Two states that face similar problems with dwindling deer herds are Maine and Utah. In Utah, efforts are underway to improve habitat but the sportsmen there recognize that those efforts are limited. What they do recognize is that the number one problem and one that they CAN do something about is reducing coyote populations that have driven the fawn survival rate to near zero.
In Maine much of the effort is talk and complaining that loss of habitat, loss of quality wintering habitat and severe winters are killing the deer and there are no serious plans to address an overblown coyote population; again something that CAN be done while implementing programs to deal with habitat.
Recently sportsman’s groups in both states have launched efforts to address withering deer herds. In Maine it was announced that a conglomeration of “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, were going to work with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to address the deer herd issue.
In Utah, efforts are already underway by similar “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, to address the deer herd issue.
Below is a comparison of ideas and plans by each of the two groups. Please compare and then decide which one stands the best chance of actually accomplishing the goals of rebuilding a deer herd.
Maine: (According to the statement made by the “outdoor partnership”)
1.) Create a “network” of sportsman’s clubs.
2.) Provide access to information Online.
3.) Host meetings, conferences, and training seminars dealing with habitat management, trapping and predator hunting, and a variety of other topics related to deer restoration and management.
4.) Produce DVDs and other educational materials.
5.) Provide a place where hunters and landowners can share tips, tactics and ideas that may help others succeed at protecting and managing deer.
6.) Support the Maine Deer Management Network at the Legislature and in other political venues.
7.) Provide outreach.
8.) Provide information in the print media by providing feature articles on deer management and outdoor recreation topics.
9.) Coordinate closely with MDIFW to assure mutual progress in restoring and then maintaining healthy deer populations again.
10.) Manage habitat.
11.) Manage predators.
12.) Manage hunting.
13.) Eager to support Dept. efforts to reduce predation losses near deer wintering areas.
14.) Develop coyote hunting into the next big hunting activity in Maine by transitioning the coyote from varmint status, to the valuable, huntable furbearer resource.
15.) Envisioning a volunteer “Adopt a Deer Yard” program targeting coyote hunting near deer wintering areas by individual hunters, or clubs.
16.) Intending to be a resource that individuals can turn to for information on coyote biology, hunting tactics, available equipment, bait sources, etc.
17.) Find opportunities to strengthen the connection between hunters and the non-hunting public and be a resource where hunters can find information on the latest hunting regulations, including legislative changes as they occur.
18.) Stress the importance of ethical hunting behavior, encourage active participation in game law compliance, and help define the importance of hunting and trapping as a means of keeping wildlife populations at compatible levels.
Utah: (According to the most recent email on future plans)
1.) Continue the aerial gunning of coyote pairs in the spring with $470,000. Better efforts will be made to target paired coyotes.
2.) Hire 5 Full time – NON Biologist – Regional coyote trappers/trapping coordinators. Job requirements: proven track record of knowing how to kill coyotes, and teach and motivate thousands of sportsmen to join the effort. Every day, the job is to wake up and kill coyotes, and additionally teach other sportsmen how to trap, snare, and otherwise kill coyotes. These full time people would also coordinate county bounty programs, and help target and measure – hopefully – increased fawn survival. These coordinators will also come up with some new and creative efforts to get sportsmen out killing coyotes.
3.) Have some current DWR Employees participate in coyote control efforts while doing spring and fall counts, etc.
4.) See coyote $1 Million coyote bounty below
Since it is not in the current Governors budget submitted on December 8, the bounty money will have to come from Legislative leaders like Senator Hinkins and Okerlund, who take the Governors budget and tweak it. I also think the Governor, after the meeting in Cache, and having aides see the turnout at other meetings, and realizing the need, will be supportive. So, the new piece of the puzzle? see Number five below:
5.) With the help of Sportsmen, obtain $1 Million in additional funds to pay $50 coyote bounty. This would lead to 20,000 dead coyotes, a DRAMATIC increase in coyote kill.
Let me give you some numbers.
1.) Last year, after seeing the dismal fawn survival on 4 central Utah deer units – Pavant, boulder, beaver – the Director spent an additional $100,000 on coyote control
a.) Fawn Survival from 2010 to 2011 went from approximately 43 fawns per 100 to 62 per 100
It is estimated that there are 80,000 coyotes in Utah.
Last year it is estimated that the government professional trappers took 4,000 coyotes. This program would stay the same, but it would be better targeted in fawning areas.
$1 Million for a $50 bounty would result in 20,000 dead coyotes, plus all the coyotes taken by 5 full time coyote killers from the UDWR, plus all the coyotes taken by aerial gunning $470,000 in the spring on deer winter ranges.
I would like to point out some important differences between these two state’s ideas on how to rebuild a deer population. First, the proposals written about from Utah are actually those made by the fish and game director Jim Karpowitz. From most of the accounts I have read about Utah’s efforts, it appears that for the most part the fish and game department, Legislature, Governor and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sportsmen and citizens, understand the importance of hunting to their state and are committed at all levels to do what is necessary.
Second, I do not believe that Maine has the same commitment from the fish and wildlife department, the Governor or the Legislature and definitely not the U.S. Congressional Delegation. Sportsmen are split and citizens need to be educated. For this reason, I believe it is the major steering factor in the proposals that I’ve outlined above from Maine.
Governor Paul LePage campaigned on the promise that he was committed to rebuilding Maine’s deer herd. And what has transpired to date that has resulted in any effort to that end? I am not an advocate to fund the MDIFW with general fund taxpayer money. If Maine and the governor honestly are committed to the rebuilding of the deer herd to keep a vibrant industry providing jobs and upholding traditions and heritage, the value of investment would be realized and the Governor and Legislature would find the money to kill a lot of coyotes, reduce bear populations, protect wintering habitat, etc.
I’m not suggesting throwing money at a problem. The Governor must demand change and accountability for any state investment in rebuilding the deer herd. One can argue and spin the information anyway they so choose but the fact is the current management plans for deer failed miserably. Blame it on winter, blame it on habitat or predators, the realization is there are no deer left in many of Maine’s locations. Therefore, the plan fails simply because it doesn’t deal with these issues in a realistic manner. Winters have been around in Maine for longer than MDIFW and loggers have cut trees for centuries, and we still can’t deal with those two issues?
Whether you are from Maine or Utah or points in between, you decide from the information that I’ve provided which state has the biggest commitment to herd rebuilding and which plans have a better chance at seeing real results.