CONTRIBUTORS

Crying wolf on deer population

Posted June 01, 2012, at 2:36 p.m.

I am concerned with Gov. LePage’s recent signing of LD 372 into law. That law takes money from our General Fund and allots $100,000 of our money to be added to an already approved $50,000 to kill coyotes. Even worse, it allow for this amount of money to be taken from our General Fund each year for the next three years.

While the governor has eliminated health care for 20,000 Maine residents, cut prescription drug coverage for seniors and reduced funding for Head Start, he apparently sees some sense in supporting a state-sponsored bounty. It is important to note that humans have been attempting to reduce coyote populations using bounties for the last 100 years. It has only resulted in an increase of coyote populations and more dispersing juveniles who travel to places where there are fewer coyotes. They then populate that area.

Coyotes have a unique biological ability to increase their productivity when their populations are under pressure. Its scientific name is compensatory reproduction and is an attribute they share with feral horses, mountain goats and, yes, even the deer the governor is claiming to attempt to save.

The problem is compensatory reproduction occurs when habitat and food are plentiful enough to feed an increased population. We continue to see a decline in sustainable habitat for deer in northern Maine due to forestry practices by the forest products industry. The deer will not survive in numbers hunting groups would like to see in the north woods, whether or not there are coyotes there, and the biologists within our state agency — the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife — know this. Unfortunately, it is not politically expedient to speak out about what they know if it does not run parallel with the current political climate.

The two most recent studies on compensatory reproduction in coyotes are from 2009 and 2010. I presented them to the IF&W Committee last session. Those two studies showed that when you removed the dominant coyote from the family unit, both litter sizes and pack sizes doubled. These two studies were peer reviewed and published in the July 2009 and May 2010 Canadian Field Naturalist, a well-respected wildlife journal.

About 10 percent of Mainers hunt. A minority of this hunting community in Maine persist in “crying wolf” when it comes to the reasons for deer population declines in northern Maine. They say coyotes are the reason, yet deer and coyote continue to thrive everywhere there is adequate habitat throughout the United States and Canada. The most ironic part of this waste of our tax dollars is they want to kill coyotes to save deer so they can kill deer or sell licenses to those who would do so. This is out of touch with society and a squandering of our tax dollars. Last year the state spent $15,156 to kill 70 coyotes. This comes to $216.50 per coyote.

It is ironic that this law is Public Law, Chapter 666, considering how much the coyote is demonized here in Maine.

This bill was pushed through the Appropriations Committee by the head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, former Sen. David Trahan. Even former head of SAM George Smith gave it little chance of actually getting passed. In a nutshell, this is how wildlife is governed in our great state, with cronyism and lobbying of the most incestuous type. The governor’s signing of this bill shows how little he cares for the elderly and the infirm, as well as school children who need Head Start.

We need to start paying attention to the science and ignore self-interested, misguided lobbyists who care less about the elderly and our children than they do about their minority constituents.

Daryl DeJoy is executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine.

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