October 20, 2019

Maine’s 30-Year Moose Lottery Should No Longer Be Called a Lottery

Maine has made changes again this year to its moose lottery system that some are claiming will level the playing field so everyone wins, while others are calling the changes a short term gain resulting in a long time loss. However you look at it, the bitching will continue. It’s the nature of a lottery.

So what is a lottery by definition?

1. a gambling game or method of raising money, as for some public charitable purpose, in which a large number of tickets are sold and a drawing is held for certain prizes.
2. any scheme for the distribution of prizes by chance.
3. any happening or process that is or appears to be determined by chance: to look upon life as a lottery.

I think Maine’s Moose Lottery can fit into definition #1, as the lottery has been used by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) as a method of raising revenue for the department. However, I don’t think that “the distribution of prizes by chance” much applies any longer.

Since 1982, Maine has offered some form of a “lottery” in determining who gets to go on a moose hunt. For 2012 Maine will issue 3,840 permits to perhaps 40-50,000 applicants. At one point in time there were 95,000 applicants but that has since dropped to around 45,000.

That precipitous drop has puzzled MDIFW officials and Maine’s lawmakers as it appears they have no clear understanding of why. I’m sure it’s a combination of several things, i.e. wearing off of the newness, drop in interest due to many factors including many only want to try it once, dissatisfaction with the drawing process, cost, etc.

What is known about the lottery system is there’s a lot of complaining that goes on, especially from those who have never been drawn and/or see others having been selected by lottery several times and view the system as flawed or in some cases rigged. I have no reason to believe the system is intentionally rigged, but try telling that to the person who has applied for 30 years and not been drawn.

There is no solution to the perceived problems of the Moose Lottery. Most changes to the process usually only result in a slight shifting of where the complaints come from. Perhaps I can help to explain why there are difficulties.

The first and perhaps the biggest conundrum is that MDIFW tries to run the Moose Lottery as a revenue generator. We can’t blame them for that but doing so presents difficulties. One of those complications is that the moose population should be managed scientifically. Suppose management strategies are devised through processing collected data to determine information about the moose herd. Biologists then can recommend which Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) should harvest what sex and quantity of each. Thus, the issuance of permits by sex for each of the WMDs that allow a moose hunt.

Even though some of us might think using science to determine harvest requirements would be the difficult part of the equation, it isn’t. It’s the process of issuing the permits and keeping the masses happy.

In my mind, a true lottery would be an actual one chance, random draw, some win, some lose. I’m not a statistician but I’m wondering, in theory, if 40,000 people each bought one chance at a moose lottery and the same 40,000 people bought one chance for 30 consecutive years, how many of those 40,000 would never have been drawn a winner and conversely how many win more than once? Would the results be representative of what Maine’s Moose Lottery results look like now?

A straight up lottery wasn’t satisfactory and so changes began to unfurl and now the lottery more resembles a system of equitable redistribution than a “distribution of prizes by chance”.

Is it the responsibility of the MDIFW to generate revenue or provide hunting opportunities for all license buyers? Ask 50 hunters that question and you’ll get a divided response and 50 different explanations to support their claims.

If it is MFIDW’s job to make money, then we should just allow MDIFW to conduct a lottery for a moose hunt in the best way that will generate the most money. Perhaps auctioning off the 3,840 permits to the highest 3,840 bidders would pad the coffers nicely……..well, at least for awhile.

If it’s MDIFW’s job to ensure that Maine license hunters all get a chance to hunt a moose then the lottery system should be abandoned altogether. Either concoct some mocked down version of an “Any-Deer Permit” where all licensed hunters have a season, albeit a short one, or establish as simple as can be done a rotation method of selection. I’ll spare you the details.

The changes to the lottery are an attempt to approach equity in the system. In other words, to reduce the number (and I don’t know what that number is) of people who have never been drawn for a permit. This is what is being perceived as the driving force toward justice. The question I might ask is will the number of people who will be quieted by the resolve of their viewed unfairness be greater than those who will abandon the process altogether?

Which brings us to another problem with the Maine Moose Lottery – politics. Simply put, a grumbling and unhappy wannabe moose hunter is a potential new vote if some legislator somewhere can make them happy. Need I say more?

In a true lottery, where there will always be winners and losers and the losers, a percentage, will always complain, or a rotation device where everyone eventually gets a chance, will not stop the grieving. Griping is human nature but there might be less of it than what is being echoed now.

There are a lot of unanswered questions with the latest round of attempting to legislate fairness, most of which we won’t know the answers to until 5-10 years down the road, when the moaning and groaning begins to escalate once more.

Tom Remington

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All Moose Like Spring Green-up


Photo by Al Remington

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Kenai, Alaska Moose


Photo by Al 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 III (First Recorded Attacks on Humans)

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

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, is proving to be an interesting addition to my library. I think the authors did a decent job of putting this information together; one, to make it readable, and, two, to give a reader a sense of the changes taking place across the lands over extended periods of time. I am glad they chose to list the entries in chronological order. Of course these changes come with no real explanations from the observers, often just recalling what it used to be like.

In 1860, J.G. Rich writes in the Bethel Courier about his hunts for caribou. He also explains that he has shot and killed two caribou in the previous 6 years and then states, “many hunters from different parts of the State have told me that the species [caribou] are almost extinct in Maine”. Obviously Rich wasn’t into conservation of wildlife, which most of us know came a bit later on after it was decided something needed to be done.

Henry David Thoreau relates the reports he got from lumbermen and hunters in the mid-1800s through the late-1800s. In 1858 he writes, “The lumberers told me that there were many moose thereabouts, but no caribou or deer.”

It was in 1860 when M.R. Keep told the tale of when the French first settled in the Madawaska area in Northern Maine, along the St. John River, the Indians got angry because the French were killing their moose and caribou. The story goes that the Indians, out of spite, slaughtered all the moose, and, “For twenty years or more, not a moose was seen or heard from in all Northern Maine or the adjoining borders of New Brunswick[.]”

However, wolves were still an often talked about species. Thoreau often spent time “listening” throughout his travels in Maine to hear the wolves howl. While people howled about the threats and utter destruction the animal caused.

It was in 1855 that C. Hardy wrote about what he knew of the grey wolf.

“The gray wolf (Canis lupus) has but lately made its appearance in Nova Scotia, not as in other provinces, however, in company with his prey, the Canadian deer (Cervus virginianus). The gray wolf is a large, fierce, and powerful animal. In Maine and New Brunswick, several instances have been known of his attacking singly and destroying a human being. This animal sometimes grows to the length of six feet. The hair is long, fine, and of a silver grey. A broad band of black, here and there, showing shiny silvery hairs, extend from the head down the back. The tail is long and bushy, as the brush of a fox. A wolf skin forms a frequent decoration for the back of a sleigh.”

This is the first I have read in this book (although I am barely past page 100 of 500) of reports of wolves attacking and killing people. I should point out that in reading accounts of wolves beginning in the very early 1600s, most descriptions of wolves up to this point related that they were wary of humans and for the most part steered clear. While there were also reports of some savagery of wolves on livestock, the number of those reports paled in comparison to the accounts of how the wolves feed on available wild prey, such as deer, moose, rodents, etc.

At this juncture, it appears that we may be actually seeing a pattern take place. As the reports from observers seem to be passing on the reduction of game animals and in some cases the lack thereof, i.e. the extinction of the caribou, incidents of livestock kill and now reports of attacks on humans are on the increase.

In 1842, Z. Thompson, in his “History of Vermont”, writes about “The Common Wolf”.

“For some years after the settlement of this state was commenced, wolves were so numerous and made such havoc of the flocks of the sheep, that the keeping of sheep was a very precarious business. At some seasons particularly in the winter they would prowl through the settlements at night and large companies, destroying whole flocks in their way, and, after drinking their blood and perhaps eating a small portion of the choicest and tenderest parts, would leave the carcasses scattered about the enclosure and go in quest of new victims. Slaughter and instruction seemed their chief delight; and while marauding the country they kept up such horrid and prolonged howlings as were calculated, not only to thrill terror through their timorous victims, but to appall the hearts of the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Though sheep seems to be their favorite victim, wolves sometimes destroyed calves, dogs, and other domestic animals; and in the forest they prey upon deer, foxes, hares and other such animals as they can take. Impelled by hunger they have been known in this state to attack persons.”

Here is another account of attacks on people. And also notice that the indicator in the statement about attacks on people is, “Impelled by hunger”. If the accounts being recorded have much accuracy at all, we see that for what may be multiple reasons, the prey base for wolves is diminishing. This increases the incidents of livestock depredation and attacks on humans. I believe it only correct to make that assumption, knowing what we do about wolf behavior.

In addition, this account of Thompson’s, gives us our first glimpse into surplus killing or sport killing that protectors of predators such as the wolf and coyote so readily deny. Thompson describes the wolves’ actions as being anything but savage and pointless. Why has it been 150 years before these kinds of reports are showing up?

I am curious as to whether readers are surprised to learn of these incidences by wolves in Maine – their savagery of livestock and attacks on humans? I would guess they are, as they have been indoctrinated to believe that there has never been an attack on a human by wolves in the lower 48 states. These early observers and recorders of wildlife from the early 1600s, seem to have a differing set of facts.

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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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