August 25, 2019

Maine’s Coyote Management Plan: Poorly Planned or Planned in Fear? Designed to Fail?

It was nearly 2 weeks ago that I shared with readers some facts about what was taking place on the ground regarding Maine’s Predation Management effort. In that report, it was determined that the cost of dispensing one coyote/wolf had risen to $146.00 from $106.00 last year. This is absolutely no good.

Last year the entire blame of the failure of the program was laid at the feet of a mild winter in which deer didn’t “yard up” and no coyotes in the yard. While an acceptable excuse at the time, what did the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) do to counter this natural phenomenon should it happen again? After all, while mild winters is helpful to the deer, is does nothing about reducing coyote depredation.

Also in the previous report, I included a snowfall map of Maine. It showed some portions of Maine with waist deep snow and others with under a foot. If you look at the latest NOAA snow depth map, one can see that the amount of snow has actually diminished since January 10. This seems to mostly go along with the most recent Predation Management Report and what was said in an email that was sent to me that originated at MDIFW, from John Pratt, Wildlife Management Section Supervisor.

Please find attached an update on this year’s Predation Management effort. Regional biologists maintain weekly contact with program participants to make adjustments as needed and every two weeks we evaluate the effort statewide considering; coyote activity, deer mobility, snow conditions, hunter success, hunter effort and our budget. Based on these factors we have added two more priority areas and a few more program participants.

In general, deer are highly mobile state wide as are coyotes which are observed to be favoring easier prey. Because of good mobility, food abundance and low coyote densities, coyotes are not responding well to bait sites. Per our protocol we continue to monitor these priority areas and remove coyotes as presence and conditions allow. In addition, we closely watch our budget for opportunities to activate additional pre-identified priority areas to maximize our effort.

Conditions can change rapidly and our biologists and participants adjust accordingly. –John

Sounds good doesn’t it? But obviously it is not working. Enough coyotes/wolves are not being killed and the cost per animal keeps rising.

And I do question one particular comment in the above email. Pratt said, “low coyote densities” was one of the things hampering predator control. Should that be better defined to say low coyote densities in deer yards? Or is he trying to convince somebody there aren’t enough coyotes to kill?

So what should be done to control coyotes? Is there a better plan? Of course there is but it is doubtful Mainers will ever see any parts of a better plan due to a number of things; mostly fear combined with indoctrinated beliefs that coyotes, i.e. large predators are “good” for the ecosystem. But let’s not get off track.

Let’s start at the beginning and the first tell tale sign that this so-called plan is doomed to failure. When the reports are sent out, notice if you will in the below report (the latest one I have received) that in the upper right hand corner it is titled, “2012/2013 Predation Management, Interim Update.” Predators should not be “managed.” They need to be controlled. The term management intimates that a species is being taken care of to provide surplus populations for harvest opportunities, i.e. trapping and hunting. Maine, at the present time does not need to be “managing” coyotes for surplus harvest. The goal here, or at least Maine sportsmen were told as such and it’s written in Maine’s Plan for Deer, was to implement a program to reduce the number of coyotes in those areas where deer are struggling to survive. So the question might be asked, is it called management because the MDIFW is actually trying to manage instead of control coyotes or is MDIFW attempting to be politically correct and not offend the animal rights perverts who don’t want their precious dogs killed that are killing deer and other animals, while spreading disease?

coyotereport3

I spent some time communicating with trappers and hunters about this program. Some of those I emailed with are participants in the “management” program. What I wanted to find out from these people, because they are representative of those with continuous boots on the ground and have an excellent perspective on what is actually taking place. Having collected those ideas, along with some of my own, I thought I would offer up some suggestions on how to improve this coyote program and turn it into a control program.

But before I get into suggestions, I might point out that suggestions can be damned if the state of Maine is not actually serious about saving the whitetail deer. Talk is cheap but doing what needs to be done, regardless of who it might offend, is what is absolutely necessary to save deer in those regions of Maine severely affected. Anything short of that will not work and it appears MDIFW has that proof right in front of them.

Here are the ideas in no particular order or priority:

* – Establish a set of criteria to use to determine what constitutes a “priority area.” Perhaps MDIFW already has this but it is unknown to me and all those that I communicated with. This leads me to suspect that either there is not established criteria and/or the boots on the ground stakeholders were not sought out in establishing priority areas.

One trapper indicated that he was led to believe MDIFW was using historical deer wintering areas as “priority areas”. It has been over a decade now that I have been writing to explain that deer are a much more adaptive animal than biologists sometimes give them credit for. Going wherever the coyotes are is a must for successful trapping and hunting. In other areas of the country, ungulates are changing their habits because of the threat from large predators. The question arises as to whether or not MDIFW understands this and is adapting their game management and predator control programs to meet the changes.

* – If MDIFW insists they will continue to attempt predator control by hiring trappers and hunters, these hunters and trappers must be permitted to go where the coyotes are. I’ve read, researched and followed nationwide programs designed for deer, elk and moose management and predator control, and any plan design to target specific areas only is not about predator control but about being politically correct and appeasing the environmentalists. One trapper reported to me that trappers involved in this program knowingly drive by areas loaded with coyotes, just to get to their designated “priority” sight. There appears to be some flexibility in this as one trapper did indicate the biologist he was working with agreed to let him expand his coverage area.

* – If MDIFW insists on hiring predator trappers, then let them keep the incidentals they trap.

* – The current program needs serious revamping. Start with allowing trapping by everyone, year round until predators are brought under control and the deer have responded. This trapping will be allowed in and during fawning season as well and along migration routes. Coyotes and bears target fawns. They know where the fawning areas are and go there for their easy meals.

* – Do away with the current hired trappers and hunters and open the opportunity up for all. As I said, just targeting special areas, while a part of the program, should not be the only part. The failure that exists for two years running is the ridiculous costs associated with killing a coyote. $25,000 took out 115 coyotes by paid trappers and hunters at over $200 an animal.

* – Implement an incentive program, perhaps similar to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. We learned that when the price of coyotes pelts went up, so did the kill numbers. Maine can create a flexible pelt incentive program designed to insure each trapper and hunter will receive a minimum amount for each coyote taken. As the price of pelts goes up or down, the incentive bonus goes up and down. I was told by one trapper that $40 per coyote would be about a break even proposition. Let’s pump that up a little and see the harvest go up while at the same time putting a little extra cash in these people’s pockets.

* – I am told that the Passamaquoddy Indians are seeing some good success with their predator control programs and the deer are responding. Have we gone and talked with them about the rest of the state’s problem? Again, how serious are we about this?

* – A mapping program was suggested. If mapping of large areas of land were conducted in order to pinpoint known deer wintering areas, drainage, forests, fields, fawning areas and deer migration routes, it would not only aid in how to approach predator control and deer management but working with land owners in such a fashion might go a long ways in cutting down on the deer habitat destruction everybody rants about. I realize there is a cost associated with this but there must be grant monies, etc. available. Get our U.S. Senators and Congressmen busy.

* – We must also, if serious about saving the deer, reduce the state’s bear population. New studies are suggesting that black bears contribute as much to deer mortality as coyotes. We might start by including a fee-free bear tag on a resident big game hunting license the way it used to be. In addition, it sounds as though MDIFW is in favor of a spring bear hunt, so why don’t we have one? If MIDFW opts not to implement a spring hunt, at least up the bag limit to 2 bears.

* – Increase number of moose permits. Maine’s moose population has now grown to an official estimate of 75,000 animals and some have estimated that number to be closer to 90,000. Moose compete with deer to some degree with food and habitat and it doesn’t require a degree in wildlife biology to understand that moose are plentiful in regions where deer are not. If only temporary, up the number of moose permits being issued in order to not hinder the deer herd regrowth. While not a huge determining factor, at this point any little bit might help.

These are mostly the ideas of trappers and hunters I have talked with, along with a few of my own. I tried to include mostly those that seemed in agreement with all that I communicated with. The current plan simply is not working and it’s time to rethink it. If Maine and the Governor are serious about the value in saving the deer herd, we can’t wait on the weather. Maine must act seriously and decisively. Hunters and trappers must figure out a way to make this work.

On a further note, none of this is about coyote or predator eradication. It’s about reasonable and responsible wildlife management. This nation has implemented the North American Wildlife Conservation Model for decades with overwhelming success; the envy of the free world. And now environmentalists are attempting to destroy that for their own mislead programs and agendas. Allowing predators to grow uncontrolled is irresponsible. Maine sportsmen will not tolerate thoughtless wildlife management.

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Palm Trees, Sugar Cane and the Maine Parakeets Diminish Minnesota Moose Herd

On January 4, 2013, Pioneer Press of Minnesota carried an article by Dave Orrick about an upcoming study to take place in that state “to figure out what is killing its iconic moose of the north woods.” The article states:

Researchers suspect calves are dying at a higher rate than usual, but the most troubling trend is adult moose in their prime of life dropping dead. Moose have all but vanished from the northwestern part of the state where they once roamed.

Once again, the “ostrich” approach to a problem is being undertaken. Burying one’s head in the sand over obvious facts in order to promote other theories is commonplace in today’s new-science science of outcome-based education.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released a report in 2011 lamenting the rapid decline of moose in that state, showing essentially a calf survival rate of 0% and not one mention in that report of what effect predators might have been having.

In 2010 the same Department of Natural Resources issued a report blaming the rapid loss of moose on global warming, also with no mention of predator effects.

So, now with head still buried in the sand, $1.6 million will be spent to radio collar moose and see if the poor ostriches in Minnesota can figure out what’s killing their moose.

Jim Beers, a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, commented on the article linked to above saying,

It is interesting that this study is initiated after the first public harvest (12-15% according to lowball state population estimates and more likely 8-10%) of wolves in addition to the increasing annual number of government-killed depredating wolves over the past 40 years.

Robert Fanning, one time candidate seeking the republican nomination to run for Montana governor commented:

Bobby Fithian, Executive Director of Alaska Professional Hunters assn and Board member of a very prominent citizen USFWS management committee tells me that after 50 years of compiled studies Alaska F&G concluded that 85% of all ungulate mortality is due to predation.

Will Graves, author of Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages, also commented that:

Declining moose pop in Minn is prob due to Echinococcus g. causing large cysts in the lungs of the moose. The moose have reduced lung power and can’t run far or fight long. Also, Neospora caninum might also be playing a part in the decline.

Wolves, very present on the landscape in portions of Minnesota, which happen to coincide with the same habitat as the moose, are a known primary host of Echinococcus granulosus, that when ingested by moose can cause cysts in the lungs and other organs.

The reading of the Pioneer Press article and subsequent comments from friends and colleagues, prompted Jim Beers to craft a response letter for the newspaper. Here is a copy of that response.

WOLVES & PARAKEETS

It is worth noting that the MN DNR is launching an extensive satellite-tagging project to confirm their longstanding belief that Global Warming and definitely not wolves is responsible for the accelerating decline in moose. The facts that the moose and wolves cohabit the same habitat and that after 40 years of wolf protection and concomitant increase in both wolf numbers and their annual increases and moose that have declined at an accelerating rate simultaneously as the wolves increased at an accelerating rate are dismissed as irrelevant. Everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, this phenomenon is and has been recognized for what it is for centuries by scientist and layman alike.

Launching this expensive project right on the heels of the first public wolf harvest in 40 years and in the midst of the increasing government-killing of depredating wolves is a remarkable coincidence: almost as remarkable as federal wolf protection and wolf spreading programs that coincided with Roe v Wade 40-odd years ago.

Just as Roe was reputedly at first only for abortions “up to 3 months” and today is anytime, for any reason, at US government expense here and abroad, and now in federally-mandated insurance: federal wolf protection and mandates for a myriad of elusive benefits has spread nationwide and the many dangers and harms are buried in politically correct falderal from government enablers and animal rights radicals. “Rights” for a deadly and destructive predator were created as the Right to Life for humans in the womb was eliminated to please the radical’s secular religious tenets and bureaucrat’s rewards.

When I told a Maine friend that this proposed MN DNR Moose Mortality Study would, hopefully, confirm that the loss of moose was attributable to Minnesota’s loss of poplar and tamarack trees and the invasion of palm trees and sugar cane plantations; he informed me that he was aware of “peer-reviewed” findings from Maine that indicated that the parakeets in the palm trees were out-competing the moose for the remaining food, thereby assuring the ultimate demise of moose.

Garrison Keillor, are you taking notes?

Jim Beers

5 January 2013

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Monogamous Chicago Coyotes

Coyotes living in cities don’t ever stray from their mates, and stay with each other till death do them part, according to a new study.

The finding sheds light on why the North American cousin of the dog and wolf, which is originally native to deserts and plains, is thriving today in urban areas.

Scientists with Ohio State University who genetically sampled 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period found no evidence of polygamy — of the animals having more than one mate — nor of one mate ever leaving another while the other was still alive.<<<Read More>>>

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DNA Studies – Smaller Native Wolves Existed in Northern Rockies before Canadian Wolf Transplant

By George Dovel (Republished with Permission)

In the Jan-Mar 2008 Outdoorsman Bulletin No. 26, the lead articled titled, “What They Didn’t Tell You about Wolf Recovery,” described the ongoing deception by federal and state biologists in their scheme to fill rural areas in the lower 48 states with wolves.

The article referred to 20 years of Dept. of Interior Solicitors (lawyers) changing the number of N. American wolf subspecies covered in the Endangered Species Act from 24, finally to two and back to four – and then to any or all wolves called “gray wolves” or “Canis lupus”. Then it told how FWS reclassified ESA-listed wolves as members of two “Distinct Population Segments”, which it later changed to three until a federal judge denounced the obvious attempt to circumvent the ESA.

The ongoing debate between wildlife scientists who classify species, concerns whether subspecies of elk (red deer), North American bison, grey wolves, etc., exist. Bona fide expert taxonomists include Dr. Valerius Geist who points out that changes in location, habitat, size and appearance alone do not necessarily change the genetic make-up to qualify an animal as a separate sub-specie.

However the Northern Rocky Mountains wolf subspecies – C. l. Irremotus – was documented by physical comparisons of skulls, etc., from larger wolves in 1959:

Page 2 of the 146-page FWS Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan dated August 3, 1987, contains the map showing the historical distribution of Canis lupus Irremotus in the lower 48 states, plus the 1987 distribution in black. It depicts immigration of Irremotus from southern British Columbia into Idaho and from B.C. or southern Alberta into the northwest corner of Montana.

It also shows the two 1987 Irremotus population areas in central Idaho, one of which included the three wolf pack territories mapped by Tim Kimmery between 1988 and 1991 (see Outdoorsman Bulletin No. 35).

Historical Impact on Wolf Subspecies

During the most recent (Pleistocene) ice age, water evaporating from the oceans became part of the glacial ice covering the land. Ocean levels dropped 300 feet or more and the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska dried up.
The exposed land bridge with little snow, later named Beringia, became a refuge for hardy Siberian animals and plants for several thousand years (see below).

Many scientists believe Beringia included a small human population from Siberia that was prevented from continuing into North America for 5,000 years by the North American ice sheets. Geologists report these continental ice sheets were 5,000-10,000 feet in depth and extended south in some places to the 40th Parallel below what is now the U.S.-Canadian border.

The artists’ three views of Beringia published by “Wikipedia” illustrate the changes that have occurred in the “Bering Land Bridge” during the last 18,000 years. But there is still disagreement among biologists about when, where and how several current mammal species first arrived on the North American Continent.

Subspecies Had Limited Opportunity to Crossbreed

Since 1995 a number of wildlife biologists have accepted the determination by Nowak that five subspecies of gray wolf (Canus lupus) inhabited North America during the early 20th Century. There is also agreement that Canis lupus occidentalis (the large gray wolf transplanted to Yellowstone and Central Idaho by FWS in 1995) had virtually no opportunity to influence the genetic make-up of coastal wolves in SE Alaska and Yukon and portions of five other Canadian Provinces where it existed.

For thousands of years the ice between interior Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia and the coastal area prevented the occidentalis wolves from mixing with the smaller wolves defined as C. lupis ligoni by Goldman in 1944. And the intensive efforts to kill all wolves in the early 1900s also left few of the large wolves alive in most areas where they might have mixed with the native wolves.

The map below in the study titled, “Legacy Lost: genetic variability and population size of extirpated U.S. gray wolves (Canis lupis),” published by Leonard et al in the 2005 Vol. 14 issue of Molecular Ecology, shows the five primary subspecies that existed in the early 1900s. The bold black line indicates the northern limit of gray wolf eradication that occurred in the 48 contiguous United States and Canada.

In 1995, C.l. nubilus, the primary subspecies common in the U.S. and Canada mainland included ligoni from the west coast of Canada, irremotus from the Northern Rocky Mountains and labradorius from Labrador. The “a” to “z” letters scattered on the map represent original locations of the various museum specimens whose DNA were recorded in the study.

A similar study titled, “Phylogeography of wolves (Canis lupus) in the Pacific Northwest”, by Weckworth et al (published in the 2010 (2) issue of the Journal of Mammology) used basically the same map, along with an expanded inset to illustrate locations of testing for the genetic difference between the smaller coastal wolves and the 30% larger occidentalis wolves from the Alaska and Yukon interiors.

Both of these DNA studies emphasize that the nubilus wolves migrated northward to populate Canada as the ice sheets and glaciers melted. They point out that the smaller wolves existed in the south before the larger wolves migrated into northern Canada, and the Weckworth study suggests the coastal wolves should be listed as a separate individual subspecies.

Court Allows Transplants – Then Orders Removal

Readers who actively opposed the FWS option to import Canadian wolves may recall the following events:
In 1994 the Farm Bureau, Audubon Society and other plaintiffs asked the Wyoming Federal District Court to halt wolf introduction because it could not legally occur where naturally occurring wolves already existed per the 10J Rule. But instead of issuing an injunction to halt the process while the arguments were presented, Judge Downes allowed FWS to go ahead and transplant Canadian wolves into Central Idaho and Yellowstone Park for three years until he issued his ruling in December of 1997.

Then after setting aside the final wolf introduction rules as unlawful, Judge Downes ordered FWS to remove all Canadian wolves and their progeny from both experimental population areas. This ruling was met with loud criticism by the wolf activists, including the state and federal wildlife agencies who apparently believed they could get by with ignoring both state and federal laws when it suited their agenda.

Judge “Passes the Buck” to Appeals Court

They quickly pointed out that it would not be possible to even locate most of the wolves – much less capture them. But even if that were possible, both Canadian Provinces refused to allow the wolves to return and there were not enough zoos willing to accept several hundred wild wolves so killing most was the only option.

Judge Downes could have prevented this disaster from occurring by simply putting wolf introduction on hold three years earlier until his decision was reached. But the second time he did essentially the same thing by later staying execution of his removal order pending an appeals decision by the 10th Circuit Court.

On January 13, 2000, five years after the first large Canadian wolves were introduced, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the December 1998 Wyoming District Court ruling that the reintroduction program was unlawful and should be revoked. The appeals court admitted that the evidence showed native irremotus wolves already existed when the larger Canadian wolves were introduced, but said FWS had the authority to determine what constituted a population.
The fact that the resident wolves coexisted with abundant big game populations and with negligible impact on livestock and human activity was already a matter of record in 1994. But on August 12, 1994, FWS Wolf Leader Ed Bangs sent a letter to Charles Lobdell telling him to stop issuing statements to the public advising that the number of reported resident wolves was increasing.

Bangs’ letter advised that FWS planned to introduce wolves from Canada and said: “From this day forward…confirmed wolf activity (will only include) individual wolves or members of packs that have been examined, radio-collared and monitored in the wild.” He also said he had transferred $9,000 to the FWS Boise Field Office to search for wolves and organize flights to locate any radio-collared wolves that might be in Idaho or the Yellowstone area during the summer and fall.

Bangs also included key issues to be presented to the public consistently by FWS:
“1. (I)t is likely that wolf populations would ultimately recover without reintroduction and breeding pairs of wolves would likely occur in Idaho before they would occur (in) Yellowstone.

4. Experimental populations will not knowingly contain a significant portion of the territory of any naturally occurring breeding pair that has successfully raised young. However once wolves are released all wolves in the area will be treated as experimental animals.”

Despite reported wolf sightings by more then 120 outfitters, trappers and others in less than two months, most in the same location where Kemery mapped three wolf pack areas from 1988-1991, and despite the USFS road closure to protect existing wolves (see Bulletin 35), Bangs dumped Canadian wolves halfway between the two known native wolf locations guaranteeing their extermination.

In February of 2012, I forwarded the Weckworth DNA study, without comment, to Dr. Valerius Geist. The following was his reply:

“Thank you, George, I have seen this study. To me it suggests that there was indeed a remnant of native wolves in Idaho that were finally done away with by introduced wolves from Canada. The native wolves would have been of the same clad as the coastal wolves. Anyway, that’s testable since some museum specimens of native Idaho wolves are still available for genetic analysis. However, somebody competent and trustworthy needs to do it. Cheers, Val Geist.”

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Maine The Most “Peaceful” State, Because………………………………?

It seems Maine newspapers and no doubt the citizenry are falling all over themselves to be named the “Most Peaceful” state in the U.S. However, it’s unfortunate that three major newspapers, the Sun Journal, Press Herald and Bangor Daily, opted to republish a piece of crap written by the Associated Press to manipulate public perceptions and influence thought.(Note: At least the Bangor Daily News chose to provide a link to the source of the “Peace Index“.)

It has been proven time and again that the prevalence of gun ownership plays no role in the increase in violent crime and yet the AP chooses to word their report to say, “The South is the least peaceful region with the highest homicide, violent crime, and incarceration rates, as well as the highest prevalence of gun ownership.”

However, in specifically referencing Maine, the same AP report states, “Maine is America’s most peaceful state with recorded reductions in the homicide and incarceration rates as well as the number of police employees.”, while mentioning nothing about the prevalence of gun ownership.

The attempt by the Associated Press is clear. They intend to influence readers to believe that in areas where more people own more guns, life is not “peaceful”.

For shame.

Tom Remington

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First Phase of Predator Prey Study Reveals Interesting Data But Nothing Conclusive

From an article posted recently on Cleveland.com, deer hunters and others are rushing to conclude that coyotes are killing all the deer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At the same time, wolf lovers are declaring a victory in that grey wolves didn’t top the list of predators killing the deer.

What was written about in the article was information on data collected from the first phase of a three-phase study intended to determine what is killing too many deer in the UP of Michigan. The first phase took 3 years to complete.

If you read the article and examine the information provided with an open and understanding mind, you see what on the surface appears to be interesting so-called conclusions from the data. However, it is my opinion that no such definitive conclusions can nor should be made at this time.

The first basic thing to understand is that the study involved deer fawns. Only deer fawns were collared and the study was used to determine what was killing the deer fawns. It is my understanding also, from reading this report, that any of this data used to estimate total deer mortality was based on modeling and not hard data. Where the data is being collected on fawns, are researchers then inclined to believe that wolves, coyotes and bobcats do not kill adult deer?

Phase one took place deliberately in what researchers called a “low snow zone”. Phases two and three will take place in “medium snow zones” (depths of snow) and “high snow zones”, respectively. Phase one also was done where there were low densities of wolves and high densities of coyotes.

The data from Phase I showed that coyotes accounted for more fawn deaths than any other predator. This was followed by bobcats second and wolves fourth. No official numbers for comparison were published in this article.

While it appears that Phase I presents some interesting tidbits of information, for anyone to conclude that wolves don’t kill all the deer or that coyotes do kill all the deer, is simply premature.

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Michigan Report Shows Coyotes Biggest Killing of Deer

Preliminary reports from a three-year study in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan show that of all the large predators, wolves, coyotes, bobcat and bears, the coyote does the most damage to the deer herd.

According to the report, the coyotes feasted on both adult males and females but did its most damage killing fawns. After the coyote, the bobcat scored in second place, followed by the bear and wolf.

The full report is due to be released in the near future.

Drawing specific conclusions about this bit of information is fruitless, however, if nothing else it once again drives home the point, so often denied by wildlife managers, that coyotes should be taken as a serious concern for the killing of large prey such as whitetail deer. Preliminary data suggest that coyotes killed more fawn deer than adults but the point to be made here is that they do kill adult deer and on a regular basis. This is an event often denied by wildlife managers and environmentalists.

I will be anxious to get my hands on a copy of this report.

Tom Remington

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Are Winter Ticks Killing Maine’s Moose Population?


Photo provided by Albert Ladd

Without even giving the debate on predator control in Maine a chance take root and accomplish goals, the debate now seems to be shifting toward the moose herd, including winter ticks and the new revelation that Maine has an estimated moose population of 75,000 or more.

Much of the fervor over winter ticks and moose began in early December when Terry Karkos, staff writer for the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine, penned an article about two guys who spent time in the woods last spring looking for shed antlers, found a lot of dead moose all covered with winter ticks.

He and a few friends said they found 50 dead moose calves and adult moose this year in the Jackman region while looking for horns and doing some spring fishing…………………

Eighteen people, including Mason, found 142 dead moose across Wildlife Management Districts 2, 4, 7, 8 and 12, which stretch from the Western Foothills to Aroostook County.

Those interviewed for the story attribute the deaths of these moose to winter ticks.

These are definitely not winter kill,” Mason said recently. “Of the typical winter kill animals like moose, it gets sick, it stands in a small area and basically you find 400 moose droppings and a dead moose in the middle of it………………………….

Every single one that I had found and that the other guys had found, the snow was just starting to come off them and they were totally untouched, so it’s obvious it’s not a predator kill,” Hall said. “You could see ticks right on them.

A deer and moose meat processor from Minot told Karkos, “I think we need a winter without any snow and about minus 30 (degrees) for a month and a half, because that’s the only way you’re going to get rid of them.”

That’s sort of the same story that seems to get spread around about winter ticks. There is information available and I think for the most part the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) biologists and others have done a respectable job getting out information about winter ticks.

In a November 6, 2011 Sun Journal article, once again Terry Karkos gets information from some of MDIFW’s biologists about the winter ticks.

Maine wildlife biologist Chuck Hulsey:

Winter ticks are affected by what the previous winter was,” Hulsey said Friday. “If you have a lot of snow and a lot of cold, that’s not good for the ticks. If you have less snow and more warmth, it’s really good for the ticks.

Maine wildlife biologist Lee Kantar:

In October and November, winter tick larvae climb shrubs and grasses, gather in huge clusters and wait to ambush moose as they walk past, Kantar said.

“When the ticks are on that bush and they sense the heat of the moose walking by, they basically grab a hold and the whole cluster of moose tick gets onto the moose,

There seems to be a bit more information about winter ticks that I haven’t found in any Maine publications that deals more in depth with what happens in the fall when the winter tick larvae are gathering on vegetation waiting for a free ride with a host. In addition to that, while these winter ticks effect all wild ungulates, why pick on the moose so much. And, it is said that the winter ticks don’t actually kill the moose, but rarely, are we looking at an honest assessment of all factors that kill a moose weakened by tens of thousands of blood sucking ticks?

Lee Kantar says that the winter tick is a “huge contributor” to the death of some moose, he also points out that, “it’s not the sole cause”. Even on the MDIFW website, information provided about moose states that, “winter tick and lung worm infestations rarely kill moose”.

This information is supported in existing studies about moose and winter ticks. William M. Samuel and Dwight A. Welch, “Winter Ticks on Moose and Other Ungulates: Factors Influencing Their Population Size” states that winter ticks (dermacentor albipictus) being the cause of death isn’t certain because, “unequivocal evidence is lacking”.

I think therefore it might be honest to conclude that the cause of death in the majority of dead moose being found in the Maine woods that are inundated with ticks, was not the tick alone. There had to have been other factors. We’ll address those in a moment.

First I think it important to better understand what takes place in the fall of the year. We have read statements from biologists and outdoor sportsmen that seem to indicate that Maine needs little snow and very cold temperatures to kill off the ticks. While that may be true it’s not the entire story in the life cycle of these ticks.

Samuel and Welch state that for there to be significant die-offs of winter ticks, you need 6 consecutive days in which the temperature does not exceed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not the only way to kill the ticks and/or lessen the severity of ticks on moose.

During the fall months, in Maine’s climate around September and October, the winter tick larvae find their way onto vegetation. They clump together on the ends of small branches etc. These larvae can be found on vegetation just above the ground to quite high up in trees. The larvae wait until a passing, warm-bodied host, in this case a moose, passes by and then they attach themselves to the moose and the ride begins. You can read all the splendid details by reading the studies, etc.

It is during this time of year, September/October, that certain weather events can have a significant effect on how severe the tick season will become. Early cold temperatures, especially those below freezing, will greatly reduce the activity of the larvae, i.e. limiting their effectiveness of attaching themselves to the moose or even migrating up the stems of vegetation.

Early snows can bury the larvae and stiff fall winds will blow the larvae off the vegetation scattering it around and to the ground preventing the larvae from being able to find a host. The studies of Samuel and Welch, as well as others, seem to agree that the weather events of the fall have a greater effect on tick production than hoping for enough snow and cold in winter to kill the ticks. Without a host, the larvae die.

There are other interesting things to be discovered about moose and winter ticks. For example, these winter ticks bother all wild ungulates, i.e. deer, moose, elk, etc., but most scientists will agree that it seems to be the moose that is the most effected. It is assumed that it all has to do with timing.

The aggregation of the larvae on vegetation seems to more closely fall in line with the timing of the moose mating season. During this time, moose are most active, covering greater amounts of territory than normal and male moose travel more than the females and thus explains the observation by some that it seems bull moose are more effected by the winter ticks than cows. I believe this conclusion about bull moose vs. cow moose is based on assumptive reasoning than anything concluded through scientific study.

In the Samuel/Welch study, experiments were conducted and it was determined that moose have an aversion to larvae/tick infested food. Imagine if they didn’t. If moose have an ability to smell or sense the larvae on the vegetation and in their food, it might also help to explain the claims of some and what is obvious on the ground that predators and scavengers won’t touch the dead carcass of a tick infested moose.

Studies have shown us that there can exist tens of thousands of ticks on any one moose and that this number of ticks can certainly put the moose into a weakened state. Moose are already in a weakened state just trying to survive the winters. Compound that with 50,000 ticks and the problems snowball. However, as we have learned, the ticks alone rarely kill a moose but certainly contribute to it.

When the blood sucking begins, the moose spends much of it’s time “grooming”. Studies tell us that moose that are troubled by the biting ticks do not bed down as often nor as long as non infected moose. This of course tires the animal even more.

While studies seem to be lacking on exactly what happens to the composition of the moose’s blood while all these ticks are feasting, it is honest to assume that the more female, blood sucking ticks there are on a moose, factoring also the moose’s body mass, the greater a weakened state is realized due to loss of blood.

All of these factors and more, make the moose more vulnerable to all the other elements that contribute to normal winter kill. In other words, it becomes more difficult to get enough nourishment; loss of blood and reduced winter hair makes the moose more susceptible to hypothermia; spending so much time “grooming” expends valuable energy needed for survival and with all these losses a moose certainly could not ward off attacks and harassment by predators.

This is perhaps where I’ll get ambushed but please consider the facts and possibilities. There is no denying that coyotes/wolves will harass and kill moose, deer and elk during their weakened winter states. Even though it is seen and believed to be accurate that predators and even scavengers will not touch a tick-infested moose carcass, at what point does a pack of hungry wolves/coyotes know their target is tick infested.

Some of us have been made aware through written and video accounts of how these predators take down and kill, often eating alive, their prey. We have also seen videos and photographs that document coyotes and wolves chasing down their prey. How long could a moose, weakened by normal winter strains and tick infestation, last in trying to run away from a predator attack? Not long I’m afraid. Would the moose have survived if the predator wasn’t there? There’s no way of knowing the answer to that question.

Which brings us once again back to the same point about predators. It seems that when all things within our forests are going well, little concern is given to predators and the effects they have on our game animals. When things get skewed, those populations of predators loom large over the forests and can raise some serious cane even to a point of prohibiting the rebuilding of a herd of deer or moose, in this case a herd that might be suffering some from these blasted ticks.

So, what do we do about the ticks? What can we do? In one report a gentleman suggested some kind of spraying program to kill the ticks but I’m not sure how feasible that is or if that’s something we want to pour onto our landscapes. We can’t control the weather but we can control the predators. But, is that the answer either to this exact equation?

In George Smith’s blog post yesterday, he explained that one Dr. Anthony who attended a recent information session on Maine’s moose, suggested that instead of trying to limit hunting permits for moose to protect them due to increased mortality from ticks, that killing more of the moose might be the better solution.

I’ll leave you with some questions. Feel free to chime in below in the comments section with some answers.

1. According to George Smith’s blog post I referenced above, in 2007 the estimated moose population of Maine was 45,000. Now Lee Kantar, Maine’s head deer and moose biologist claims there are 75,000 or more. Are there now too many moose in Maine which is exacerbating the tick problem?

2. If so, do we kill more moose during the moose hunt? Or do we protect more moose?

3. George Smith states that the new moose counts are, “more credible than any previous estimates”. He offers no substantive proof of his claim. Do you think the new counts are more “credible” or accurate than previous and why?

Who would have thought 35 years ago Maine would be asking if the state had too many moose?

Tom Remington

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