September 23, 2019

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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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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Finding Wolves Where Wolves Weren’t Thought to Be

Imagine that? For years now, outdoor sportsmen in Idaho have been pounding on the heads of officials at the Department of Fish and Game telling them there are a lot more wolves than the department thinks there are and they are in places IDFG believes they don’t exist.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, in a radio interview on KUOW.org website, Jim Hayden, the regional manager for IDFG in the Panhandle region is said to have claimed:

Though Hayden thinks the biggest reason for hunters’ success is -– more wolves. He says at least half the wolves hunters have brought in came from areas Fish and Game didn’t know had wolf packs.

Hayden evidently was making this claim when being questioned about why he thought wolf hunters and trappers had already killed more wolves during this season than the one held in 2009.

What an epiphany!!

Tom Remington

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Maine Legislative Task Force Disregards Real Problem With Drawing Hunters to the State

Imagine, if you can, that you will take the family to visit Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. You’ve gleaned the brochures, read about the park, contacted the Office of Tourism to get information about lodging, meals, etc. and have been convinced that a trip to Downeast Maine in mid July would be a great investment and a wonderful experience for everyone.

Summer comes, final plans are made and the car is packed. The drive takes about 12 hours but the anticipation is great. Everything the family has read and heard and even pictures viewed attributes to the building anticipation.

Finally, on the first day, you drive the wife and kids to the park and you visit the Welcome Center, once again picking up brochures and looking at maps, all that touristy stuff. You even take the time to view the movie in the theater. But when you and your family emerge from the darkness of the theater, it is only then that you discover that’s it. This is all there is to see and do in Acadia National Park. You question an information employee and they tell you that having attractions in the park is part of a long-term plan that hopefully funding will become available so that eventually they can build roads and put out picnic tables, etc.

As inane as this all seems, it appears this is what the recommendations will be like when the Maine Legislative Task Force, commissioned to figure out why Maine has seen such a drastic decline in game license sales, presents its findings.

The minutes to the final officially scheduled Task Force meeting of November 20, 2011 have become public information now and these minutes gives us a glimpse at what the Task Force will recommend to the Maine Legislature. Oddly, those recommendations were due on December 1, 2011. (Note: At the time of this writing, those minutes had not been posted on the MDIFW website. Check this link to see if they have.)

It is no secret that the overwhelming attraction for hunters to Maine has been the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer. One can argue that perhaps the state hasn’t done a good enough job promoting the resources available to hunt other game species, however, you just can’t ignore that fact.

If the majority of people visit Acadia National Park because their main focus is to see Thunder Hole or drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and either or both of those elements of the park disappeared, who would still want to come? Yes, the National Park Service can mount a campaign to get visitors to come because there are other things to do and see, but it would remain a major obstacle to overcome and pretending the Mountain or Hole is still there and the Park Service is doing all it can to get them back, will do little to bring visitors until it actually happens.

This is how I see the Task Force attempting to address a problem with lack of hunting license sales. There are no deer to speak of in Maine. The herd is in trouble, and while the vast majority of hunting license buyers want to hunt deer, expending nonexistent money and resources to convince them to come to Maine anyway and hunt other things and do other activities besides hunt whitetail deer is nothing more than a huge denial. Hey, here’s an idea. Let’s use the same resources and money to build the deer herd and THEN go invite participants! Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) complains they can’t do this or that to help the deer herd because there is no money, then why, if this Task Force thinks it can find money to promote other things to do with hunting, funds can’t be found to kill more coyotes and improve habitat?

In the final meeting minutes, of which comprises 14 pages, the ONLY mention of the major attraction gets two and one half lines:

7. We need to educate people on what DIF&W is doing to increase the deer herd. Stop sending the negative messages and send the positive messages of what we are doing to address the problem.

I’m afraid that’s it! And then the next page and a half is spent addressing how to market all the other things Maine has to offer. I’m not saying that this Task Force hasn’t come up with ideas and suggestions that probably would help attract visitors IF THERE WERE DEER TO HUNT! Get it? DEER – DEER – DEER – DEER! That’s what it’s all about. A nonresident hunter might want a hot tub to play in at night or Wi-Fi but it’s still all about deer! Have you ever seen a ski resort draw a crowd when there is no snow? Didn’t think so.

As I illustrated at the very beginning, people are drawn to certain things. Whether it’s Magic Kingdom at Disney, Thunder Hole in Acadia or Old Faithful in Yellowstone, if those attractions comprise an overwhelming majority of what the people want to see and those are taken away, these attractions will suffer greatly until they are brought back or something better to replace them.

It appears, for whatever the reasons, this Task Force is either unable or unwilling to see clearly that having no deer to hunt is a problem. If you want to open a theme park, it is strongly recommended that the first thing you do is develop a theme. There must be a focus of what the attraction will be. Whitetail deer are the focus of attraction for hunting in Maine. Yes, the turkey hunting, grouse hunting and bear hunting might be some of the best around but it does little when the majority want deer to hunt. It’s a simple concept really.

I understand the complexity of resolving the lack of deer problem. What I don’t understand is the skirting of the issue by this task force. Because the Legislature decided who would be able to sit on this task force, perhaps the make up is too heavily empowered by governmental agencies and representatives that most participants fear addressing this issue. I just don’t know.

There are no “regular sportsmen” on this panel; only guides and outfitters. While I understand the focus of this task force is to determine why nonresidents aren’t coming to Maine to hunt, don’t Maine resident hunters/sportsmen have something to say about it?

It makes little sense to me and has positioned itself to become nothing more than just another governmental bureaucratic waste of time and resources to say and recommend things that sound good and make our hearts beat a bit faster for a moment.

I think it would be a reasonable recommendation to make that Maine first built the roller coaster ride and then sell tickets for the ride. Doesn’t that really make sense?

Tom Remington

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Wolves in Maine – Part VI – (Did Wolves Leave Maine and Why?)

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

In the book “Early Maine Wildlife” – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, as the reader progresses through the chronological order in which the book was laid out, a few things become clear in the debate about game animals and predators during this time frame.

For instance, in recent times I have heard information being passed about by biologists within the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and others, that whitetail deer never were abundant in the northern part of the state and that moose and deer did not and could not survive together. In this claim some have said that when the deer moved north, the moose disappeared and/or when the moose were plentiful through the state, the deer were not. Accounts recorded in this book do not show that to be the case at all in my opinion when considering all written accounts. In actuality all three species of moose, deer and woodland caribou existed throughout the state together, at times very plentiful and other times not.

What does become apparent is that the proclivity of more or less game animals, i.e. caribou, moose and deer, was all dependent on the presence of wolves. What remains unsettled is when, if ever, did wolves leave the state of Maine and what was the reason for their exodus?

Most accounts in this book seem to agree that widespread and numerous packs of wolves in Maine had disappeared by the 1860s – 1870s, even though there are accounts of wolf encounters by people into the early 1900s. As is typical even to this day, hunters and trappers reported seeing wolf tracks many times and yet the continuing presence of wolves would not be acknowledged unless someone killed one and brought it out of the woods.

As an example, appearing in the Maine Sportsman, of an account in 1899, an anonymous writer says, “Thaddeus Coffron of Grand Lake Stream, claims to have seen two large gray wolves not long since on Big Lake near the mouth of Little Musquash stream. He walked up within a few yards of them, being armed only with an axe. Their tracks had been frequently seen in the vicinity previously.”

But as appears in “Forest and Stream”, we read this, “Again there are reports of wolves in Maine with their tracks followed by old wolf hunters, who ‘could not be mistaken.’ They do not bring out the trophies, however, and until they do the ordinary individual is inclined to regard their stories in the same light as that of the well-read fable.”

According to the editor of Shooting and Fishing in 1920 the last officially recorded wolf kill happened in Andover. “The report of the State Treasurer of Maine for 1895 shows that there was one wolf killed in the state during that year, for which a bounty was paid. This single specimen was killed in Andover, and is said to be the only wolf killed in Maine for many years.”

The editor further accounts that even though there may be a stray wolf killed sometime into the future, his “trustworthy sources” believe the wolf is “practically extinct” in New England.

What we don’t know for certain is why the wolf became “extinct” or “practically extinct” in Maine and New England. We have been led for decades to believe that the wolves were all shot, trapped or poisoned by man. Accounts in the book don’t seem to readily agree with this hypothesis nor does it that the caribou were killed off due to uncontrolled hunting.

As was recorded in the Maine Sportsman for the year 1900, a man who worked as a log scaler in the Penobscot region and traveled by foot as far away as 60 miles between lumber camps tells of his observations. “During the whole winter we saw no deer and but few moose, the entire absence of deer being due to the wolves with which the woods were overrun. Caribou we saw everywhere and I plainly remember that one day, coming out upon them trailing along in single file was a herd of 17 caribou.”

However, the scaler’s recall of what was once is soon become reality as he wonders where the caribou went. According to several writings in this book, deer, moose and caribou had once been reduced drastically, probably from a combination of predators and uncontrolled hunting. When the wolves disappeared, the deer and moose recovered and caribou for a time before it is believed, for whatever reasons, they just migrated out of the state. Perhaps they were simply tired of being harassed by predators, including man.

F. E. Keay writes in 1901 that wolves were the “most dreaded” of wild animals and that by their nature were found to be “ferocious and cunning” and did “incalculable” damage to livestock. In dealing with these large predators, Keay describes the effort this way: “They traveled in companies, sometimes of ten or twenty, and were caught or killed only with great difficulty.”

As I have pointed out in other parts of this review of wolves in Maine, the majority of reports all seem to agree that wolves were quite prevalent in Maine until around the year 1860, in which most also agree the wolf simply left the state with the exception of pockets of areas where some packs remained. While it is inarguable that the efforts of hunters and trappers, in conjunction with bounties being paid over 130 years and more, a sizable dent was put in Maine’s wolf population but evidence from these accounts can support the notion that this was not the cause of the final “extinction” of wolves in Maine.

While some accounts in this book of “Early Maine Wildlife” say that wolves for the most part left on their own, coinciding with a time in which many accounts tell of very little game, i.e. moose, deer and caribou, this would support the theory that large predators, like the wolf, will move into an area and essentially devoid it of prey and then move on. We seem to see that here, although several wolves and packs remained behind until the late 1800s when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf “practically extinct”.

In having a better grasp of more recent coyote/wolf history in Maine, we discovered that it was not long after the wolf had become “practically extinct” that what was called the eastern coyote began populating the region. I recall in the 1960s seeing a stuffed eastern coyote that had been killed in Maine. This version of coyote was approximately 30 pounds in weight. This is a far cry from the more abundant sizes of coyotes now present in Maine, commonly reaching 50 -70 pounds in size.

It has been determined that what roams today’s forests in Maine and are commonly referred to as coyotes, are actually some concocted conglomeration of mixed breeds of wolf, coyotes, and domestic dog. It became common knowledge after the influx of eastern coyote into Maine that this varmint, perhaps because of a very small migrating population, interbred with “wild” dogs or domesticated dogs left to run unrestrained. No one is sure of how the wolf mix got into these animals.

It has been theorized that what was once called the gray wolf in Eastern Quebec, Canada, began migrating or random scatterings of these wolves, entered northern Maine and as such resulted in the inbreeding of the already inbred coyote/dog.

Considering the evidence provided in “Early Maine Wildlife” one has to honestly consider that given the relatively short period of time from when “trustworthy sources” declared the wolf in Maine “practically extinct”, that some of those earlier wolves remained behind and began breeding with the migrating coyotes.

It would be intellectually dishonest not to consider all the facts in educating ourselves to the changes of wildlife, including predators and large game animals and use them to better be able to effectively manage these species. It is reasonable to consider that man’s efforts to eradicate, – and make no bones about it, that was their intent – was not wholly what drove wolves out of Maine. If this is the case, then it would be beneficial to gain facts and knowledge to understand what events total caused this to happen.

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Wolves in Maine in the 1800s – Part III (First Recorded Attacks on Humans)

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

The book, Early Maine Wildlife – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, is proving to be an interesting addition to my library. I think the authors did a decent job of putting this information together; one, to make it readable, and, two, to give a reader a sense of the changes taking place across the lands over extended periods of time. I am glad they chose to list the entries in chronological order. Of course these changes come with no real explanations from the observers, often just recalling what it used to be like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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