GUEST COLUMN

Coyotes, deer and the governor

Posted April 08, 2011, at 8:24 p.m.

After reading some of the editorial, column and letter writers lately in the Bangor Daily News bad-mouthing Gov. Paul LePage about everything they don’t agree with him on, it sets me wondering about the thinking, or lack of thinking, about some of the things being discussed.

How about giving this guy a break? He only has been in office three months, and it appears that some people are disagreeing with him about things they have very little knowledge of, such as trying to bring back the deer herd.

It may appear to a novice that there is an abundance of deer in Maine because they are in their backyards and up close to their houses. I have spent tens of thousands of hours in the wilderness during the last 60 years in many of the states across the U.S., including Alaska. I can testify that there are very few deer in the wilderness in Washington County today. The reason they are in close to houses is that they are trying to get away from the coyotes.

I cannot imagine how anyone could believe that if we had cougars and wolves it would have any effect on the coyote and deer populations other than killing the deer off a little faster. The last Maine cougar was killed in 1938, and although I have seen canine tracks that could belong to a wolf, my guess would be that they are hybrids that have been turned loose. In all the hours over the years I have spent in the wilderness in Maine, I never have seen a cougar track.

As far as I can find out, the last of the wolf packs pretty much have been gone since the 1800s.

Now, we have tens of thousands of coyotes, and they are slaughtering not only the deer but beaver, muskrats, partridge, rabbits, young bobcats, lynx and domestic animals including cats and dogs. In addition, coyotes recently killed a woman in Nova Scotia.

Some of the general public have been misled into believing that predators only kill the sick and the weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Maine woods is not Disney World or the Land of Make Believe, as some people would have us think. Most people do not realize, or may not want to be exposed to, what this perpetual consumer of protein, the coyote, is doing to the rest of wildlife in the Maine woods.

Now, it appears we have a choice. We either can raise coyotes — that is, until the deer run out — or we can get the coyotes down to a controllable level and attempt to bring back the deer herd.

Perhaps with a good measure of common sense, a lot of hard work and a little luck too, we could again see the numbers we had in the ’50s, when Washington County had more deer per acre than anywhere in the country. This would bring back the out-of-state sportsmen and -women to the state of Maine, spending money.

Perhaps it is time to drop the scientific theory of yesteryear and do some real physical work to help bring back the deer herd while we still have a few left.

Let’s let Gov. LePage and the new Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, have a crack at it. They can’t do any worse than what has been done over the past 20 years.

Luther Choate of Addison is a charter member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and a past vice president of the Maine Trappers Association.

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