Maine Coyote Control: Is It Working?|
By V. Paul Reynolds
Maine’s troubled deer population appears to be on the rebound. Two severe winters in 2008 and 2009, along with increasing predation by coyotes and bears, really took a toll. Ironically, two consecutive mild winters recently have lent to reduced deer mortality. Additionally, the deer-recovery equation has been helped along markedly by a relatively new predator: the recreational coyote hunter.
An increasing number of Maine deer hunters, intent on doing what they can to reduce deer wintering mortality of Maine’s whitetail deer populations, have taken up coyote hunting as a winter outdoor pursuit. The narrative is simple: fewer coyotes around deer wintering habitat, especially deer yards where the animals are most vulnerable, means higher deer survival rates. Don’t kid yourself. Coyotes are equal opportunity predators. They kill to eat. They don’t distinguish between a healthy deer and a deer weakened by sub-zero cold and malnutrition.
You may not see much evidence of coyotes unless you look closely. During my week of blackpowder deer hunting, after a fresh snow, I was amazed by the many fresh coyote tracks I cut wherever I hunted. They are around.
In a new book just released by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and authored by SAM’s wildlife consultant, Gerry Lavigne, the Western myth that coyotes can’t be controlled is laid to rest. The Western coyote is a different critter and it occupies a different habitat. Maine coyote numbers can be, and are, being controlled. The combination of a coyote-control program around North Woods deer yards by state-hired trappers, along with more and more recreational coyote hunting and trapping by individuals, is really beginning to make a difference. In the book, “Coyote Hunting and Trapping Primer,” Lavigne reports that during a 6 month period in 2016, 10 hunters killed 69 coyotes along the Route 16 corridor between Old Town and Milo. In effect, these 10 hunters reduced that area’s coyote population by 65 %! As Lavigne observes, “ I think we’re gaining on ‘em.”
Noteworthy is Lavigne’s observation that “hunting ( of coyotes) now exceeds trapping as a source of coyote mortality.”
How many coyotes are being culled per year? While some skillful coyote hunters may rack up 30 or more critters a year, the average recreational coyote hunter, says Lavigne, takes five to ten animals a year. Trappers are required to tag their kills. The registered take by trappers annually is from 1,500 to 2,000. The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s contract trappers and hunters are averaging about 400 coyotes a year. These are taken mainly around big-woods deer yards.
There is a kind of unofficial “bounty” program in the form of coyote hunting contests, one in northeastern Penobscot County conducted by the Penobscot County Wildlife Conservation Association ( PCWCA) and one by PCWCA’s counterpart in Aroostook County. Entry forms are available at Smith’s Store in Springfield ( 738 2171), Partridge Meadow Firearms in Waite (796 2777), Two Rivers Canoe & Tackle in Medway ( 746 8181), Pine Tree Store in Grand Lake Stream (796 5027) and Whitney’s Outfitters in Lincoln ( 403 8000).
By the way, if coyote hunting interests you a good starting point would be to obtain a copy of SAM’s coyote hunting book. It is full of tips and tactics compiled by seasoned coyote hunters like Lavigne and others who know their stuff. Learn more about acquiring the book by visiting SAM’s website and go to the Sam Store. The coyote hunting and trapping primer is $8.00, plus postage.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.
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