In her work as a conservation biologist, Brunswick
Geri Vistein gives voice to the coyote, an animal
 she says
 is unfairly and cruelly maligned. Coyotes get a
 bad rap
 for killing chickens and other livestock, but she
they are actually essential to farms, provided
there’s a
 guard dog around as well.

She’ll be speaking about guardian animals and
carnivores at the Maine Agricultural Trades
Show at
11 a.m. Wednesday at the Augusta Civic
Center (the
show runs Tuesday to Thursday).

NOT ALL WILE E.: The Department of Inland 
Fisheries & Wildlife estimates there are at l
east 12,000 coyotes living in Maine. Coyotes can
 be good neighbors to humans, Vistein said.
“Coyotes are quite capable of living among
 humans,” she said. “It’s just that the humans
 don’t quite know how to live with them.” How
 and why are farmers supposed to live with
 them? “They do rodent patrol,” she said.
“You name it, from a woodchuck to a vole
to a mouse to squirrels.” It’s about balance,
she said, keeping down the numbers of pesky
 and disease-carrying rodents on a farm. So
 the farmer or orchard owner doesn’t have to
 sit on her or his porch, shooting at
woodchucks. And coyotes will also cull
 deer by going after fawns in the spring.

“Coyotes are a lot like us,” she said. “That is
 one reason that they are such absolute
survivors.” They eat seasonally, varying
their diets accordingly. Summer is for the
rodents, she said, “then it’s berry time in
September.” They also eat grass. And
 according to the Inland Fisheries
website, sometimes “pet food, garbage,
garden crops, livestock and poultry.”

TICK TOCK: The vermin can carry 
diseases and are typically riddled with
 ticks, so we see the upside of keeping
 their numbers down. But don’t coyote
s have ticks too? “Absolutely no
research is being done on coyotes,
so we don’t know,” Vistein said.
“If coyotes live a relatively peaceful
 life and are not persecuted, they
have very strong immune systems.
They carry on. They are survivors.”
 Again, they could have ticks, right?
 “Yeah, they can, but we don’t know,”
 she said.

“Today, coyotes in Maine have absolutely
zero protection,” she said. “People can kill
them day and night. They actually encourage
 men who have nothing else to do to go out
 and kill them for fun. I talk to some of my
 friends who are biologists with Inland
Fisheries, and they show me things you
wouldn’t want to see. These guys come
with their dogs and hunt and kill the coyotes
 and leave their bloody body lying there. And
people see this. People have sent me pictures
 of coyotes in snares, which is like hanging
them but hanging them slowly, an agonizing,
 painful death. This stuff goes on in Maine.”
As Inland Fisheries puts it in its information
on the species, “The coyote’s tenacity tries
 the patience of some and (draws) the
admiration of others.”

COYOTE HISTORY: How long have
coyotes been in Maine? According to Vistein,
 they started appearing in northern Maine in
 the 1970s (the Department of Inland Fisheries
& Wildlife says this happened in the 1930s).
 “Some of the elders here in Maine talk about
before and after and it is really amazing what
they say.” Which is? That before the coyotes
came, there were rabbits everywhere in Maine.
 “They say after the coyotes came, we started
to see the balance.”

Visit Vistein’s website,
 and her Farming with Coyotes in Maine page on
Facebook for more information on her advocacy.