September 19, 2020

Maine Bear Biologist: Bears Kill As Many Deer Fawns as Coyotes; Not Opposed to Spring Hunt

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V. Paul Reynolds interviewed Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MIDFW) biologist Randy Cross on his radio program on the Voice of Maine radio which airs Sunday nights at 7 p.m. (101.3 and 103.9 FM). Reynolds shares some of that interview in his weekly column.

There are two things in that interview that I would like to discuss just a bit. The first is Cross’ comment about whether black bears kill as many deer fawns as coyotes.

We are really not sure how much bear predation there is on deer. A Pennsylvania study suggested that there is a lot, but that state is not a valid comparison to Maine for a number of reasons. A New Brunswick study suggests that bear kill quite a few fawns, and it’s hard to deny that bears kill young deer. They are good at finding the most calories for the least effort. I’d say it is possible that bears in Maine take as many fawns as coyotes.

Cross seems willing to admit that it is “possible” that bears take as many fawns as coyotes. Perhaps they would actually know this if they used their management dollars for this purpose. This all may sound good to those of us hunters screaming for something serious to be done about predator protection that is resulting in the destruction of the deer herd in many places. However, it is difficult to understand the actual meaning of this comment as MDIFW has been reluctant to admit that coyotes have any substantial effect on the deer herd. If biologist Cross maintains the common notion, as MDIFW as a whole, that coyotes don’t really present a problem for the deer herd then one can just as easily assume his thoughts are that bears or any other predator doesn’t either.

The second issue concerns a spring bear hunting season.

I would not oppose a spring bear hunt. For a bear manager, a spring hunt can be a precise and powerful tool. Success rates are high ( in a spring hunt) and very predictable, unlike the fall bear harvest.

Anyone who is somebody knows there are way too many bears in Maine. Hunters have been asking nicely for a spring bear hunt for some time and seemingly falling on deaf ears. The numbers are there, Cross doesn’t oppose a hunt, therefore we should be able to conclude that it would be justified scientifically, or wouldn’t he have said so? Then the only stumbling block would be sociopolitical reasons. We know a certain amount of fear of being sued exists and the power that Maine guides have over MDIFW when it comes to seasons and bag limits is overwhelming.

It is time for Commissioner Woodcock to now take the lead and get Maine a spring bear hunt. It is scientifically necessary, particularly at a time when these large predators are preventing the rebuilding of a seriously diminished deer herd.

And while he’s at it, let’s increase the number of moose permits and get those numbers down to a better manageable number…..at least until the deer herd has recovered.

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