Things have been pretty quiet lately on the coyote front. But then it is summer. For wild critters, life in the wild and the survival game is not as desperate as it will be six months from now. The forage base is lush, and there’s plenty of food to go around. Even the state political arena takes on a certain placidness as state lawmakers and government bureaucrats put their feet up on the desk and take advantage of the slower pace of the citizenry. Ah, the dog days of summer.

But the coyotes will be back, both as a significant whitetail predator and a hot button political issue. As fall comes on, Maine will be, for the fifth year, once again without any coyote damage control program. There is a ray of hope. The state legislature has, in effect, ordered Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Roland Martin to come up with a coyote management plan by this winter. Martin, to his credit, named respected sportsman and camp operator Matt Libby to chair a Deer Task Force that has a mission to propose solutions to the deer population crisis in Eastern and Northern Maine.

Meantime, though, MDIF&W still has not submitted its application to the Feds for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). Without this permit, which allows some accidental take of an endangered species, there can be no snaring or serious coyote control program in Maine. This issue has dragged on for so long it has become a bad joke. In fact, under the most optimistic best-case scenario, there is no way Maine can expect a reinstatement of a coyote control effort in deer wintering yards until the winter of 2008-2009!

Sportsmen need to remind themselves that this issue remains a critical issue, not only for our deer populations in the big woods but also for our state’s rural economy. There is no better reminder than this excerpt from a new book about to come off the press. Titled “Hunting Top End Bucks” by Ralph Norris of Leeds, Norris shares his concerns about the coyote as a whitetail predator:

The North Maine Woods has been severely impacted by coyote predation since the 1990s. An example of this predation is in Wildlife Management District One. This is a vast wilderness area in Maine’s most northwesterly zone consisting of 50 townships.

Jennifer Vachon set up a coyote collaring and radio tracking operation at Clayton Lake at the south end of the unit. Once the deer yarded, the collared coyotes would show up in deer yards as far away as 30 miles to prey on the deer. Dick Thayer of Minot has a camp in St. Pamphile and has worked full time many winters snaring coyotes. Some of Jennifer’s collared coyotes have traveled as far as the Black River area. One winter Dick snared and shot seventy one coyotes. Now that it is illegal to snare coyotes in Maine, severe predation has resumed in this area and there is no longer a huntable population of deer even though it is allowed.

In 2006 only 186 deer were harvested in this vast area of 50 townships. In my small town of Leeds, a fraction the size of this area, 183 deer were harvested in 2006. Dick told me the deer yards are about gone up here and deer hunting is very poor. Most of the coyotes have now moved out of the area because of few deer to prey on. This is what wolves do also. When they clean an area of game they move on to greener pastures.

The following winter was a severe one on the deer herd with deep snow and cold temperatures. A friend and I spent a lot of time in that bog that winter and saw first hand what happens in nature under such conditions. The coyotes had a field day – they killed at least 200 deer, half of all the deer that yarded around that swamp. Nature has dominion over all wildlife, man only has influence. I suspect that buck was a victim of the coyotes. The coyotes were killing four or five deer every night and the partly eaten carcasses were easy to find with the help from the ravens. It’s good that most people only see the beautiful finished side of nature.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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