In 2003, then-commissioner of Maine Fish and Wildlife, Roland Martin, suspended Maine’s snaring program on coyotes. We were told that the suspension was a response to a threatened lawsuit from an animal rights group. The suspension was to be temporary. For the following eight years, however, coyotes pretty much had a blank check when it came to winter predation on our struggling deer populations. During that period there were some half-hearted attempts to address the deer predation problem. There were a couple of deer study groups and coyote control task forces, but it was mostly talk and little action.

 Then, last year, in response to widespread concern about Maine’s flagging deer numbers, the state legislature created yet again another deer predation study group. Here is an abbreviated excerpt from IF&W’s marching orders from the Maine Legislature:

* Deer Predation Advisory Group – As a result of Public Law, Chapter 381, LD 1569 An Act to Restore the White-tailed Deer Population and Improve Maine’s Wildlife Economy and Heritage, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife established a Deer Predation Advisory Group to assist with developing and implementing a program to control predation on deer. LD 1569, Section 7 speaks to “predator control and deer protection on public lands;” additional language in Section 10 is provided below.

If funding is available, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall develop and implement a program to control predation on deer that includes, but is not limited to:

1. Organization of an advisory group of professional guides and trappers to help develop and implement the program;

2. Utilization of both hunters and trappers for the program;

3. Utilization of animal damage control techniques and agents trained in animal damage control techniques; and

4. Increases in the funding of animal damage control efforts related to the program.

The department shall report its progress on developing and implementing the program to the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife no later than February 1, 2012.

The big questions on every sportsman’s tongue, of course are: “Will anything concrete come out of this deer predation study group? Or will this just be another pile of paper that gathers dust, a well-meaning report that is never translated into ‘boots on the ground?'”

“This time we are going to see action,” said SAM spokesman Gerry Lavigne. Lavigne, who is Maine’s former deer biologist, served on this latest deer predation advisory group.

According to Lavigne, the group recently completed its report, which has been submitted to IF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock. Lavigne says that Woodcock has sent out a memo to all regional wildlife biologists calling for immediate action and establishing coyote management as a departmental priority.

According to Lavigne, there are 1,500 deer wintering areas in Maine. “Late fall, before winter sets in is the time to reduce coyote numbers, before they can do their significant damage in deer wintering areas,” says Lavigne. To this end, IF&W has earmarked three or four large, remote key deer wintering areas (DWAs) in each of the respective wildlife management regions. In these key areas, IF&W will be authorizing and hiring professional trappers to target coyotes and remove them before the deer yard up.

 Additionally, IF&W, in conjunction with SAM and statewide fish and game clubs, will be encouraging trappers and recreational hunters to hunt coyotes this fall near towns and other smaller deer wintering areas. This year, too, for the first time the commissioner may appoint agents to hunt for coyotes at night from September 1st to December 15th using artificial illumination.

Ever the skeptic, I pressed Lavigne: “Gerry what makes this deer predation advisory group different than its toothless predecessors that were mostly concepts and little action?”

 Lavigne says that there are two significant differences. First, in Chandler Woodcock, we have a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner who is solidly behind the concept of coyote control and reviving Maine’s deer numbers. Second, and unlike previous attempts, money has been set aside specifically for a coyote management program.

 This is very good news.

The author 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, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”


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