, about what’s effecting Maine’s struggling deer herd. Kantar also speaks quite a bit about the aerial surveys he is doing with his department. He reveals very little about predators’ affects on deer but does say that most of what is being talked about pertaining to predators and deer are myths.
December 26, 2012
Environmentalists, used as a title to describe those more focused on an agenda of the hatred of man, combined with unnatural desires to steal away a person’s pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, which may actually involve human population destruction, beat the incessant drum of man’s destruction of habitat. If one would dare mention that a certain species of animal (let’s randomly select the whitetail deer and put it in the state of Maine.) was struggling to sustain itself, inevitably an environmentalist will exclaim, “It’s loss of habitat and it’s all man’s fault!”
According to Dictionary.com, habitat is defined thusly:
[hab-i-tat] Show IPA
1.the natural environment of an organism; place that is natural for the life and growth of an organism: a tropical habitat.
2.the place where a person or thing is usually found: Paris is a major habitat of artists.
3.a special environment for living in over an extended period, as an underwater research vessel.
4.habitation ( def 1 ) .
A “natural” environment? So do we now have to define “natural”? Let’s try something not created by man or uncultivated. Oh, darn! Isn’t the overwhelming majority of “habitat” “cultivated” by man, at least to some degree? Let’s not get off topic.
In Maine, where the whitetail deer lives, is called habitat. Environmentalists claim that the problem with the lack of deer in Maine is habitat. They also claim that the lack of Canada lynx is habitat. They claim the lack of the piping plover is habitat. They believe that the caribou up and beat feet out of the state because of lack of habitat. And of course with this all purpose, generic excuse, comes the claim it’s man’s fault; they have cut down all the trees and encroached on the animals. (let’s not forget a few plants too.)
If a person is determined to discuss habitat, or lack thereof, isn’t it imperative to also speak of “carrying capacity”? What is carrying capacity? The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in their science-speak way defines carrying capacity as such:
In population ecology terms, it is “the density of organisms (i.e., the number per unit area) at which the net reproductive rate (R0) equals unity and the intrinsic rate of increase (r) is zero” (Pianka 1974:82). Pianka goes on to explain………blah, blah, blah. Read all about it by following this link.
I would prefer to shorten this up and use their own words and define carrying capacity in this fashion:
“Strictly speaking, carrying capacity is a population concept with underlying theme of number of animals supported by some unit of area. It is the quantity of the specified population for which a particular area will supply all energetic and physiological requirements for a long, but defined, period of time.”
In other words, carrying capacity, although complicated, is how many deer can live in a specified habitat.
In theory then, if, let’s say, the whitetail deer in Maine was at carrying capacity, aside from “chance events” – those things that cause the population to fluctuate “naturally” – the population of deer in Maine becomes a slave to habitat.
In theory again, the population of whitetail deer in Maine is directly proportional to the amount of habitat that can support it.
For clarification purposes, readers should understand that wildlife management isn’t carried out in large sections of land, i.e. habitat. Maine has Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) in order to better focus on regions, much for the reason that the amount of existing habitat is not necessarily continuous and is broken up by numerous natural and unnatural obstacles, i.e. rivers, mountains, cities, farmland, etc.
Is Maine’s deer herd, statewide or regionally, at carrying capacity? In other words, does there exist all the deer that our forest and fields can “supply all energetic and physiological requirements for a long, but defined, period of time?” Not even close. But let me be fair and say that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), whose job it is to “manage” the state’s deer herd, does not necessarily manage deer up to carrying capacity. They have population goals and objectives. I should also point out that there exists in Maine a few small pockets of habitat where deer are at or above population density goals; realizing that a population density goal does NOT mean carrying capacity.
If MDIFW is not interested in managing the state’s deer herd to carrying capacity and are attempting to advocate for the deer as prescribed in the state’s deer management plan and achieve population density goals, then how specifically does habitat even play a factor in the demise of Maine’s deer herd?
The excuse has and remains the frontrunner that no deer in large swaths of the state’s habitat is due to a loss or lack of habitat. While some wildlife planners will, albeit reluctantly at times, admit that there are other factors, at the top of the list remains loss of habitat; I suppose mostly because the great influence environmentalism has had on the fish and game departments nationwide. And with that comes the hatred of man and the foisting of all blame upon them.
While it would be difficult to factor in accurately the percentage that all those other “chance events”, that cause deer populations to fluctuate, at the same level, it becomes just as difficult to determine how much loss of habitat is affecting the herd, especially when the current population isn’t even approaching density goals, speak nothing of carrying capacity.
What transpires in deer management debate becomes excuses of convenience. If I point out that habitat cannot be as big a problem as some advocate, because the deer population remains drastically below density goals and far from carrying capacity, excuse du jour is implemented, i.e. it’s weather/climate, hunters (humans) are killing them all, loggers destroying deer yards, predators, fawn recruitment, lack of money, vehicle mortality, etc.
While we shouldn’t remove any focus and effort into finding ways of sensibly protecting the habitat for all creatures, blaming lack of habitat, disguised as dislike for humans, is disingenuous at best. It is my belief that when the deer herd in Maine is not at density goals (and I don’t recall that the state on average has ever been AT density goals) or even carrying capacity, blaming the problem on habitat, which includes deer wintering areas, has become a bad habit.
December 17, 2012