August 19, 2019

Maine’s New Hunting Future




Photo Editorial by Richard Paradis

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Maine Predator Field Report Update

This morning I posted an update to the article I published last week on Maine’s predators from trappers in the field. One of the emails contained information about coyote trapping/snaring in New Brunswick, Canada. This latest update straightens out some numbers on trappers and harvest and the methods used for taking coyotes. Follow this link to read the update.

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What Will Maine’s Hunter Task Force Recommend To Bring Hunters Back?

Reports are that the Nonresident Hunter Task Force will formally submit recommendations to the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on January 23, 2012. George Smith gives readers a glimpse into what he believes the Task Force’s recommendations will be.

In brief those recommendations or perhaps what they will NOT recommend, might look like this:

1. Will NOT recommend Sunday hunting.
2. Recommend to allow nonresident hunters to hunt on residents only day. (What will we name that day?)
3. Recommend a more equitable means of distributing Any-Deer Permits and Moose Lottery Permits.
4. Recommend better and/or different marketing strategies to bring hunters to the state to hunt turkeys, upland birds, ducks and rabbits.

Missing from Smith’s report and presumably missing from any recommendations we can expect by this task force, is increased efforts to control predators that are seriously limiting hunting opportunities for deer. As I’ve written many times before, the overwhelming majority of hunting licenses sold in Maine are to hunt deer. While it’s a good recommendation to market Maine’s other hunting opportunities, Maine is only kidding itself if they think they can somehow replace lost license revenue by promoting bunny hunting (isn’t killing bunnies competing directly with the “threatened” lynx population whose main diet is bunnies?).

Even an obligatory and cursory mention that the Task Force recognizes the need to grow whitetail deer would at least acknowledge they do see this as a problem. However, reading and studying the minutes of the Task Force meetings, the objective appeared to be to ignore that problem and concentrate on trying to hide it from potential or past nonresident hunting license holders.

As Smith points out, “most of the recommendations can (unfortunately) be placed in the category of wishful thinking”, does this then show what a waste of time and effort it all was? Can we collectively compute all the accomplishments of the numerous “task forces” the Maine Government has assembled to “solve” fish and game problems and fit them with room to spare into a sewing thimble? Perhaps another task force to determine if previous task forces have been productive?

Government in action!


Photo Editorial by Richard Paradis

Tom Remington

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83 Less Deer Killers in Maine

COYOTES – Sent in by David Miller

Last year about this time five members of the Carrabassett Valley Trappers reported in an article that the five had trapped and tagged 70 some coyotes. They had taken the coyotes in the early canine season in late October of 2010. This effort helped to reduce damage to livestock and wildlife (deer in particular).

This last year’s (2011) take during the same time frame resulted in the five individuals tagging 83. The period trapped is the special canine season that runs two weeks before the general trapping season and deer hunting season. The five trappers in the photograph are left to right Dave Miller, Gordon Blauvelt, Matt Landry, Steve Rankin, and Jerry LeBeau.

With approximately 2000 licensed trappers in the state, if each caught just 5 apiece, the benefits to our deer herd would be tremendous. With the current condition of the deer herds in western, northern, and down east Maine recovery is about impossible with the current level of predators. These predators that prey on deer size mammals include bears, bobcats, and coyotes; with coyotes being the most prevalent and damaging. At present, the deer numbers are so low that with the level of current predation deer recovery is impossible. This is because the number born and surviving to adulthood is less than that taken annually by the predators.

Trappers, hounds men, and hunters together with effort can reduce the predation by coyotes to a level where recovery is possible along with proper deer wintering area management and the lack of back to back bad winters. The loss of our deer herd has resulted in a tremendous impact to our states economy and in particular that of rural Maine. Deer hunting alone was a multi-million dollar business to the state. In recent years we have seen a great reduction in the number of out of state hunters. The majority of those same hunters (at their own admission) now go to New York, Pennsylvania and other destinations to hunt. They say, why hunt in Maine when there are so few or in some areas no deer anymore.

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In Maine, Black Bears Still About in Mid January

I have been reporting this week of several field reports in Maine as to what is happening. Just this morning I finished posting a report of a coyote(s) chasing a deer and it was captured on a trail camera.

In a completely separate report, by a completely different person, on opposite ends of the state, comes word that bears are still out and about, or at least can be easily roused. Are these creatures not hibernating this winter?

Albert Ladd, from the Western part of Maine, sends me information that he, “Put bait out for coyotes a few days back”. Upon checking his bait pile he discovered that the bait was gone. Ladd says, “I walked out and found out it was dragged into the woods by a small bear.” (See photos below)

Ladd also surmised that being that his bait pile was near a “lot of rock and ledge”, the bear’s den is someplace not so far away. Perhaps the bear, not being snowed under in his den of hibernation, caught wind of the scent from the bait pile and he couldn’t resist.

While part of the contents of the bait pile was leftover bear parts, Ladd referred to the bear as a “cannibal”.


Photo by Al Ladd


Photo by Al Ladd

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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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Even With No Snow, Coyotes Killing Maine’s Deer

This morning a received in my email another account of coyotes killing deer in Maine. The report says:

Found this coyote killed buck today, He had already shed his horns, I judge his size as a 200 lb. deer. While I was up another stream setting a beaver house three coyotes had chased another one across the stream twice, I’m sure they are eating on that one tonight. The coyote sign is the heaviest I’ve ever seen it. SO SAD TO LIVE IN A STATE THAT WAS SO FAMOUS FOR IT’S NATURAL RESOURCES, NOW WE LIVE IN A STATE WITH THE MOST INCOMPETENT FISH AND WILDLIFE DEPT. OF ANY STATE IN THE COUNTRY.

While I understand this person’s frustrations with the incompetence he perceives from the fish and wildlife department, I can assure him Maine has some real stiff competition for that recognition.

Tom Remington

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Letter From a Little Girl in Idaho About Wolves

*Editor’s Note* This photo image of a letter was sent to Steve Alder of Idaho for Wildlife. The letter was addressed to him from a young girl living in Kamiah, Idaho. She asks Mr. Alder for help.


You may need to click on the photo to be able to enlarge it. First click the photo and you will be taken to a landing page. Click the photo again to enlarge.

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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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Dr. Valerius Geist: “…….Because the Coyote is Coming”

American Hunter magazine has an article they published back in November of 2010 called, “How Coyotes Affect Deer Herds”. The article tells that 16 years ago, in 1994, Dr. Valerius Geist, while attending the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, said the following as it pertained to a perceived “problem” among wildlife managers in dealing with too large populations of whitetail deer.

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

Dr. Geist’s crystal ball was pretty clear back then, as today many of these same wildlife managers now have coyote problems.

Today, there are new studies ongoing and some of the preliminary data is not only impressive but revealing things about the coyote that confirms what some biologists have suspected for a long time and that seasoned outdoor sportsmen have been seeing for a long time – coyotes are having a much bigger affect on whitetail deer herds than imagined.

One area of study is pointing researchers to conclude that coyotes don’t just randomly take out a deer fawn when the opportunity might present itself. As a matter of fact, data suggest the coyote is studying and learning the habits of the deer and are specifically targeting them for lunch and dinner.

This can further be supported by the research that shows that in one area where coyotes and deer intermingle, 75% of the deer fawns died before they reached the age of six months. Of those 75%, 85% were killed by coyotes.

Despite the new research information, skeptics continue to cry for more time and more studies to support this. Who can blame them? They’ve had so much bad information drilled into their heads for so long, I guess it’s going to take a long time, perhaps even a miracle to get them to change their way of thinking.

So, is this new study suggesting that where there are coyotes all the deer will eventually vanish? I don’t think so but it does now present another management issue of predator control. Not in all regions but in those where there is a problem, again facing a seemingly insurmountable task of convincing wildlife managers a shortage of deer might be the result of too many predators.

What will it take to reach that point? Perhaps first, we need to work on educating people that over-protection of a predator such as a wolf or a coyote is not a good thing. It was in Hank Fischer’s book, “Wolf Wars“, where he quoted Dr. L. David Mech. Mech is a Senior Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, and considered by many to be the foremost authority of wolf behavior.

“The wolf’s repopulation of the northern parts of the lower forty-eight states . . . will stand as one of the primary conservation achievements of the twentieth century. Society will have come full circle and corrected its grave overreaction to its main mammalian competitor. Maybe not quite full circle. If we have learned anything from this ordeal, it is that the best way to ensure continued wolf survival is, ironically enough, not to protect wolves completely. If we carefully regulate wolf populations instead of overprotecting them, we can prevent a second wave of wolf hysteria, a backlash that could lead once again to persecution.”

Even Dr. Mech understood the many facets of the over-protection of wolves, including the one that much of the Northern Rockies is experiencing of a backlash of citizens wanting the wolf killed off. This, of course, the consequence of over-protection.

It would seem to make sense that where over-protection of one species, such as the wolf or coyote, is bad, so it goes with all predators and species. For Mech to suggest that over-protection of predators will ultimately harm the species, it would seem he would then have to disagree with the notion that wildlife is self regulating.

There’s a huge divide here that needs to be crossed. We need predator control and to accomplish that, it seems one object in the way is protection of species beyond what is good socially and scientifically. None of this consequently matters if we cannot successfully dispel the myth that nature will balance itself out.

Nothing short of a miracle is needed here.

Tom Remington

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