Nature is sometimes cruel, but predators have to eat, too. In this trail cam photo, a coyote carries a deer leg through the grass. Credit: Courtesy of Gary Jacbos

Over the past two decades, I’ve heard plenty of Maine hunters demonize predators — coyotes in particular — and I’ve had to bite my tongue on many occasions lest our conversations turn into arguments.

Today, I’ll be a bit more forthright and let the cards fall where they may, as I introduce yet another user-submitted trail camera photo. This one comes from Gary Jacobs, who captured this image on a camera located at his farm in Dongola, Illinois. The subject of the photo — a large coyote, it appears — is carrying a deer leg, and looks to be all set, nutritionally, for the day.

Now, there are hunters here in Maine who lament the effect of coyotes on the deer population, and cast the critters as bloodthirsty beasts that must be eradicated.

I come at it from a slightly different point of view. To me, the coyotes are just trying to get by. They’re predators, after all, and they’re always on their lookout for their next meal. That’s not good, nor bad. It’s just nature.

The fact that they sometimes (or often, if you prefer) munch on a deer? Well, that’s just nature at work, too. Is it pretty? No. Is the way a deer dies after being chased onto the ice by a pack of coyotes fun to watch or hear about? Of course not. But again, coyotes are just top-end predators in the Maine ecosystem, and they’re doing what they have to do to survive.

I have friends who have thought it’s their duty to remove as many coyotes as possible from the landscape, and I’ve respected their decisions. But I’ve also always felt that predators play an essential role in a healthy ecosystem.

So why are all of us hunters so eager to demonize coyotes? Well, humans have been demonizing top-end predators for a long, long time, I figure. They were a threat to livestock, and, I suppose, competing with us humans for wild game. The result: Humans extirpated some predators, and severely reduced the population of others.

Here in Maine, I’ve long felt, the argument against coyotes has always felt a little hollow. When it comes down to it, many of us hunters want to kill as many coyotes as we can so that they won’t eat the deer.

Then, come November, we’ll all gear up and head out to try to kill the same deer that we were so determined to save from the coyotes.

Your opinions may vary, and I imagine I’ll hear plenty of them in the days ahead. That’s fine. Your thoughts are always welcome here.

For now, though, let’s just sit back and enjoy the photo for what it is: An illustration of nature at work, unfiltered.

Learn how to improve your trail cam game at the BDN’s Trail Cam Magic, a virtual seminar we’re staging on Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. Click here to reserve your spot for FREE.

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to jholyoke@bangordailynews.com and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...