October 17, 2019

Maine’s Deer Harvest Data Missing, Something Going on With Moose?

The last of the Maine deer hunting for 2013 ended on December 13, 2013. It is now March 11, 2014 and not one breath of information coming out of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about harvest data. And as is always the case, the longer we wait the more reason we have to believe there must be something to hide. I mean seriously, how long can it take? Or am I the only one who cares enough about factual information to make my own assessments as to what is and what is not going on with the state’s deer and deer management (or lack thereof)? After all, there was all this pre-season hype about a restored and surging deer herd with projected increases in deer harvest expected.

Maine counts about 20,000 deer of late, most all of that information being collected from tagging stations spread out across the state. I hate to make this comparison but New Jersey counted just shy of 50,000 tagged deer in their harvest and the last of their deer hunting, winter bow, didn’t end until January 31, 2014.

Not to pick just on the deer harvest, where’s Maine’s bear harvest data? Gee, the newspapers are always full of bear stories, of the great work the bear biologists are doing studying bears etc. but no bear harvest data.

So what’s new with whitetail deer management in Maine? Nothing, I guess, unless it’s a really well kept secret. Hoping for some more serious global warming I guess. And where’s that increased communication we were promised in Maine’s Plan for Deer?

There is some good news about deer management coming from Downeast Maine. Sorry, but this management has nothing to do with MDIFW. Downeast, they kill coyotes, they kill bears, they kill bobcats, that kill deer. Oh, don’t worry. They aren’t going to kill all the coyotes, bears and bobcats. They just MANAGE them. Instead they are going to prevent the extirpation of whitetail deer.

Unofficial reports I have just received show deer harvest numbers are great. Coyote tracks and other signs are at minimum levels compared with previous years and with a spring bear hunt on Indian Reservation lands, over 50 bears were taken last year.

And by the way, with a continued abundance of snowshoe hare, the Canada lynx, supposedly in danger of extirpation, is thriving Downeast.

But there is something going on with moose Downeast. One observer says he doesn’t believe it to be winter ticks, as the usual signs of tick infestation aren’t showing up.

I also have an unconfirmed report that 4 of the 40 moose officials collared, as part of their moose study, have already died. I believe those 4 dead moose were yearlings. No cause given yet but it is being reported that when those 4 moose were collared, officials knew they were sick then. But what were they sick with?

Maine has already determined how many moose permits they will issue for the 2014 hunt by lottery. Was this decision made knowing that there may be disease running its course? Should MDIFW reconsider moose permit allotments. If only there was better communication. I think sportsmen and others would be more concerned if they actually knew what was going on. Or maybe that’s the plan.

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Wolf Management and Hunter Manipulation_ The Cause of the Destruction of Our Herds.

The following video clip is from a work in production by Rockholm Media, “Ghosts of the Rockies.” Whether intended by the author or not, what I find inexplicable is the contrasting care and attention being given to a nasty, disease ridden, useless wild dog, and that of the elk, what’s left of them, left to rot and be destroyed. The elk is a useful creature for many things including a food source to thousands of people and human beings. With mixed-up priorities, valuable money and resources are being spent to protect a useless creature, where life existed just fine for many, many years without it, allowing for the destruction of the elk, deer and moose.

Talk about screwed up in the head.

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80% of Fawn Deaths Attributed to Coyotes

coyotestakedownbuckBack in 1994, Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus, University of Calgary, spoke to the Southeast Deer Study Group who were lamenting what to do about their whitetail deer management problems. What was their “problem?” Too many deer. In response, Dr. Geist was quoted as saying:

Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.

Apparently Dr. Geist’s crystal ball was accurate. The coyotes, of the so-called “Eastern” variety are well established in the eastern portion of the United States, on up into the Northeast, where those coyotes have been determined to be a hybrid of coyote, wolf and domestic dog. In addition, nearly 20 years later, it appears the problem of too many deer in some southeast locations has evolved into a problem of asking, where are the deer going?

Be it also known that the western coyote and eastern coyote are not the same and therefore to transfer deer and coyote management problems from one region to the other is a lesson in fool’s folly.

There’s an article in the Grandview Outdoors on how coyotes affect whitetail deer. In this article, the author makes reference to a six-year study that took place in the Southeast pertaining to interactions between coyotes and whitetail deer. I have written in the past about this study and other more recent studies on coyote/deer behavior and interaction. Please find some of those articles here, here, here, here, here.

Pertaining to one study the author in reference says:

If the collar stopped moving for a set period of time, indicating the fawn had died, researchers went to the site and determined the cause of mortality.

The results were astounding. Researchers involved in the study, which took place on the grounds of the Savannah River nuclear facility site, knew coyotes ate deer fawns. They had no idea they ate so many. As it turned out, 80 percent of the fawns that died from all causes were killed by coyotes.

Most of us understand that large predators, i.e. coyotes, wolves, bears, lions, etc. kill whitetail deer. Some think this only happens to the fawns but study after study, along with photo documentation, has shown that coyotes, for example, take down full grown adult deer and similarly sized livestock. What must be remembered is that what is good deer and predator management in South Carolina, may not work so well in Maine or any other state.

There’s another issue that comes up in this article that disturbs me. In extolling the virtuous benefits of the results of this study to determine how coyotes affect whitetail deer herds, the author spends a good amount of time telling of how researchers had to kill off virtually all of the coyotes within the study area in order to make a determination of how the deer herd reacted without coyotes. It was a difficult task but it was undertaken and, I assume, was successful, otherwise the study would not have produced reliable results.

With all the fuss and rigamarole about killing off all the coyotes for the study, the author then makes this statement:

In other words, the random shooting of the occasional coyote will likely have no noticeable effect on fawn recruitment rates. That’s not to say shooting every coyote you see won’t help at all, but South Carolina deer hunters shoot about 30,000 coyotes each year. Still, the state’s deer population has declined by about 30 percent since 2002.

However, toward the end of the article, we learn the real feelings about predators, or at least coyotes, from the project leader of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Charles Ruth:

Adams agrees with Ruth that killing the occasional coyote will have little effect on deer populations. Removing a few predators from the landscape only creates a void that others from surrounding areas will fill. Numerous studies have found that at least 75 percent of coyotes must be removed from an area in order to have an impact on fawn survival. No hunter or hunt club can achieve that rate through recreational hunting alone.

“Focus on the things you can have an impact on, like habitat and reducing the harvest of antlerless deer,” says Adams. “Coyotes are here to stay, and the sooner hunters realize that we can’t shoot or trap our way out of them, the quicker we can focus on things that we can do that will make a difference.”

Spoken as a true, modern day predator lover and destroyer of hunting opportunities.

Prior to this profound statement, the author talks at length about everything a hunter can do in his hunting area to improve the deer herd – anything from counting deer, determining fawn/doe ratios, and hacking up the forest to create better cover so coyotes can’t find a fawn hidden in the brush. I wonder if these people understand the sense of smell a coyote, bear, wolf, etc has, in that they can smell a newborn fawn from great distances away? Having thick undergrowth may help with escape but how many hunters can actually manipulate the forests where they hunt in the fashion suggested.

But all of this isn’t the worst of it. The suggestion from the officials is to don’t bother with attempting any kind of predator management and that hunters need to learn to live with predators by giving up more and more hunting opportunity.

On the surface this may sound like good advice if you live in a state where multiple deer can be harvested. Reducing the number of antlerless deer permits to increase the number of fawns to ultimately boost fawn recruitment, in most cases, has proven to be a viable tool. However, are hunters supposed to settle for less opportunity and give up on predator management?

The author states that South Carolina’s deer population has shrunk 30%. This kind of attitude of making hunters to continue giving up more and more opportunities to harvest deer, is THE trend nationwide. Reality is, this approach isn’t working – at least as it may pertain to protecting the investment that hunters have and continue to make over the years.

So, what good are any of these suggestions in states, like Maine, where the deer herd is struggling, hunters are allowed one deer, antlered only, unless by permit and in some cases of archery hunting? Maine hunters have been giving up deer hunting harvest opportunity for years and in some of those years, permits for antlerless deer have all but been eliminated statewide. And yet, predation from coyotes, bears, bobcat, lynx and others, is taking it’s toll on the deer herd.

Perhaps when Dr. Val Geist was looking into his crystal ball nearly 20 years ago, he should have told these guys that when the deer herd begins to drop because of an overgrown population of coyotes, reducing opportunities, while thinking there is nothing that can be done about predator control, is a pretty good recipe for a failed deer management plan. There must be predator control as part of any game management plan.

Absolutely hunters need to understand that they compete with predators for the valued venison but they should not allow fish and game, so-called experts, to dictate that there is nothing that can be done about predators, and that hunters should just be prepared to give up their chances to harvest game.

The last thing hunters should be doing, and the last thing fellow hunters should be suggesting, is giving up hunting opportunities.

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Without Coyotes Apples Can’t Be Grown

For several years the state of Maine has been having discussions about coyotes and their effect on the deer herd and other wild animal and plant species. Some people love wild dogs and go to great extremes to protect them. In the process, propaganda gets passed from dog lover to dog lover and soon is readily acceptable as fact, even though it may lack any real common sense.

In an article appearing on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network website, an apple grower in that state, who opposes efforts to reduce the coyote population in order to save other species, says that he couldn’t grow apples without his beloved “songdogs.”

“My name is Steve Meyerhans. I live in Fairfield and I’ve been growing apples in Somerset County and Kennebec County for 39 years.” Myerhans says coyotes play a key role in maintaining the health of his orchard. “The coyotes come to my orchard. They feed mostly on apples and mice and they will control the mouse population.”

Mice, you see, do serious damage to Meyerhans apples. And if the coyotes go away, Meyerhans worries he will be forced spread Zincphosphide, a toxic mouse poison, on his orchard.

I care not to dispute whether coyotes eat apples and mice but apple growers have been growing apples for a very long time. I seem to even recall a story that goes back quite a few years of a certain apple, growing in a certain garden, that wasn’t supposed to be eaten. But, what I would like to dispute is the fact that it was but 40-50 years ago that coyotes began showing up in Maine. Certainly people were growing apples before that. How did they do it?

miceeatingcoyotes

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When Will Editorial Writers Know They’ve Written Enough?

I was completely weirded out after reading the first letter to the editor in the Bangor Daily News from one Joshua O’Donnell, claiming residence in Brunswick, Maine. In that self-exposition, O’Donnell came across more of a candle-burning, Gaia worshiping, stalker than anyone concerned about the welfare of coyotes. Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh!

How does anybody respond to such nonsense? Perhaps a better man that I, Gerry Lavigne, former Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) deer biologist and now member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, did rebut O’Donnell’s blather. You can read that here.

Today, it appears that Mr. O’Donnell (assuming it’s the same Joshua O’Donnell) tried a different tactic and decided to pass himself off as an expert on the coyote and game management in general. It should be noted here that this recent letter to the editor more than suffices to demonstrate that the writer is ignorant of coyotes, wildlife management and history.

O’Donnell fails miserably in defining what constitutes a “poorly studied species without any core or long-term understanding of their ecological role within a changing ecosystem.” Somehow I think this is a cautious attempt at claiming the new-science science of ecosystem self-regulation and the importance of predators, like the coyote or wolf as being necessary to “balance” our conglomeration of animal and plant life found in our forests. All a myth.

Then there’s this.

Maine’s coyote hunt exists as the continuance of an inhumane, unethical and violent tradition that historically escalates and has culminated in the complete extinction of keystone predators such as the Eastern cougar and gray wolf.

Are we talking about coyotes, cougars, wolves or asses? (That’s what Jesus called them.) Obviously the only history Mr. O’Donnell has about hunting traditions and history is what he learn in third grade……last year. If we are talking about coyotes, I would like to request from Mr. O’Donnell the facts that show the last time coyotes were exterminated from anywhere on the planet. It is a display of dishonesty, if nothing else, to somehow extrapolate Maine’s coyote control program into the extermination of “keystone predators”.

The rest of what he writes is just fill-in words of garbage and emotional drool. Perhaps if Mr. O’Donnell spent a bit more time learning before speaking, he might discover the truth about what was really in our fields and forests before settlers came here from Europe. In addition, if he were to study and seek a truthful understanding of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, he may not wish to excoriate the hunting community that, through implementation of the world’s most sought after wildlife management plan, made it possible that he can see wild game and wild animals as he travels about the state of Maine; that is if he goes outside. Because of this plan and the real conservation efforts of hunters, America has perhaps the most wildlife present ever in its history.

I might concur on one point O’Donnell brings up and that is about how extensively the animal has been studied. I suppose it’s mostly in the eye of the beholder, but it is my opinion that more studies should be done. However, there are currently several studies underway and preliminary results are blowing holes in the theories that the environmentalists and animal lovers have worn out. Just the other day I was reading about someone working with another town in Maine to help to “learn to coexist” with coyotes. This person wrongfully stated that if you kill coyotes, they will produce twice as many offspring the following reproduction cycle. That is one giant lie that has perpetuated in the ranks of the uninformed for decades now.

I wonder if Mr. O’Donnell would accept the results of studies if they didn’t fit his narrative.

Another point to make and one that seldom gets passed on in mainstream media reports. Sportsmen in Maine are not all that interested in exterminating (as if they could) coyotes in Maine, but here’s the problem. The majority of Maine stands on the precipice of losing a much cherished whitetail deer population. Maine’s coyotes, technically a cross hybrid between an eastern coyote, wolf and yes, domestic dog, kill deer and moose, along with many other animals such as the Canada lynx, a protected species. In parts of the country where deer are too numerous, the coyote is mostly a welcome critter to help in keeping the deer population in check. But it’s not that simple. Some of these states are now seeing repercussions from the same over protection of the coyote.

Maine hunters want to see an effort to reduce predators, even black bears, in order to give the state’s deer herd a chance to rebuild and not disappear. Take note that the state is not focusing on coyote reductions in parts of the state where the deer are plentiful, along with the coyote/wolf.

It would be beneficial to Mr. O’Donnell and other readers to learn about predator pits; what causes them, why they are dangerous to the entire ecosystem and how to get out of them.

From Dr. Charles Kay Predator-Mediated Competition
Previous article: Maine: Spiraling Toward A Predator Pit

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Protecting the Fish and Game Biologist Brotherhood

Once again, Outcome Based Education, political bias and perpetuated myths are on display in Maine. A retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist and a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist, says that politicians are the cause of Maine’s depleted(ing) deer herd, not coyotes.

Politicians are to blame for many things and readers know I would be the last in line to stand up for one unless I knew them personally and could trust them. As far as whether politicians are the sole blame for Maine’s vanishing deer herd, I don’t think, as much as I would like to, I could put all the blame on them.

The author was a wildlife biologist and worked for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), so I doubt he would dare place any of the blame for a terrible deer management execution on his “brotherhood” at MDIFW.

Getting beyond the political bias and nonsense, let’s examine a few things that the retired biologist had to say.

Since the early 1900s, expensive and barbaric coyote bounties have failed miserably in western states, but that knowledge carries no weight in Augusta.

History is full of accounts of how “barbaric bounties” very effectively controlled predator populations. Maybe the author needed to rewind his history clock a few more years to discover that….or maybe the seeming failure was intentional.

One has to simply reread many of the journals and accounts from years ago in the West to learn what actually happened. A favorite account of mine is that of C. Gordon Hewitt.

It always amazes me how that the evils of hunting swing in both directions, when convenient. While wolves and coyotes were virtually wiped out in the West as the settlers moved in, hunters were blamed. When there is talk of killing predators, such as coyotes and wolves, those same people who blamed the destruction of coyotes and wolves on hunters, swing the door in the other direction and tell us as did the opinion piece in question:

It seems counterintuitive, but the war on coyotes has actually increased their numbers and breeding range. The Colorado Division of Wildlife reports that coyotes are more numerous today than when the state was first settled by trappers. Colorado and other western states no longer waste taxpayer money on futile coyote control programs.

There exists no scientific evidence that killing coyotes causes them to automatically breed more of themselves. There are just too many factors that come into play when examining reproductive habits of any wild animal. And is the author of this opinion piece actually suggesting here that all those coyotes now in Colorado are solely to blame on hunters and trappers? Once again, a reading and studying of the history of settling the West shows that aside from certain pockets, this nirvana of the West was not so Disneyesque as many would like to believe. Man’s expansion created a vast habitat to support coyotes and all other wildlife. In time, the implementation of the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation allowed for the growth and health of our wildlife systems.

The retired biologist intimates that Maine plans to implement a one year program to kill coyotes, saying it wouldn’t be effective. Agreed, and I know of no honest person who has indicated that it would. I happen to know explicitly that both MDIFW Commissioner Woodcock and Governor LePage have been told and I believe understand that predator control is an ongoing part of wildlife management and this should have been taking place years ago. The MDIFW fell flat on their faces in this regard.

The article shows us the author’s real colors when he begins his rant about how the Maine politicians failed because they did not steal land rights away from American taxpayers. The crying and gnashing of teeth is about the State Legislature failing to tell landowners they can’t use the resources on their own land; an unconstitutional land grab straight from the pages of the United Nations Agenda 21 program, whose goal it is to take all land and resources worldwide and forbid you and I from owning or having access to any of it, saving it instead for them. I’m all for protecting our wildlife, but never at the expense of man’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are better ways than forceful takeovers.

We are then treated to what appears to be an expert on the deer management in Minnesota and Michigan stating:

If you remain unconvinced that lack of winter shelter is the primary reason northern Maine supports few deer, please consider this: Minnesota and Michigan deer herds are much healthier than Maine’s. Minnesota and Michigan winters are as difficult as Maine’s. Deer in both of those states must also avoid being eaten by coyotes and wolves.

So the logical question LePage, Woodcock, Martin and deer hunters should ask is this: What are Minnesota and Michigan doing differently to maintain healthy deer populations? The answer: Both states prioritize protecting deer wintering areas through land purchases, conservation easements and regulating excessive timber harvests.

The proof is in the pudding they say, and with the help of a reader, we have been able to provide a couple of graphs that show that since the late 1990s and early 2000s, both Minnesota and Michigan have seriously reduced deer harvest numbers, dropping over 30% and more.

You don’t suppose that one of the reasons that Minnesota and Michigan have a declining harvest of deer, an indication of a declining deer population, has anything at all to do with the years of over protecting predators and now the results of that over protection are showing up? In addition, I have yet to get anyone that pretends to have all the answers explain to me why, if there are no more deer wintering areas left in Maine to support more deer, the ones we have are not being used?

It appears that the basis for the author’s opinion piece in the paper is mostly wrapped around his dislike of Gov. LePage and his republican administration, while at the same time blaming politicians in general for a deer demise, the fate of which was left in the hands of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; a department that the biologist was an employee of. Surely we couldn’t expect someone to point a finger at their brotherhood of hoodwinked biologists….or even perhaps at themselves.

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Maine Gov. LePage Signs Bill To Appropriate Money for Predator Control

I had reported on Maine’s efforts to pass appropriations legislation for predator control to help rebuild a seriously depleted deer herd. The linked-to article questioned Maine’s full commitment to saving the herd and thus saving the hunting industry.

According George Smith, blogger and former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Governor Paul LePage has signed LD 372 that would add another $100,000 to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) budget to be used for predator control. In addition to this bill, the governor signed other MDIFW related bills appropriating funds for fish stocking, increased tagging agents’ fees and adding a “check-off” on the licensing application for sportsmen to donate money toward predator control.

I applaud Governor LePage’s signing of LD 372 as it seems to indicate more of a commitment to save the deer herd. He promised during his campaign he would and while it has taken 2 years, this is certainly better than nothing. However, Maine still lacks real commitment from all stake holders to make this happen.

The other issue is that Maine sportsmen are now left wondering if the money will actually be spent on killing predators that kill deer, i.e. coyotes/wolves, bears, and bobcats. Last winter MDIFW had $50,000 budgeted for coyote control and only used $15,000, in a piddling effort in only 9 deer yards scattered across the state, to kill coyotes. The excuse was it was a poor winter to kill coyotes in deer yards.

Time will reveal now whether MDIFW has the stomach and determination to kill predators to save a dying species. Sportsmen should keep a watchful eye on MDIFW to make sure this money gets spent on what it was legislated for and that real effort is made to reduce the number of predators that kill deer.

In addition, email the Governor’s office and thank him for signing these bills and remind him to make sure MDIFW does what it has been commissioned by the Legislature to do. Governor@maine.gov

Tom Remington

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Summary For Maine’s 2011/2012 Intensive Coyote & Predation Management


Please click to enlarge.

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20 Dead Maine Coyotes

I am told that these dead coyotes are at least part of efforts by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s attempt at targeting coyotes in deer wintering areas.

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The $181.27 Dead Coyote

According to information given to Reuters News about a year ago, Maine officials at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), claimed there were around 20,000 coyotes living within the borders of that state. I don’t think there exists too many people, with the exception of coyote worshipers, who will argue that if MDIFW is willing to admit there are 20,000 coyotes in their state, there’s more accurately probably around 30,000 or more. However, for the sake of this article let’s say Maine has 20,000 coyote.

According to Gerry Lavigne, retired deer biologist with the MDIFW and current board member for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he says that, “Eastern coyote populations will probably decline if their annual losses exceed 60%.” “Probably decline” means also that they might not. So let’s say a 50% annual mortality on Maine’s coyotes will maintain the current population at 20,000. That would mean that each year 10,000 coyotes need to be killed just to maintain current levels. Please bear in mind here that I am being generously conservative in my estimates of coyote population and total mortality rates.

The MDIFW has miraculously found $50,000 to appropriate for killing coyotes in targeted areas. According to information coming out of the MDIFW office, that targeting is being done in 9 specified Deer Wintering Areas (DWA).

Below is a chart showing where the nine DWA are, the number of coyotes killed in each DWA and costs associated with paying hunters/trappers to kill those varmints. To date, 52 coyotes have been killed at an expense of $9,426.00. That breaks down to $181.27 per dead coyote. If Maine left coyote control up to the MDIFW, taxpayers or license buyers would have to come up with $1,812,700 annually just to sustain a coyote population at current conservative levels.

Also, according to Gerry Lavigne, of those 10,000 coyotes that need culling to maintain current populations, perhaps 80% of those are taken by natural causes in combination with trapping and hunting; again conservative numbers being used here. With Maine’s limited trapping regulations, taking more coyotes is problematic and with the state applying for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for trapping and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) threatening to pile on more trapping restrictions, controlling coyotes doesn’t hold a very good future for deer but wonderful if you are a coyote. This will put more burden on the MDIFW to find ways of killing more coyotes.

Of the 10,000 coyotes needed killing each year, and trapping, hunting and natural causes take care of 8,000 of them, MDIFW is left with finding some way of killing another 2,000 varmints. At $181.27 per each flea, tick and disease carrier, that’s $362,540 annually to hire trappers and hunters to get the job done.

Is this the best way to take care of this problem? Couldn’t it be argued that putting up a $100 bounty per each coyote cheaper and more effective, providing the targeting of specific areas was handled properly? For a $100 bounty per coyote there’s bound to be a spike up in coyote hunting and trapping license sales.

If you factor in the need to reduce coyote populations, say cut the current numbers in half, the expense becomes overwhelming. But I ask again, isn’t it in the best interest, if that amount of money is going to have to be spent to address this problem, that it be put into the hands of all trappers who have bought licenses and supported the wildlife and trapping in the state for years?

Either there’s a coyote problem in Maine that needs addressing or there’s not. Puttering at the problem accomplishes nothing. $50,000 could probably be used on better program management. Why go about this effort seemingly in order to fail? It’s time to go or get off the pot.

Tom Remington

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