December 1, 2022

Gene Letourneau: Subsidizing Honest, Capable, Experienced Trappers Makes More Sense

SportsmenSayGene L. Letourneau of Maine was a outdoor sportsman, an outdoor writer and author of many books covering several topics, including game animals, hunting, trapping, fishing, and more. In one publication, “Sportsmen Say,” a book published in 1975 by Guy Gannett Publishing Company, Letourneau talks about Maine coyotes; something he calls the “new wolf.”

Read below his 1975 perspective and then following this excerpt, taken from pages 73 and 74 of the book, I’ll offer some discussion and commentary.

However, the larger animal or the new wolf, may be coming in from eastern Quebec where in the winter of 1973-74 they were considered common in some parts of the Gaspe Region.

By 1974 the establishment of this new predator in Maine appeared permanent. Some people welcomed it, others deplored it. The Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game were trying to satisfy both factions, an impossible dream.

There were suggestions for their control such as hunting them with dogs, calling or tracking them, all idealistic but hardly effective in Maine.

As a hound enthusiast of more than fifty years and being familiar with the hunting of coyotes in some states with dogs, I can only say that any of these three control methods would be a waste of time and money. Subsidizing honest, capable and experienced trappers to operate in the trouble areas would make more sense.

While the Fish-Game Department is aware that the economic value of such an animal cannot be compared with that of the whitetailed deer, it has made no plans to attempt a population control program of the new predator.

Dr. Richens says he expects the animal’s range and number to increase in Maine. But he adds that it is his “personal opinion that coyotes will have little effect on the whitetailed deer herd. They will not kill a significant number as compared to the usual damage done by dogs.”

A state-wide leash law on dogs, however, enacted in 1973, has resulted in a tremendous decline in deer killed by them.

Not everyone agrees with Dr. Richens on the relative effect of the new predator on deer. But a Game Division spokesman sums up the situation with “We’ve got these predators and there isn’t much we can do about them.”

Henry Hilton, a research assistant at the University of Maine Orono Wildlife Cooperative Unit, began a study of the Maine coyote in 1973, planned to spend more time with Warden Sirois studying coyotes in the Big Black River area.

Hilton discounts the “new wolf” theory advanced by Dr. Coppinger and quotes the latter as using the name because is saves a lot of time. He adds, however, that in this matter of professional disagreement Dr. Coppinger stands alone. Hilton contends the animal is not a wolf.

In two years of research Hilton says he will accumulate a good amount of information involving over 100 of the animals, including food and hunting habits and their relationships with deer.

While he agrees with the writer that there is sufficient evidence in Maine that this new predator kills deer in winter he adds “this does not mean that there is a problem.”

No everyone will agree with Dr. Richens or Hilton on the relative effect of the new predator on deer in Maine.

A Game Division spokesman summed up the problem this way: “We’ve got these predators and there isn’t much we can do about them.”

After approximately 40 years, can we conclude that Letourneau was knowledgeable and prophetic?

Gene said the “new wolf” “may be coming in from eastern Quebec.” That seems to have been the case – knowledgeable – check!

Letourneau said that Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (then Game) idea to control the “new wolf” could be done with tracking, hunting with dogs and calling – knowledgeable and prophetic – check!

His statement that, “Subsidizing honest, capable and experienced trappers to operate in trouble areas would make more sense,” was extremely knowledgeable and prophetic – check!. But then MDIFW and the Maine Legislature stole away from trappers the best tool in the arsenal to control the “new wolf.” The snare.

I should like to point out that Letourneau said to use these trappers in “trouble areas.” Did he mean around slaughter sites in deer yards during tough winters? I think so – prophetic – check!

I think it safe to say that Gene Letourneau was knowledgeable enough to predict that his “new wolf” would be a problem for deer in winter deer yards, at a minimum. While others made claims that these new predators were NOT wolves and that these new predators would NOT be a problem for deer, history has shown otherwise.

And with this, it’s quite clear that Mr. Letourneau was both extremely knowledgeable and prophetic – check and check!

Good calls.