Understanding coyotes as ‘valued wildlife resource’

By Gerry Lavigne, Special to the BDN
Posted Jan. 07, 2013, at 1:06 p.m.

I found the OpEd piece about coyote hunting and trapping posted by Joshua O’Donnell of Brunswick in the BDN on Dec. 29 to be disturbing on several levels.

O’Donnell’s apparent obsession to “know all the details of every coyote killed” in Maine betrays a disturbing need to impose his will on the law-abiding hunters and trappers who rightfully share the woods of Maine with him. O’Donnell has a right to express his opinion, of course. I’m just thankful we live in a democratic republic where there is a system of checks and balances to protect us from extremists who are all too eager to force everyone to live as they do.

I infer from his writings that O’Donnell is an animal rights advocate. In reality, coyotes are not people, and Maine hunters and trappers are not engaging in “genocidal bloodletting,” as O’Donnell asserts. Coyotes are a valued wildlife resource; hunting and trapping of coyotes is a highly regulated activity. Despite their frequent rhetoric in the media, animal rights activists are much in the minority. Most nonhunters in Maine actually support regulated hunting and trapping.

O’Donnell asks “who makes the rules” [for coyote hunting]? The Maine Legislature makes those rules, in the form of laws that govern all human uses of Maine wildlife. And it is the responsibility of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to enforce these laws and rules. Maine’s populations of wildlife and fish are managed in the public trust for all to enjoy. No species is ever put in jeopardy of extinction by over-hunting, trapping or fishing. And that includes coyotes.

O’Donnell’s assertion that he has a right to know “how every coyote was used” is erroneous. Although wildlife populations are held in the public trust, once a coyote is lawfully killed, that individual animal becomes the sole property of the hunter or trapper. O’Donnell would be breaking Maine law to compel the type of information he demanded of hunters and trappers.

For the record, however, roughly 2,000 Maine coyote pelts are sold annually into the international fur market, along with hundreds of thousands of coyotes from throughout North America. Pelts from other Maine coyotes are used for taxidermy, or tanned for personal use. Coyote hunting and trapping is an economic asset to rural Maine economies. That coyote hunting is growing in popularity is a good thing, particularly if increased coyote harvests take a little predation pressure off our struggling deer population in the northern half of the state.

Hunters, trappers and animal rights activists have something in common: None of us want to wipe out the coyote in Maine. Given the resilience of the coyote, that would be impossible anyway. We do differ in our approach to managing coyote populations. Animal rights advocates insist no coyote ever be killed for sport, economic gain or societal purpose. Most other people see the value of managing one wildlife population at a lower density to achieve other societal values such as improved deer survival or fewer losses of livestock and pets.

One final note: O’Donnell’s threat to “follow and track” coyote hunters, or to “spring traps with stones and sticks,” would be illegal if carried out. Maine law protects lawful hunters from harassment and provides criminal penalties for those who disturb lawfully placed traps.

Regardless of your position on coyote hunting and trapping, do not allow O’Donnell to incite you to illegal activity.

Gerry Lavigne served for 30 years as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s deer biologist. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and he leads SAM’s Deer Management Network. He lives in Boyd Lake village.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/07/opinion/understanding-coyotes-as-valued-wildlife-resource/ printed on July 31, 2014