December 12, 2019

Breaking News! Giant Cat Threatens Maine’s Deer Herd

You will first need to spot the two bright eyes in the lower left of the screen and then prepare yourself for the attack.

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In Maine, Coyotes Chasing Deer

I’m receiving some interesting reports from around Maine now that we are into the winter season. Yesterday I posted a field report of a buck that had been killed and eaten by coyotes. From the same person, today I have pictures taken from a trail camera that shows a coyote in hot pursuit of a deer.

According to the report, a trail camera is set up “on two of the major trails deer use to migrate”. The individual filing this report states that they have set up on these same trails for “a few years” and that this year, “the number of deer that have traveled by the cameras is about half of what passed last year”.

Being that last year was an extremely poor year for deer, hearing this kind of reporting from the field is very troubling. I have also been hearing reports that there were more mature bucks taken this year. To some – trophy hunters – they find this encouraging. I find in concerning in that if large buck kill was up and the overall harvest was down or the same low rate as last year, perhaps we need to be paying close attention to what’s happening to the age structure of the herd. This might indicate the recruitment of new deer to the herd is very, very low.

However, the perpetuated myth continues that coyotes only bother deer in winter yards when there is a lot of snow. So far in Maine, there is essentially no snow and in those places that have snow, it’s not very much. Even with no snow, in the past two days I’ve been able to file field reports of coyotes chasing and killing deer.

Below are the two photos taken in sequence from one trail camera from the same location. The first picture shows a deer running (assumed because of the blur of the photograph), followed by the second photo of a coyote coming along the same trail moments later. I think the conclusion as to what the coyote is up to is obvious.

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Maine IFW Chief: A Century From Now People Will Say…………

I suppose I could call it some form of job security, but why people at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife continue to provide fodder that prompts repeated demands for accountability on my part, puzzles me. Evidently the Sportsman’s Congress, sponsored by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, was the breeding ground for yet another jewel of spoken words.

In Deirdre Fleming’s article in Saturday’s Press Herald, she begins her piece this way:

A century from now, Mainers will look back and say the state’s fish and game department did what it promised, vowed Chandler Woodcock on Friday.

This remark, as written in Fleming’s piece, came as Mr. Woodcock addressed the Sportsman’s Congress. Part of that debate included discussions on Maine’s efforts, or lack thereof, in rebuilding a whitetail deer herd that is far from adequate.

While some attempts at regulating Maine’s game began in the early to mid 1800s, it was around a century or so ago that Maine and most states in the Union were devising fish and game laws that became the backbone for the North American wildlife management model.

One would have to wonder if the head of Maine’s fish and game around the turn of the century had said, “A century from now, Maine will be at a crossroads not willing to do what is right to protect and perpetuate the game species for the people of this state”, people would have thought him crazy.

But here we are and the current commissioner is talking about the hope that between now and a hundred years from now the deer problem will be saved. I’m sure I will be told that Mr. Woodcock didn’t mean that it would take 100 years to replenish the deer herd. I’m also sure that the same supporters of his comments will claim that Mr. Woodcock feels so strongly about his “Plan for Maine’s Deer” that it will be the greatest thing since the Ginsu Kitchen Knife…….or something.

Perhaps so, and I would suppose a quick pat on the back would be in store for attempting to raise sportsman’s hopes for the future but why would he choose to pick 100 years? I mean, how many fish and game commissioners that have come before Mr. Woodcock have left behind some kind of lasting legacy? How many can you name that we should all remember from 100 years ago? Or twenty years ago? That’s what I thought.

I honestly don’t think Mr. Woodcock is thinking about his legacy, so I have to think that little thought went into his choice of making reference to a century from now.

The current Maine sportsmen are looking for action NOW. They want actions NOW that will create results NOW. And then they want assurances that what we do NOW will pay off NOW and TOMORROW and the NEXT DAY, and that other plans taking place NOW will work at building and maintaining a deer herd 5 years from now and 10 years from now. And the commissioner speaks of what Maine people will be commenting on in 100 years? Are we supposed to lock up our hunting rifles now and make sure our wills are up-to-date so we pass on our hunting rifles to the proper inheritor?

The Commissioner has a plan to rebuild the deer herd. I think he thinks it is a good plan and that it will work. I have serious reservations about it and even if I thought it was a good plan, how can it be implemented with little support for it statewide that is being shown now?

Mr. Woodcock does need to continue to sell his plan. I’m afraid telling the sportsmen that things will be just ducky in 100 years really isn’t going to fire up the troops too much.

I can hear the faint echos now: “Five score and 7 years ago, our founding fathers brought forth in this state, Maine’s Game Plan for Deer , conceived in good thinking and dedicated to the proposition that in one hundred years men would look back and say, ‘What the hell were they thinking’?”

Tom Remington

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Maine Legislative Task Force Disregards Real Problem With Drawing Hunters to the State

Imagine, if you can, that you will take the family to visit Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. You’ve gleaned the brochures, read about the park, contacted the Office of Tourism to get information about lodging, meals, etc. and have been convinced that a trip to Downeast Maine in mid July would be a great investment and a wonderful experience for everyone.

Summer comes, final plans are made and the car is packed. The drive takes about 12 hours but the anticipation is great. Everything the family has read and heard and even pictures viewed attributes to the building anticipation.

Finally, on the first day, you drive the wife and kids to the park and you visit the Welcome Center, once again picking up brochures and looking at maps, all that touristy stuff. You even take the time to view the movie in the theater. But when you and your family emerge from the darkness of the theater, it is only then that you discover that’s it. This is all there is to see and do in Acadia National Park. You question an information employee and they tell you that having attractions in the park is part of a long-term plan that hopefully funding will become available so that eventually they can build roads and put out picnic tables, etc.

As inane as this all seems, it appears this is what the recommendations will be like when the Maine Legislative Task Force, commissioned to figure out why Maine has seen such a drastic decline in game license sales, presents its findings.

The minutes to the final officially scheduled Task Force meeting of November 20, 2011 have become public information now and these minutes gives us a glimpse at what the Task Force will recommend to the Maine Legislature. Oddly, those recommendations were due on December 1, 2011. (Note: At the time of this writing, those minutes had not been posted on the MDIFW website. Check this link to see if they have.)

It is no secret that the overwhelming attraction for hunters to Maine has been the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer. One can argue that perhaps the state hasn’t done a good enough job promoting the resources available to hunt other game species, however, you just can’t ignore that fact.

If the majority of people visit Acadia National Park because their main focus is to see Thunder Hole or drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and either or both of those elements of the park disappeared, who would still want to come? Yes, the National Park Service can mount a campaign to get visitors to come because there are other things to do and see, but it would remain a major obstacle to overcome and pretending the Mountain or Hole is still there and the Park Service is doing all it can to get them back, will do little to bring visitors until it actually happens.

This is how I see the Task Force attempting to address a problem with lack of hunting license sales. There are no deer to speak of in Maine. The herd is in trouble, and while the vast majority of hunting license buyers want to hunt deer, expending nonexistent money and resources to convince them to come to Maine anyway and hunt other things and do other activities besides hunt whitetail deer is nothing more than a huge denial. Hey, here’s an idea. Let’s use the same resources and money to build the deer herd and THEN go invite participants! Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) complains they can’t do this or that to help the deer herd because there is no money, then why, if this Task Force thinks it can find money to promote other things to do with hunting, funds can’t be found to kill more coyotes and improve habitat?

In the final meeting minutes, of which comprises 14 pages, the ONLY mention of the major attraction gets two and one half lines:

7. We need to educate people on what DIF&W is doing to increase the deer herd. Stop sending the negative messages and send the positive messages of what we are doing to address the problem.

I’m afraid that’s it! And then the next page and a half is spent addressing how to market all the other things Maine has to offer. I’m not saying that this Task Force hasn’t come up with ideas and suggestions that probably would help attract visitors IF THERE WERE DEER TO HUNT! Get it? DEER – DEER – DEER – DEER! That’s what it’s all about. A nonresident hunter might want a hot tub to play in at night or Wi-Fi but it’s still all about deer! Have you ever seen a ski resort draw a crowd when there is no snow? Didn’t think so.

As I illustrated at the very beginning, people are drawn to certain things. Whether it’s Magic Kingdom at Disney, Thunder Hole in Acadia or Old Faithful in Yellowstone, if those attractions comprise an overwhelming majority of what the people want to see and those are taken away, these attractions will suffer greatly until they are brought back or something better to replace them.

It appears, for whatever the reasons, this Task Force is either unable or unwilling to see clearly that having no deer to hunt is a problem. If you want to open a theme park, it is strongly recommended that the first thing you do is develop a theme. There must be a focus of what the attraction will be. Whitetail deer are the focus of attraction for hunting in Maine. Yes, the turkey hunting, grouse hunting and bear hunting might be some of the best around but it does little when the majority want deer to hunt. It’s a simple concept really.

I understand the complexity of resolving the lack of deer problem. What I don’t understand is the skirting of the issue by this task force. Because the Legislature decided who would be able to sit on this task force, perhaps the make up is too heavily empowered by governmental agencies and representatives that most participants fear addressing this issue. I just don’t know.

There are no “regular sportsmen” on this panel; only guides and outfitters. While I understand the focus of this task force is to determine why nonresidents aren’t coming to Maine to hunt, don’t Maine resident hunters/sportsmen have something to say about it?

It makes little sense to me and has positioned itself to become nothing more than just another governmental bureaucratic waste of time and resources to say and recommend things that sound good and make our hearts beat a bit faster for a moment.

I think it would be a reasonable recommendation to make that Maine first built the roller coaster ride and then sell tickets for the ride. Doesn’t that really make sense?

Tom Remington

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Wolves in Maine – Part VI – (Did Wolves Leave Maine and Why?)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

In the book “Early Maine Wildlife” – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, as the reader progresses through the chronological order in which the book was laid out, a few things become clear in the debate about game animals and predators during this time frame.

For instance, in recent times I have heard information being passed about by biologists within the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and others, that whitetail deer never were abundant in the northern part of the state and that moose and deer did not and could not survive together. In this claim some have said that when the deer moved north, the moose disappeared and/or when the moose were plentiful through the state, the deer were not. Accounts recorded in this book do not show that to be the case at all in my opinion when considering all written accounts. In actuality all three species of moose, deer and woodland caribou existed throughout the state together, at times very plentiful and other times not.

What does become apparent is that the proclivity of more or less game animals, i.e. caribou, moose and deer, was all dependent on the presence of wolves. What remains unsettled is when, if ever, did wolves leave the state of Maine and what was the reason for their exodus?

Most accounts in this book seem to agree that widespread and numerous packs of wolves in Maine had disappeared by the 1860s – 1870s, even though there are accounts of wolf encounters by people into the early 1900s. As is typical even to this day, hunters and trappers reported seeing wolf tracks many times and yet the continuing presence of wolves would not be acknowledged unless someone killed one and brought it out of the woods.

As an example, appearing in the Maine Sportsman, of an account in 1899, an anonymous writer says, “Thaddeus Coffron of Grand Lake Stream, claims to have seen two large gray wolves not long since on Big Lake near the mouth of Little Musquash stream. He walked up within a few yards of them, being armed only with an axe. Their tracks had been frequently seen in the vicinity previously.”

But as appears in “Forest and Stream”, we read this, “Again there are reports of wolves in Maine with their tracks followed by old wolf hunters, who ‘could not be mistaken.’ They do not bring out the trophies, however, and until they do the ordinary individual is inclined to regard their stories in the same light as that of the well-read fable.”

According to the editor of Shooting and Fishing in 1920 the last officially recorded wolf kill happened in Andover. “The report of the State Treasurer of Maine for 1895 shows that there was one wolf killed in the state during that year, for which a bounty was paid. This single specimen was killed in Andover, and is said to be the only wolf killed in Maine for many years.”

The editor further accounts that even though there may be a stray wolf killed sometime into the future, his “trustworthy sources” believe the wolf is “practically extinct” in New England.

What we don’t know for certain is why the wolf became “extinct” or “practically extinct” in Maine and New England. We have been led for decades to believe that the wolves were all shot, trapped or poisoned by man. Accounts in the book don’t seem to readily agree with this hypothesis nor does it that the caribou were killed off due to uncontrolled hunting.

As was recorded in the Maine Sportsman for the year 1900, a man who worked as a log scaler in the Penobscot region and traveled by foot as far away as 60 miles between lumber camps tells of his observations. “During the whole winter we saw no deer and but few moose, the entire absence of deer being due to the wolves with which the woods were overrun. Caribou we saw everywhere and I plainly remember that one day, coming out upon them trailing along in single file was a herd of 17 caribou.”

However, the scaler’s recall of what was once is soon become reality as he wonders where the caribou went. According to several writings in this book, deer, moose and caribou had once been reduced drastically, probably from a combination of predators and uncontrolled hunting. When the wolves disappeared, the deer and moose recovered and caribou for a time before it is believed, for whatever reasons, they just migrated out of the state. Perhaps they were simply tired of being harassed by predators, including man.

F. E. Keay writes in 1901 that wolves were the “most dreaded” of wild animals and that by their nature were found to be “ferocious and cunning” and did “incalculable” damage to livestock. In dealing with these large predators, Keay describes the effort this way: “They traveled in companies, sometimes of ten or twenty, and were caught or killed only with great difficulty.”

As I have pointed out in other parts of this review of wolves in Maine, the majority of reports all seem to agree that wolves were quite prevalent in Maine until around the year 1860, in which most also agree the wolf simply left the state with the exception of pockets of areas where some packs remained. While it is inarguable that the efforts of hunters and trappers, in conjunction with bounties being paid over 130 years and more, a sizable dent was put in Maine’s wolf population but evidence from these accounts can support the notion that this was not the cause of the final “extinction” of wolves in Maine.

While some accounts in this book of “Early Maine Wildlife” say that wolves for the most part left on their own, coinciding with a time in which many accounts tell of very little game, i.e. moose, deer and caribou, this would support the theory that large predators, like the wolf, will move into an area and essentially devoid it of prey and then move on. We seem to see that here, although several wolves and packs remained behind until the late 1800s when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf “practically extinct”.

In having a better grasp of more recent coyote/wolf history in Maine, we discovered that it was not long after the wolf had become “practically extinct” that what was called the eastern coyote began populating the region. I recall in the 1960s seeing a stuffed eastern coyote that had been killed in Maine. This version of coyote was approximately 30 pounds in weight. This is a far cry from the more abundant sizes of coyotes now present in Maine, commonly reaching 50 -70 pounds in size.

It has been determined that what roams today’s forests in Maine and are commonly referred to as coyotes, are actually some concocted conglomeration of mixed breeds of wolf, coyotes, and domestic dog. It became common knowledge after the influx of eastern coyote into Maine that this varmint, perhaps because of a very small migrating population, interbred with “wild” dogs or domesticated dogs left to run unrestrained. No one is sure of how the wolf mix got into these animals.

It has been theorized that what was once called the gray wolf in Eastern Quebec, Canada, began migrating or random scatterings of these wolves, entered northern Maine and as such resulted in the inbreeding of the already inbred coyote/dog.

Considering the evidence provided in “Early Maine Wildlife” one has to honestly consider that given the relatively short period of time from when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf in Maine “practically extinct”, that some of those earlier wolves remained behind and began breeding with the migrating coyotes.

It would be intellectually dishonest not to consider all the facts in educating ourselves to the changes of wildlife, including predators and large game animals and use them to better be able to effectively manage these species. It is reasonable to consider that man’s efforts to eradicate, – and make no bones about it, that was their intent – was not wholly what drove wolves out of Maine. If this is the case, then it would be beneficial to gain facts and knowledge to understand what events total caused this to happen.

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Wolves in Maine in the 1800s – Part V (Attacks on Humans and Extermination or Migration?)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

When studying and reading through, “Early Maine Wildlife” – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, it becomes clear that there was not always agreements about wildlife. This particular book chronicles the “observations” of hunters, trappers, outdoor writers and historians. Not always do the observations of one person agree with the observations of another. This is the same thing we see today in that people jump to conclusions based on brief and not necessarily scientific observations or at least those based upon sound and thorough data. And at times, the observations of the very seasoned hunter or trapper were scoffed at. More on this in a moment.

In previous parts I have shared information I had found about human encounters with wolves. For decades in this country we have had it drummed into our heads that it were hunters and trappers mainly responsible for the extermination of wolves and also that there has never been any wolf attacks on humans in the Lower 48 States. Those who read their history, know both of these claims are not entirely true.

In 1884, in a February issue of “Forest and Stream”, a writer tells of what it was like living in Maine and dealing with wolves. He writes: “Some fifty years ago these animals [wolves] were numerous and terribly ravenous in the many sparsely settled districts of New England, and the farmers found it impossible to raise sheep, and even calves and pigs were frequently destroyed. Instances were numerous where strong men were attacked and overpowered by packs of wolves.”

This is yet another report and confirmation of regular and frequent attacks on humans by wolves.

But disagreements began to mount as to the validity of two events concerning wolves – when they when “extinct” in Maine and what caused that “extinction”. (I put the word “extinction” in quotes because it has never been determined if the wolf in Maine was effectually exterminated or even what exactly defines extermination.)

Some writers believed that by around the 1880s the wolf that roamed the Maine landscape had disappeared and there seems to have been just as many who disagreed with that assessment.

In another article that appeared in “Forest and Stream” in 1883, a writer recounts the encounter with wolves on the Mattawamkeag River. The author tells of the “blood-curdling” howl of the wolf that frightens all but the very experienced of outdoorsmen. He also tells that on only three occasions in his life did he witness a wolf bark and he says that in each of those events the bark was directed at a human. He describes the bark this way, “The tone is very deep, delivered slowly and deliberately, and each time in exactly the same key, and is in a strange contrast to the rapid, rasping yelp of the coyote.”

On the Mattawamkeag River, a member of the lumber camp had spotted a deer laying dead on the ice of the river. On the opposite shore, was a wolf and it was “barking” at this man, evidently in the fashion described above. The man returned to camp and it was decided to use a bottle of strychnine and poison the meat of the deer in hopes to kill the wolves.

When the man returned to the bait site the next morning, he was quite surprised in what he discovered: “On returning alone to the post, early the next morning, I found that the two wolves had called to the feast the largest pack known in that vicinity. Not a vestige of the deer remained but the hair, and that was so scattered and trampled upon as to be almost indistinguishable………They had gone up the river, and an old hunter who camped about five miles above told me afterward that he counted the tracks of forty-two where they had spread out on a big meadow, that they ate all the poisoned bait that he had out….”

Reports at this time were contrary and confusing. As I said, some were stating the wolves were all dead and yet we find accounts as those described above.

By 1884 there was a “Commission of Fisheries and Game” in Maine. It appears from the accounts in this book that even the commissioners believed the wolves were all gone as a report by the Commissioner of Fisheries and Game scoffingly wrote, “To the poachers’ cry of wolf, the Commissioners have responded by the offer of a double bounty for every wolf scalp. No claims have been presented.”

In a report filed by M. Chamberlain, he writes, “[Wolf] Was common from about 1840 until about 1860; since then, it has entirely disappeared.”

Perhaps the clearest indication of the disagreements between those living in the area about the existence of wolves, comes from an “anonymous” writer, I assume an editorial, in 1884 in the “Forest and Stream”. In this, the writer, again in a scoffing manner, speaks of how the Commission called on what they believed to be false claims that wolves were still killing game and livestock. This is when the Commission doubled the bounty. This editorial is rebutted which I’ll get to in a moment.

Of interest in this piece is that the author speaks of what he believes to be the facts that wolves are now all gone in Maine. But why are they gone? He writes, “Curiously enough there are old settlers in Maine who retain the theory that wolves follow deer. They claim that there were no deer at the time of the wolves – ‘the wolves killed them all off’ – but that since the extermination of the wolves the deer have gone on increasing.”

In this editorial the writer clearly blames the hunters for killing off all the deer and not the wolves.

In the rebuttal I spoke about earlier, the author, an experienced hunter and trapper, says he can prove his facts that the deer are all gone and it was the wolf that killed them and that it was not the hunters that made the wolves disappear. He writes, “In 1853 wolves were very plenty, and for the next five years were not scarce, plenty could be found within sixteen miles of Bangor in 1857 and 1858. They seemed to leave quite suddenly, the last I know of positively being taken was killed by Frank Fairbanks in 1860 in Munsengun. I know the wolves were not exterminated, as from the time they were quite plenty till the time they disappeared, very few skins were brought in. They left of their own accord, just as the caribou left us.”

Little has changed over the years, I would guess, when it comes to dealing with wolves. 130 years ago the wolf was vehemently hated and yet there existed those who wanted to blame man for everything wrong with wildlife.

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Wolves in Maine in the 1800s – Part IV (Community Efforts to Exterminate)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

“Early Maine Wildlife” – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving can tell us many things about how wildlife was perceived, treated, abused and misunderstood. From the early 1600s, it should really come as no surprise that settlers and commercial trappers and game harvesters thought of wildlife as an endless resource. We learned that was not true and it resulted in the formulation of a wildlife management scheme that has proven immensely successful over the past century.

Wolves in Maine, much the same as in many spots across the U.S., were seen as a useless animal, one that competed directly with the hunters and gatherers and as we learned in Part III, when available prey for the wolf diminished, attacks on humans and livestock became more common. As a result, demands from people grew to get rid of the wolf.

In most all of the previous parts of this serial examination, seldom was anything good about the wolf reported, other than perhaps their pelts made for good decoration and available cover to go on the back of the seat in a sleigh.

Our repeated history and education in this country has mostly been centered on the notion that it were hunters and trappers that bore the responsibility for the extirpation of the wolf countrywide. History has shown us this is not true. In addition, those whose interests lie in the over-protection of the wolf are unrelenting in their talking points that humans were unjustifiably frightened of the wolf, embellished through made-up scary tales, and that people simply misunderstood the animal.

I don’t believe any of that to be true at all. World history clearly shows that in those regions of the world were wolves were allowed to flourish, hundreds and even thousands of people were killed by wolves. I don’t know about you but if I lost a family member to a large animal predator, it would only seem normal to develop a fear, or at least a healthy level of respect for the beast, and would more than likely promote the idea to get rid of the darn things. This isn’t fairy tale stuff as some might believe.

People saw little or no real value in wolves and why should they have. They competed directly for the very same resources man wanted and needed to survive, they threatened livestock, which for many was their life line, carried and spread disease and became a real threat to the health and safety of humans. As such, efforts to rid the landscape of the varmints became entire community efforts.

In “Early Maine Wildlife”, the authors reference the writings of E.E. Bourne, in 1875. Bourne’s work is the telling of the history of the Wells and Kennebunk area of Maine. Bourne recalls this area as early as the early 1600s, when the people were obviously still under the rule of England. In 1640, wolves appeared to be most everywhere along the seacoast of Maine and settlers were anxious for the King to offer some financial assistance to the communities to rid the countryside of wolves. Here’s what Bourne wrote:

“The new Government, Gorges’ general court, being legislative as well as judicial in its action, did not confine itself to the moral improvement of the people only, but at the same time looked carefully to their physical economy. It may seem a small matter to have made any enactments in regard to wolves. But to settlers it was much more important that they should be extirpated than it has been at any time since that of salmon, shad, and alewives should be preserved from destruction, or that the agriculture of the country should be protected from the ravages of the crow. Wolves then [~1640] abounded along the coast…….Every settler was interested in their extermination, and at this court it was “ordered that every family between Piscataqua and Kennebunk River should pay twelve pence for every wolf that should be killed.” This, it will be seen, was in the whole a large bounty.

“In 1730, five pounds were paid; a few years afterward, eight pounds. In 1747, it was voted that eight pounds should be paid to every person who should kill one; if he killed two, he should have twelve pounds each; if three, sixteen pounds each….. The action of the town for the destruction of wolves continued till about 1770, after which the municipal war against them was abandoned.”

It’s important to note here that it appears from what is written that the people were a bit frustrated because efforts had been made to preserve the salmon, shad and alewives population, along with efforts to protect crops from crows, while nothing was being done to get rid of the wolf, a problem that obviously the communities saw as large enough to demand something be done to help.

So from what appears to be around 1640 until 1770, bounties were put together as an incentive for more people to kill wolves. Those bounties grew to be quite handsome. But mind you this was an entire community that was taxed in order that bounties be paid to rid the area of wolves. It must have been important to them in every way.

During that 130-year period of time, read what happens to the deer population.

Bourne writes: “Until about the commencement of the Revolutionary war, deer were very abundant in Wells. Herds of them, from ten to twenty, were very frequently seen. They were in the habit of visiting the marshes in great numbers……

“As late as the year 1770, a deer was started by a dog, and in chase he ran into the parlor of Joseph Storer in Kennebunk, and went out through the window.”

Does any of this relate to modern times?

But I don’t believe it was simply the efforts of communities and governments to pay bounties and put out poison that led to the extirpation of the wolf. Even utilizing all of those and other tools to achieve that goal, it is still a daunting task to actually completely rid a state or country of a species. I would also suppose that disease, along with changes in the prey base for the wolves and changes in climate, population growth and destruction of habitat all played a factor.

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Wolves in Maine in the 1600s – Part I

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

I am just getting around to reading a book I bought a few weeks ago – Early Maine Wildlife – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving.

The book appears to be a great research tool because the authors have done much of the legwork for those interested in research of the subjects listed, and the geographical region. The majority make up of the book contains excerpts from writings, logs, and journals that date back as early as 1603. These excerpts are provided the reader in chronological order.

Below are fragments of the whole entries given by the authors about wolves. Although the parts I have selected are only portions of the log provided by the authors, the pieces are not taken out of context. Also, bear in mind that the age of writings can present some challenges with spellings and use of words. I have presented them exactly as found in this book.

This particular presentation I have chosen, comes from work done by a W. Wood in 1977, New England Prospect. The writings were dated 1634. I believe the 1634 author was a Thomas Cotes of London.

~~~~~

They [deer] desire to be near the sea, so that they may swim to the island when they are chased by the wolves. It is not to be thought into what great multitudes they would increase were it not for the common devourer, the wolf.

The wolves be in some respect different from them in other countries. It was never known yet that a wolf set upon man or woman. Neither do they trouble horses or cows; but swine, goats and red calves, which they take for deer, be often destroyed by them, so that a red calf is cheaper than a black one in that regard in some places. In the time of autumn and in the beginning of spring, those ravenous rangers do most frequent our English habitations, following the deer which come down at that time to those parts. They be made much like a mongrel, being big boned, lank launched, deep breasted, having a thick neck and head, prick ears, and a long snout, with dangerous teeth, long-staring hair, and a great bush tale.

These be killed daily in some place or other, either by the English or Indian, who have a certain rate for every head. Yet is there little hope of their utter distruction, the country being so spacious and they so numerous, traveling in the swamps by kennels. Sometimes ten or twelve are of a company. Late at night and early in the morning they set up their howlings and call their companies together – at night to hunt, at morning to sleep. In a word they be the greatest inconveniency the country hath, both for the matter of damage to private men in particular, and the whole country in general.

~~~~~

If I may point out a few things that should help people to understand wolves, their habits and their ability to adjust their behavior to their surrounding circumstances.

The first paragraph should be analogous to accounts we are hearing on a daily basis in areas where wolves are prevalent in the U.S.. In this case, in 1634 Maine, the “deer” are being driven to the sea (Southern coast of Maine) and that these “deer” swim onto the islands to escape the wolves.

I have put “deer” in quotes in order to point out that in this writing, the author describes three kinds of deer – whitetail deer, moose and caribou, and these three species are generally referred to as “deer”. Therefore, in the context of the entry, the description of the “deer” moving to the sea and onto the islands, we can assume means all three species.

In the second paragraph, take notice that the author describes the wolves he finds in Maine to be different from those he’s familiar with in other countries. We know not specifically what “other countries” the author is speaking, but he notes that, to his knowledge, he knows of no incidences in Maine were any human has been attacked by wolves.

It may be reasonable to conclude that the author acknowledges there are wolf attacks on humans in other countries and probably numerous enough that it would give him reason to take notice of the differences.

Also described is the prey wolves seem to be more interested in at that time; swine, goats, calves, deer, etc., and yet points out they are not bothering the horses or cows. Again, can we conclude that the author assumes, from his own experiences that wolves regularly attack and kill horses and cows, “in other countries”?

What are the differences in the wolves that the author is noticing a distinct behavioral pattern from wolves of his past experiences? Size? Availability of prey? Availability of desired prey? From this entry we really can’t answer that question.

In the final paragraph, the author describes the wolves as being “killed daily” and having a bounty of some amount as well, but points out there is little danger of their “utter destruction”. Of interest to me was when the author tells that the wolves “be the greatest inconveniency the country hath, to private men in particular, and the whole country in general.” Also notice the author asks the question; “what great multitudes they [deer] would increase were it not for the common devourer, the wolf.”

In another portion of this book, a different writer describes Maine’s wolves as being timid and leery of humans. This should not come as a surprise, as history has taught us that any wild animal that is harassed by humans becomes more distrustful of them, making them quick to escape and more difficult for humans to spot. From that same history, we have learned that when people have no means of protection, i.e not allowed to have guns, and the animals are protected, large predators such as wolves soon learn there is little to fear from humans. This habituation can present serious problems for humans especially when wolf numbers continue to increase and the prey base vanishes. Hungry wolves need to eat.

As I continue through the book, over 500 pages, I hope to find other interesting pieces of discoveries to share.

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