These days it’s just as easy to take that statement seen in the title above and remove the “what effect coyotes have on deer”, and replace it with whatever topic you would like to discuss as it pertains to hunting, trapping and fishing issues and your state fish and game department. There is becoming a huge divide between wildlife biologists and hunters, trappers and fishermen in the field. Why is that? What has changed? Has animal behavior changed all that much? Maybe human behavior has changed more than anyone wants to admit.
In Maine, not unlike many other states, biologists are scrambling to save face. I think that some thought they could hide behind the distraction of an election year cycle with Maine elected a new governor who consequently appointed a new fish and wildlife commissioner. However, the problems that once existed prior to Gov. LePage’s inauguration haven’t gone away.
I have written several times of recent about another new task force anointed with trying to figure out why out of state hunters stopped coming to Maine to hunt. It appears that all reasons under the sun are listed but the idea that they might not want to come is because there are so few deer to hunt, wants to get swept back under the rug and not talked about; I suppose hoping it will just go away and somehow global warming will reconstruct a deer herd.
Whether you think nonresident hunters are losing their preference for Maine whitetail deer hunting, doesn’t change the debate about whether a hearty population of coyotes/wolf hybrids is contributing to that deer demise and to what extent it’s happening.
This article in the Sun Journal discussing the divide between what many hunters think the coyotes are doing and what the biologists think is typical. Please take a read, as it really is the epitome of fish and game public relations problems nationwide.
None of us should ever lose track of the facts of what affects our deer herd. It is a fact that loss of habitat has an effect. It is a fact that severe winters have an effect. It is a fact predators have an effect. It is a fact too much hunting has an effect, etc. etc. etc. I would suppose that if the group of wildlife biologists in Augusta really wanted to protect severe winters and present them as a necessary and vital part of our ecosystem, they also wouldn’t want to talk about how severe winters kill a lot of deer. Am I wrong? Similarly, if I really wanted to protect hunting opportunities, I would claim that hunting is a vital part of our ecosystem management and that harvesting deer via hunting was a good thing. Am I wrong? The same for habitat and predators.
So how much of the attention the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) gives to explain losses of deer is based on predator protection, while beating the drum of everything that has a negative affect on deer as being the real problems?
As I said, there exists this divide. Many hunters spend far more hours in the field and have a unique opportunity to observe what is going on. Let’s face facts and admit that hunters, as a whole, are not trained observers…….but then again, who is? So why does it appear all the time that whatever the man in the field says is going on is denied by biologists? And why whatever biologists say is denied by hunters from the field?
Personally, I think the biggest cause for the divide is the result of the indoctrination our wildlife biologists are receiving from their institutes of higher indoctrination. Often they are fed garbage. They are convinced of the garbage they are presented and bring it with them to the job. When a crusty old hunters surfaces and says where there used to be dozens and dozens of deer is now overrun with coyotes claiming coyotes to be the culprit, that is automatically disregarded because that isn’t what they were taught in school. School says coyotes hunt alone and do not kill adult healthy deer. All else is rhetoric and emotions.
But there are other reasons for this divide. Here’s just one example that comes from the article I linked to above. The article makes a fair attempt to present differing opinions about who is correct in the amount of destruction the coyote brings to deer management, but fails in my opinion.
Lee Kantar, MDIFW’s head deer and moose biologist, has always beat the drum of loss of habitat, hunter land access and severe winters as the culprit behind the destruction of the deer herd. While at times alluding to predators as a possible problem but only when deep snows exists, he clings heartily to his theories generally dispelling any notion of predators being a serious problem.
But what are we to believe? Reaching up his sleeve to pull out the severe winter card, Kantar says:
“We’re in a cycle right now where we’ve had some pretty rugged winters for deer over the last five years,”
He further goes on to say that coyotes just aren’t killing deer when there’s no snow on the ground because he says, “There’s no evidence of that.” There is evidence of that but because it comes from them crusty ole hunters, it can’t be believed. That wasn’t in those text books.
Here, Kantar eagerly insists we are in the middle of about a five-year cycle of severe winters and that’s really taking it’s toll. However, in the same newspaper, the Sun Journal, two weeks earlier, Mr. Kantar and fellow biologist, Chuck Hulsey, are discussing ticks on Moose and how devastating those ticks have been on the moose in Maine. Here is Hulsey’s statement about winter and ticks:
“Winter ticks are affected by what the previous winter was,” Hulsey said Friday. “If you have a lot of snow and a lot of cold, that’s not good for the ticks. If you have less snow and more warmth, it’s really good for the ticks.”
The writer of the article, Terry Karkos states:
That’s what happened [less snow and more warmth] this past winter, and it’s why the biologists have heard many reports this spring of people finding more moose carcasses than usual in the woods.
On November the 6th, moose in Maine have been dying in numbers enough that it seems to concern the biologists and the reason for these deaths is from ticks because of less snow and more warmth.
On November 20th, in discussing what affect the coyote has on Maine’s deer, these MDIFW biologist tell us that it isn’t the coyotes killing the deer, it’s the past cycle of five years of severe winters. Well, which is it?
And this contributes to the divide.
The Maine sportsman, just like any other state’s sportsman, just want honest dialect. When contradictory statements are made, it lends to suspicions of dishonesty and cover-up. When no communication is accomplished, all hell breaks loose.
Somehow sportsmen and state officials have to find a way to destroy this divide. State fish and game departments should do the jobs they are paid handsomely to do. They should come to the office with the attitude that they don’t know everything and things are changing. Science research changes old assumptions and applications. It’s alright to accept that and move on.
When hunters are repeatedly telling wildlife biologists coyotes are killing all the deer, spring, winter, summer and fall, what is gained by disregarding that information and clinging to the old myths about coyote predation and habits just for the sake of belligerence needing to be right?
This repeated denial, scoffing and demonization by wildlife biologists sends the message loud and clear that they are more interested in predator protection than managing game for surplus harvest. And yet, still, they refuse to understand where the money comes from that pays their salaries.
This is the epitome of arrogance.
It is not my intention to brow-beat MIDFW but until I hear satisfactory answers, based on modern science and not fiction and begin to see actual action being undertaken to rebuild a deer herd, as we have been promised, right on up to the governor, I will continue to call out what appears to be dishonesty and corruption.