I saw my first coyote, in the wild, this past deer season. I saw two if you count the one Dad shot. I had heard them howling early in the morning as we made our way to the Sky Condo and Dad found an 8-pointer that had been taken down by coyotes when he was still hunting. We heard them come back to the deer that evening after we had cut these antlers off. It was eerie to know exactly how close they were to us. We knew they were around us and a predator to our deer herd but to this day, they have not seemed to make a big impact on the deer we see around our hunting grounds.
LD96 is a bill put forth by Representative Robert Saucier of Presque Isle. As I sat in the crowd waiting for the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife committee to open their public hearing on this bill, many people were there to protest one specific portion of the bill; the one that would create a bounty like system on coyotes, with hunting clubs across the State. When Rep. Saucier got up to present his bill and announced that he would like that portion of his bill removed. You could hear the mumbles throughout the crowd. Some people had taken the day off to speak to the committee about this issue and instead, they did not need to speak to something that was no longer on the table.
Rep. Saucier went on to talk about the need for conversation activities to help the deer herd in Presque Isle and around Aroostook county. He presented the number of deer harvested from 2000 until 2011, which had averaged about 1500 a year until the 2008 season when it dropped to 762 deer then down to 414 in 2009, 610 in 2010 and 595 in 2011. But what Rep. Saucier did not talk about was the massive snowfall and subsequent flooding that Aroostook county had in the winter of 2007-2008. Or the fact that the majority of the State is dealing with the decline in deer numbers.
Coyotes or not, a deer herd is going to be impacted by that kind of natural disaster. You can not blame the coyotes for making that much of in indent in the herd within one year. But according to Rep. Saucier, “There are no deer in Maine because of the coyotes.”
The rest of the hearing was spent listening to members of the public talk about extending the trapping season, blaming the coyotes for the decrease in deer numbers and at one point, I heard the comment that the deer numbers are down, “not due to habitat, well, some of it is because of the habitat.” Much of the testimony was based on emotion and not so much on the actual impact of the coyote population on the deer herds. Give me some hard facts and actual examples of how many deer are taken due to coyots each year and in each region of the State!
One of the best quotes from the hearing was from a Committee member who asked, “…at one point, in the late ’70′s, the Department (IFW) said coyotes ate frogs, mice etc. and did not impact the deer herd. When did this change?” His question never got answered.
As the day went on, speakers had to tweak their testimony to reflect the changes in the bill that Rep. Saucier announced at the start of his testimony. I know it must be incredibly nerve wracking to get up in front of the committee and a full room of people and adapt your original testimony but if you are speaking to a room of outdoors people, you need to make sure you pronounce Cabela’s correctly. In my book, you have lost all of your credibility if you can not (I am looking at you, Humane Society Director).
I have written before about what IFW is doing to keep the coyote population in check across the State. For me, that is a good place to start and we need to remember that it takes time to build a deer herd back to where we think it needs to be to be deemed healthy. We can not just blame the coyotes and be done with it.