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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Over the years, we have Posted information from U. Of Delaware Researcher Douglas Tallamy depicting how non native plants reduce the diversity of native insects in a given region............When non-natives dominate a landscape, they create a significant adverse cascade that greatly narrows the variety of bird life in a given locale..........This is especially true when the array of non-native plants are completely without any close native counterparts in a given ecosystem............Native trees support large arrays of immature insects, which in turn attract the greatest array of native bird species, thus fostering optimum diversity...............From my perch, so important to plant the largest number of native plants on your property as possible............If we re constantly choosing plants and flowers native to Europe, Asian and the Middle East, "we are limiting the wildlife and conservation support system on the land we call home"--------# native plants, #native insects, #native plant landscaping, #biodiversity with native plants

Research shows that non-native plantings have an impact on the diversity of insect populations.
Credit: Photos by Karin Burghardt, Douglas Tallamy/University of Delaware


Redesigning Suburbia

What will it take to give our local animals what they need to survive and reproduce on our properties? NATIVE PLANTS, and lots of them. This is a scientific fact deduced from thousands of studies about how energy moves through food webs. Here is the general reasoning. All animals get their energy directly from plants, or by eating something that has already eaten a plant. The group of animals most responsible for passing energy from plants to the animals that can’t eat plants is insects. This is what makes insects such vital components of healthy ecosystems. So many animals depend on insects for food (e.g., spiders, reptiles and amphibians, rodents, 96% of all terrestrial birds) that removing insects from an ecosystem spells its doom.

But that is exactly what we have tried to do in our suburban landscapes. For over a century we have favored ornamental landscape plants from China and Europe over those that evolved right here. If all plants were created equal, that would be fine. But every plant species protects its leaves with a species-specific mixture of nasty chemicals. With few exceptions, only insect species that have shared a long evolutionary history with a particular plant lineage have developed the physiological adaptations required to digest the chemicals in their host’s leaves. They have specialized over time to eat only the plants sharing those particular chemicals. When we present insects from Pennsylvania with plants that evolved on another continent, chances are those insects will be unable to eat them. We used to think this was good. Kill all insects before they eat our plants! But an insect that cannot eat part of a leaf cannot fulfill its role in the food web. 

We have planted Kousa dogwood, a species from China that supports no insect herbivores, instead of our native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) that supports 117 species of moths and butterflies alone. In hundreds of thousands of acres we have planted goldenraintree from China instead of one of our beautiful oaks and lost the chance to grow 532 species of caterpillars, all of them nutritious bird food.  My research has shown that alien ornamentals support 29 times less biodiversity than do native ornamentals.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

in 2010, author Debra Mitts-Smith published a classic inside look at how The Wolf has been depicted for children via books............Entitled PICTURING THE WOLF IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, the author "poses the idea that since the pictures in children's books usually create the first and often only images of wolves most people see, they deserve serious study and reflection"............"Adults will find this a useful guidebook to the wolf that is symbolic of fear or love of the wild in our lives"......."Perhaps it will lead us to differentiate between the wolf of RED RIDING HOOD and the wild wolf that if we are lucky, crosses the road in front of us stopping just long enough for us to register each other's reality before it slips into the woods"---Nancy Jo Tubbs reviewing the book in the Fall 2015 issue of INTERNATIONAL WOLF MAGAZINE

From the villainous beast of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,” to the nurturing wolves of Romulus and Remus and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the wolf has long been a part of the landscape of children’s literature.
 Meanwhile, since the 1960s and the popularization of scientific research on these animals, children’s books have begun to feature more nuanced views. In Picturing the Wolf in Children’s Literature, Mitts-Smith analyzes visual images of the wolf in children’s books published in Western Europe and North America from 1500 to the present. In particular, she considers how wolves are depicted in and across particular works, the values and attitudes that inform these depictions, and how the concept of the wolf has changed over time. What she discovers is that illustrations and photos in works for children impart social, cultural, and scientific information not only about wolves, but also about humans and human behavior.
First encountered in childhood, picture books act as a training ground where the young learn both how to decode the “symbolic” wolf across various contexts and how to make sense of “real” wolves. Mitts-Smith studies sources including myths, legends, fables, folk and fairy tales, fractured tales, fictional stories, and nonfiction, highlighting those instances in which images play a major role, including illustrated anthologies, chapbooks, picture books, and informational books. This book will be of interest to children’s literature scholars, as well as those interested in the figure of the wolf and how it has been informed over time.

Monday, September 28, 2015

While simultaneously researching Bobcats, the New Hampshire Game and Fish Commission is considering reopening a trapping season on the estimate 1100 adult "cats" that roam the state..............1 Bobcat for every 3-4 miles of viable habitat---Not a large enough population(my opinion) to put under the pressure of an annual trapping season, especially when trappers can use hounds in the pursuit,,,,,,,,,,, the history of these Bobcat trapping seasons is not pretty---having brought the population to near extirpation--- only some 100-150 animals as recently as the 1980's...........Lynx might also be in jeopardy as they are near identical look-a- likes to Bobcats.............Lynx are starting to reappear in the northern sections of the state, spreading their wings from the breeding population that exists in Maine...........# bobcat trapping season in New Hampshire

  • Why allow bobcats 

  • to be killed again?

    • Posted Sep. 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM 

    How do Wildfires effect wildlife?.........California Forester Eric Huff answers that question this way: "It depends on the duration of the fire, the intensity of the fire, the rate of spread, how quickly animal species, particularly terrestrial, have time to react to the fire"........... "Obviously those species that have more ability to move more rapidly, whether they are avian species or terrestrial mammals, have an advantage"......... "The question of fire intensity is really the key"...................."We need to get back to a native fire regime"............... "Clearly we’ve been very good after 100 years of fire suppression at controlling our environments and in doing so thinking that we were doing the right thing"............. 'But we need to get back to understanding that it’s important to get low-intensity fires going every couple of years and to manage these landscapes that have, in historical and geological timescales, been managed to regular occurrence by fire"---------# Wildfire's impact on wildlife

    Q&A: The Effect of Wildfires on California Wildlife

    By Joshua Rapp Learn

    Image Credit: Jeff Head
    Wildfires are still raging across California and while they are mostly contained, they have consumed more than 150,000 acres combined. But what happens to wildlife in fires like the Valley and Butte in California that are currently raging across the north of the state?
    To get a better idea of the ways animals are affected by the flames and changed landscape, we spoke to Eric Huff, a forester with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
    How do burning fires affect wildlife?
    This is a complicated question, really. It depends on the duration of the fire, the intensity of the fire, the rate of spread, how quickly animal species, particularly terrestrial, have time to react to the fire. Obviously those species that have more ability to move more rapidly, whether they are avian species or terrestrial mammals, have an advantage. The question of fire intensity is really the key.
    If you think about how fast the Valley Fire spread, I liken it to a dragon flying overhead and laying fire down in a pretty narrow column of fire. I imagine that there were some animals that could not get out of the way.
    How about the ecosystem?
    You’re going to have those [animals] that gain from these fires. You’re going to have cavity nesters, insects. You’re going to have species that will be able to feed on those that thrive in burned landscapes. There will be some net positives — I don’t know that they’ll be outweighed by the negatives.
    We’re going to see a big boom in woodpeckers, maybe even some black-backed woodpeckers. You’re going to obviously see a big boom in the insect population — bark beetles in particular are going to benefit greatly from those timber landscapes.
    We’re not going to see loss of species in their native range. Certainly as forage comes back, we’re going to see deer populations coming back to areas they temporarily abandoned. We’re probably going to see more benefits than adverse impacts there.
    So this is part of a natural process?
    “I don’t think that I’m speaking out of turn in saying that we need to get back to a native fire regime. Clearly we’ve been very good after 100 years of fire suppression at controlling our environments and in doing so thinking that we were doing the right thing. But we need to get back to understanding that it’s important to get low-intensity fires going every couple of years and to manage these landscapes that have, in historical and geological timescales, been managed to regular occurrence by fire.
    The Washoe Tribe [of the Lake Tahoe Basin] would regularly burn off their spring-summer camp as they left for lower elevations. The benefit of that is not just to be able to have more abundant wildlife populations to hunt and gather from. But it also benefits the forest. You’ve got far fewer trees per acre in that kind of setting and far more openings. You have a resilient landscape that can handle lightning strikes and human-controlled fire.
    We need to get back to understanding that fire is part of the native regime. We are in California and I don’t think there’s any part of California that hasn’t at least since geologic timescales, been touched by fire.
    How have is the fire regime changing?
    I think what we’re seeing is a much longer fire season — I don’t think anyone can argue that. From my perspective that’s climate related. We’re going to have to get used to a longer fire season which again really promotes this idea that we’re going to need to have more consistent, lower-intensity fires on the ground so we can create these more resilient landscapes.
    Like it or not, our future is going to be, and it has been, inextricably linked to fire. We just have to get around to being accepting of it and using it to our benefit and to the benefit of wildlife populations.
    Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at with tips or story suggestions on conservation, wildlife science, management or other story ideas. @JoshuaLearn1

    Saturday, September 26, 2015

    Kansas Wildlife Officials are most certainly on the verge of confirming the 13th verified mountain lion in Kansas since 2007......The "Lion" in the picture below was caught on a wildlife camera in the Chikaskia River region of Sumner County on September 20th........... Prior to this Pumas had not been documented in the Kansas for more than 100 years............Like in Michigan and Kentucky where Pumas were recently documented, Kansas Wildlife Officials claim that no breeding population exists but in fact the recent sightings are of Pumas wandering in from South Dakota and/or Nebraska, the easternmost breeding populations of Pumas in the USA save the 100+ Cats found in south Florida----# kansas pumas, # kansas mountain lions, # kansas cougars

    THE COUGAR NETWORK advocacy organization got confirmation from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that on September 18, a Puma passed by a trail camera in Dickinson County, Michigan, which is in the Upper Peninsula, bordering Wisconsin............ To date, Michigan has recorded more than 30 confirmations of Pumas over the past couple of decades...............The Michigan DNR states that there is no evidence of a breeding population within Michigan and that all the confirmations are of animals"passing through" from other locales----# Michigan cougars, # michigan Pumas, # Michigan mountain lions

    Is there a need to kill any of the 478 Brown Bears believed to roam the Kenai Peninusla in Alaska? With up to 40 Bears killed annually by humans in ways other than hunting(auto collisions, etc) and another 69 shot by hunters(at least 23 of them females), that means 23% of the believed to exist population was blown away last year...........Is this a sustainable kill level?.............And even if statistically falling within so-called sustainability levels for long term Bear persistence on the Peninsula, this killing formula feels wrong to me.............Does any of the Biologists in Fish and Game for this region ever think about genetic variability, the fact that hunters along with the other manner of bear kills might be removing critical gene pools from the population.................Is it always about human comfort levels in determining population levels of carnivores or is it as the POPE said this week at the U.N. and it D.C. in the Capitol Rotunda,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,"ALL CREATURES HAVE INHERENT RIGHTS TO EXIST ON THE PLANET",,,,,,,,,,,,"MAN SHOULD NOT SEE HIMSELF AS THE DOMINANT LIFE FORM, BUT AS A FELLOW CREATURE ON THIS ARK WE CALL HOME"-------# Brown Bears, # Kenai Peninsula. # Alaska, # hunting carnivores, # hunting brown bears, # hunting Grizzly bears, # Kenai brown bear population

    Biologists wrestle with how much hunting Kenai brown bear population can support

    Joseph Robertia
    Blaine Anliker of Chugiak poses with the brown bear he shot May 20, 2015 over a registered bait station near Clam Gulch. The bear’s hide measured more than 10 feet and was one of two large brown bears taken last month at bait stations registered to Kenny Bingaman of Soldotna.
    Courtesy of Kenny Bingaman

    SOLDOTNA – State and federal wildlife managers have not always agreed on the number of brown bears living on the Kenai Peninsula or the best way to manage the population, however large.
    But recent studies by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have yielded some of the most specific population data in decades.
    “As of the end of 2014, there are 478 brown bears on the Peninsula. That’s what we believe is out there,” said John Morton, a supervisory biologist with the refuge.
    That’s an increase from earlier estimates, but just a sliver of the 32,000 brown bears that Fish and Game estimates live in Alaska, from the Arctic to Southeast. About 3,000 are believed to live in bear-dense Kodiak Island, which is about twice as big as the Peninsula.

    Bear hair on barbed wire

    Since 1993, an extrapolated estimate of 250 to 300 Kenai brownies was the benchmark provided by the state, but that changed in 2010, after the refuge conducted an intensive DNA-based study that involved collecting hair samples for more than a month.
    Bear habitat across the Peninsula’s 16,000 square miles was divided into cells forming a grid. Each cell had a lure station baited with fermented fish oil and cow’s blood, surrounded by barbed wire. As the bruins stepped over or went under the wire, they left hair on the barbs. More than 11,000 hair samples were collected, which were then sorted – brown bears from black -- and analyzed.

    “Our estimate, for 2012 and based on the field work from 2010, was 582 brown bears,” Morton said.
    While the number was a snapshot in time, according to Jeff Selinger, Fish and Game’s Soldotna area wildlife manager, the 582 number was useful when added to Fish and Game’s own radio-telemetry studies of the population. The number of bears in Fish and Game’s study changes from year to year as animals die or slip out of their collar, but at any given time 30 to 40 sows are being monitored.
    “The collars last six years or more, and we replace them as needed,” Selinger said. “The goal is to follow these bears their entire lives.”
    Consequently, biologists can determine exactly where the bears den, where they roam and whether they have any cubs.
    Information gleaned so far includes when the grizzlies first breed, average litter size, when cubs are weaned and what percentage of cubs survive the first few years of life, among other things. The information has helped foster some changes in brown bear management.
    “We weren’t managing for that specific 250-300 number before the estimate,” Selinger said. “We were trying to manage a stable population with a minimum number of negative interactions with humans. But prior to 2012, it seemed like the number of (Peninsula) bears was going up. There were people who felt threatened by bears, and we were having a lot of DLPs (defense-of-life-or-property shootings).”

    Bear cap rises

    Prior to 2012, Selinger had been under a department directive for more than a decade to manage brown bears conservatively.When he took the job in 2002, Selinger was asked to manage for an average of not more than 14 brown bears (including no more than six sows) killed during a three-year period. By 2003, he championed and received approval to increase the cap to 20, including no more than eight females older than 12 months.
    The higher cap didn’t do hunters much good.
    That’s because the number of brown bears killed annually in DLP shootings, dispatched by Fish and Game personnel or who perished in collisions with vehicles, met or exceeded the cap, often before hunters got afield. The peak came in 2008, when 40 bears died from human causes that didn’t involve hunting. 
    Hunts happened in 92 percent of the seasons from 1974-2011, but some were only a few days long.  The average harvest was 11.3 bears. 

    A different strategy

    To quell public concern, the Alaska Board of Game in 2012 recommended more bears be killed. Within months, spring and fall drawing permit hunts, which tightly control the number of hunters and direct them to specific locales, were set up. In addition, a registration hunt was added, and more than 600 hunters applied.
    The result: 44 brown bears dead, including 13 adult females.
    Then the refuge released its census of 582 bears, and that changed everything again.
    “In 2013 we had no cap,” Selinger said.

    The bear hunting season was extended and spring hunters were allowed to hunt brown bears over bait.
    The result: 71 brown bears dead, including 23 adult females.
    Last year, a cap of 70 bears or 17 adult females was established, and hunters stayed under it. Sixty-nine brown bears were killed, including six adult females.
    “In basically two-and-a-half years, almost 200 bears were killed, of which 42 were adult females,” Morton said. “That’s huge.”

    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    William Huard of Los Angeles, California reacted to the RICHLAND SOURCE(an Ohio newspaper) article below about Coyotes as I did--with revulsion, disgust and dismay at the baldfaced lies and distortions hurled at the Eastern Coyote...............He smartly and adroitly calls out the false statements about the so-called "COYOTE MENANCE" in Ohio...........In .Mr. Huard's own words: "Logan Masters(source of the inacurate commentary) is a naturalist? How do you figure that?".......... "He operates a "nuisance wildlife control" company"......... "He knows less than nothing about predators or biology for that matter"............. "Where I come from we would call Masters a SLOB sport hunter"............ "Coyotes can be hunted all year long and have no bag limit, but hunters still must have a valid Ohio hunting permit." ............"There you go genius"......... "States that ignore the breeding patterns of coyotes and other sentient mammals tend to have more coyotes than the States that use "biology" to guide their management decisions"......... "I guess that works fine for Logan Masters- he's right at home in bumpkin Ohio with the rest of the backward "naturalists" who persecute animals and "try" to make a living at it"............ "I never trust anyone who calls an animal a "critter"............"Maybe Masters can learn something"............. "There are a few pictures you can look at (by clicking on the link below)"----- eastern coyotes,# coywolves, # coyotes, # deer, # ohio,# maine, # coyote hybrids

    CRESTLINE, Ohio – To some, the coyote may seem like any other animal. But according to Crawford Park District Naturalist Logan Masters, the wild four-legged canine is a cunning, deceiving manipulator that must have its population stabilized.

    Concern over the rising population and danger of coyotes was the topic of Masters’ discussion, “Coyote Crazy,” Wednesday evening in the Larsen Room at Lowe-Volk Nature Center .
    “The whole state of Ohio, along with the entire country, has really seen this giant increase of coyotes around the area,” he said. “I’m a person that’s a big believer that our coyotes are doing severe damage to our deer population.”
    During the presentation, Masters showed charts that illustrated a decline in deer population and an increase in coyote population over the last several years. One of the graphs showed that, in 2010, 20 coyotes were seen every 1,000 hours in Ohio. Masters said that figure has done nothing but rise.
    “If you’re not a believer that coyotes can take down a deer, look at the research that the [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] along with other scientists and researchers are doing because the coyotes are not only evolving, but they’re population is growing,” he said.
    According to Masters, coyotes were first found in Ohio in 1919 and now are in all 88 of the state’s counties. They can run up to 43 miles per hour, jump 6 to 7 feet, and weigh 15 to 46 pounds.

    But because of cross-breeding between coyotes and gray wolves that are making their way into Ohio from the North, it is not uncommon to see coyote hybrids that weigh 50 pounds or more. Masters said he has even seen a report of a 70-pounder in the state.
    Furthermore, coyotes are smaller and more basal than the gray wolf, which is a close relative, and is the North American equivalent to the Old World golden jackal, he said.
    The coyote is nocturnal, tricky, and smart and hunts by circling its prey until it has an opportunity to strike from behind. And even though most people believe the coyote is a pack animal, it technically is not.
    Masters said coyotes sometimes are spotted in pairs and are showing pack-like behavior because of the cross-breeding with wolves.

    “The fact that they are packing up now, being the coyote hybrids they are, that is something scary to think about,” he said. “You don’t want to be walking through the woods and run into a pack of coyotes – that isn’t going to turn out well for you.”
    Of the many other facts he shared, Masters said coyotes are omnivores and will eat trash, fruit, insects, and meat, among other things.
    Perhaps most importantly, they have been known to attack people, said Masters, who showed a video from Animal Planet about a boy who was attacked by coyote, leaving him with more than 50 stitches.
    “The reason I like to educate people is because when I see videos like I showed today, that kid getting attacked by a coyote,” Masters said. “We have thousands of kids who come out here to the park all year long and do different programs out here – field trips, camps, stuff like that – and for us to think here in Crawford County a kid got attacked by a coyote, that’s not something I want to think about.”
    He also said a man from Wooster was badly attacked by coyotes.

    “I have a lot of friends who are farmers, and they have problems with these animals getting into their livestock,” Masters continued. “That’s a problem, and in my opinion, coyotes are a major problem around here.”
    Coyotes can take down a full-grown cow or horse, which Masters showed picture proof of, and are wreaking havoc among the rabbit and fox population in Ohio.
    “When it comes to why they are good hunters, it’s because they’re everywhere,” he said. “It’s not like deer hunting – people all across the country deer hunt.
    “There are more deer hunters in this world than any other kind of hunting, but coyote hunting, not a lot of people go out and hunt coyotes. So if we can get the word around and go out and get these coyotes, not only is it going to be better for us in the county, the ODNR is going to appreciate it.”
    Coyotes can be hunted all year long and have no bag limit, but hunters still must have a valid Ohio hunting permit.
    Lowe-Volk Park is located 3 miles north of United States Route 30. For information about the park, call the Crawford Park District office at 419-683-9000 or visit its website at or itsFacebook page.

    In my meadow—in back of the computer screen, amid lupine, phlox, high grass, and bluebird boxes—things happen that make writing difficult. On a summer morning a wild canid, sleek coat gleaming in the sun, leaps high, twists, swats the ground with huge forepaws. He is well muscled but, in late puppyhood, still gawky and playing as much as seriously hunting mice. His race, maybe not new but newly noticed, first got the attention of humans about 60 years ago. It has been called "coy dog," "coy wolf," "new wolf," "brush wolf," and, now, "eastern coyote."

    The "coyote" part is misleading. Eastern coyotes are larger, heavier-set, and much more wolflike than their western cousins. They possess wolf genes, so maybe they interbred with wolves on their way east. Or maybe they were here all along, identified as small wolves whenever they were shot, trapped, or poisoned by the many people who hated them. When moonlight washes hardwood ridges, I like to howl at eastern coyotes; they answer me, then embark on prolonged conversations among themselves. Unfortunately for midlevel plant communities, shrub-nesting birds, and my wife's tulips, they kill very few deer in central New England.

    They kill more deer in Maine, but not enough to limit the population, which has been growing for 20 years. Maine is the only state that sees fit to hire eastern-coyote–control agents for the alleged benefit of deer hunters, and one of the few states south of Alaska that still believes it's desirable or even possible to make more game by knocking off predators. Unlike wolves, eastern coyotes prefer low-energy pursuit. They'll take deer when varying hare (their favorite prey) are scarce or when they can do so safely and economically, as when the snow is deep and crusted and the deer are "yarded up" in thick conifers. But in the colder regions, where deer haven't been increasing, the limiting factor is poor winter habitat, not coyotes.

    In June 1980, on my first assignment for Audubon, I joined a team from Maine's Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit and followed radio-collared eastern coyotes around Maine's western mountains. As far as the unit had been able to determine, in nine months 41 animals had killed zero deer. There had been deer hair in the scats, but in almost every case the researchers had been able to pinpoint the source: carrion. Documented stomach or scat contents had included varying hare, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, berries, apples, offal, fish, voles, aluminum foil, rope, leaves, leather, dog food, and dog-food bags. That year eastern coyotes made it onto the Maine Republican platform, where they were identified as one of just three environmental ills worthy of the party's consideration (the others being antipesticide sentiment and unfair property taxes).

    At least with coyotes there was bipartisan agreement. When I had finished my work in the woods, I stopped by Augusta to visit Glenn Manuel, the father of eastern-coyote control. For helping get the state's Democratic governor elected, Manuel, a former state senator, had been appointed commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He told me that coyotes threatened to eliminate Maine's deer herd and scoffed at his biologists who claimed otherwise. "[They] still believe in the balance of nature," he declared. "They're textbook boys." Later, without a shred of documentation, he publicly announced that "many does are found dead, but only the unborn fawn is eaten" and lamented that coyote snares were illegal. Even as commissioner, Manuel ardently supported the Dickey-Lincoln dams project, which would have destroyed 130,000 acres of habitat for deer and other wildlife, 268 miles of free-flowing trout water, and 30 wilderness ponds. And when he chaired a public meeting to consider reintroducing wildlife that had been extirpated from Maine, his biologists hid behind their clipboards when he urged them to "bring back" penguins.

    Manuel, to borrow lyrics from folksinger Tom Rush, would have killed "a thousand coyotes, if [he] could only just find one." In 1980, the first full year of the control program he designed, the entire Maine warden force "controlled" three animals. But five years later the state legislature ordered the department to kill coyotes, authorizing it to hire private citizens as coyote-control agents and train them in the use of snares, now legal. About 60 of these agents have been snaring roughly 400 coyotes per season (winter and early spring). Last season, 51 killed 564, presumably as a result of liberalized regulations implemented after the legislature passed a resolution asking the department "to encourage the harvest of coyotes."

    The public is unhappy about this. In Augusta, at the June 1, 2002, meeting of a group of angry citizens who call themselves the Nosnare Task Force, Susan Cockrell showed me a coyote snare. Basically, it's a noose made of stout cable. You hang it from a tree, and when the coyote sticks its head through the loop, it closes on the animal's neck. A floppy washer keeps the loop from loosening. Cockrell, one of the group's founders, teaches nature writing at the University of Maine at Orono. Other founders include her husband, Will La Page, a forestry professor at the same institution; wildlife biologist Debra Davidson; and registered Maine guide Daryle DeJoy.

    They plied me with internal correspondence they had excavated from the bowels of the department under threat of Maine's Sunshine Law, a state version of the Freedom of Information Act. As I perused the reports, memos, and e-mails, the value of the law became increasingly apparent. Without it, the public would never know what wildlife biologists think about coyote control or how the state legislature had secretly and successfully pressured the department into liberalizing the regs. Lawmakers had opted for a resolution rather than a bill because resolutions don't require public participation.

    Department biologists repeatedly observe that killing coyotes stimulates reproduction and that in order to lower a population you have to remove at least 70 percent of the animals every year. But even with the relaxed regs, the control agents are getting only 4 percent. In areas off-limits to coyote controllers (Yellowstone National Park and the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State, for example), an average of fewer than two pups make it to fall. In "normal areas," where humans are busy killing the coyotes' main competition—i.e., other coyotes—the figure is about six.
    Moreover, coyotes are highly territorial. An alpha male might be defending a cedar swamp, killing deer when conditions are right—say, four a winter. If that coyote is snared, half a dozen subordinate coyotes might move in and kill 24 deer. In 1946 federal agents killed 294,000 coyotes in 17 western states. In 1974—after 28 years of intensive trapping, shooting, and poisoning—they killed 295,000 in the same 17 states. When populations increase, so do ranges. Some scientists believe that coyote persecution in the West is why there are coyotes in the East.

    "Coyote snaring is a mean-spirited government program whose sole intent is to catch and strangle wildlife with a wire noose, for some perceived biological gain," Chuck Hulsey, one of Maine's seven regional wildlife biologists, told me, emphasizing that he was speaking for himself and not his department. "You cannot stockpile deer like money in a mutual fund, to be enjoyed at a later date. Spending many tens of thousands of dollars to snare a few hundred coyotes . . . is a poor use of public dollars."
    Among wildlifers it is considered "unprofessional" to fret about humane issues. But there's a limit; when cruelty to wild animals becomes sufficiently severe and senseless, good biologists get involved. "Killing an animal by strangling it with a wire loop often results in a slow, painful death, sometimes lasting days . . ." wrote Hulsey to his bureau director. "It would violate state humane laws to treat a domestic dog in the same manner."

    Hulsey is just one of many department biologists speaking out. Last fall Wally Jakubas, the agency's top mammal scientist, got concerned when, checking 94 snared coyotes during a study to determine the genetics of the beast, he noticed a large proportion of carcasses with grotesquely swollen heads, bullet holes, fractured limbs, and broken teeth. Of particular interest to Jakubas were the animals with swollen heads—"jellyheads," the snarers call them. When the snare doesn't close sufficiently, it constricts the jugular vein on the outside of the neck, cutting off blood returning to the heart; meanwhile, the carotid artery keeps pumping blood into the brain, eventually rupturing its vascular system. In a memo to his supervisor, Jakubas wrote: "I think it is also safe to say that [this] is an unpleasant death. Anyone who has had a migraine knows what it feels like to have swollen blood vessels in the head. To have blood vessels burst because of pressure must be excruciating." Almost a third of the animals Jakubas looked at were jellyheads. Almost another third had been clubbed or shot, indicating that, contrary to department claims, the snares hadn't killed them quickly. Coyote-control agents have to check their snares only every three days, and under the liberalized regs suggested by the legislature, they can get permission to check them only every seven days.

    Jakubas promptly turned his report over to his superiors, who promptly sat on it. Eventually someone leaked it to Maine Public Radio, thereby setting the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and the Maine Trappers Association into full cry. These outfits, which together make up the state's entire coyote-control lobby and which claim (falsely) to speak for Maine's hunters, anglers, and trappers, crammed their publications and web sites with screeds about the alleged treachery of Jakubas, the alleged incompetence of his help, and the alleged deficiencies of his study. He had revealed facts they didn't want to know and, especially, didn't want the public to know. Until this information got daylighted, the only thing they'd had to do to perpetuate the boondoggle was hiss into the ears of the 13 lawmakers who sit on the Joint Standing Committee on Fisheries and Wildlife.

    Howard Chick of Lebanon, Maine, a member of the Sportsman's Alliance, has hunted deer since the 1930s. He was born in 1922, in the farmhouse where he lives. In 1881 his father was born in this farmhouse. In 1843 his grandfather was born in this farmhouse. The farmhouse is on Chick Road. Howard Chick "dispatches coyotes when they show themselves." But somehow there are never any fewer. He doesn't buy the balance-of-nature stuff. "These are things I don't have to have a biologist tell me," he proclaims, in reference to the department's assertion that you have to annually remove 70 percent of a coyote population to reduce it. "Suppose you had a dozen rattlesnakes in your immediate vicinity," he says. "Any one you dispatch is going to lessen the chances of your getting bit; it's the same with coyotes." But it isn't. Like so many other Maine deer hunters, Howard Chick doesn't understand that killing coyotes is like trying to put out a fire with kerosene. You can do it if the fire is small and you have lots of kerosene, but coyote populations are never small and, in comparison, the amount of control is always tiny.

    In southern and central Maine there are now so many deer that in some areas they're damaging their range, but Howard Chick worries more about deer in the north, where they are less plentiful. This is the natural range of moose and caribou, and deer are here mostly because humans have created openings in the boreal forest. Even with thick conifers to provide thermal cover, deer get winter-stressed in these parts. And now a lot of that cover has been removed by spruce budworms and paper companies. The official line from Fisheries and Wildlife is that coyote control in the north woods, in specific deeryards, "may" result in temporary relief for wintering deer. But it also may not. The department doesn't know, because it hasn't done any research. "In northern, western, and eastern sections of Maine, inadequate wintering habitat is the primary factor limiting deer populations," writes Maine's deer biologist, Gerald Lavigne. "There, high predation rates by coyotes are the symptoms, not the cause, of deer population problems."

    Lavigne had been responding to the state legislature, which in 1995 ordered the department to "conduct a study to determine the impact that coyotes have on deer, and to propose recommendations to encourage the harvest of coyotes." The bill had been sponsored by Howard Chick, who, in addition to being a farmer and a deer hunter, is a state representative, a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Fisheries and Wildlife, and the oldest member of the Maine legislature. Howard Chick, in fact, is the reason Maine now has paid recreational coyote snaring. Not believing the stuff he read in Lavigne's report, he introduced the 2001 resolution that hatched the liberalized snaring regulations. Before the resolution, coyote snaring (however misguided) had been in response to observed deer mortality. Now it's in response to the whims of the snarer.

    It is curious behavior for the public to pay for the training of professional wildlife managers at state universities, pay their salaries, pay their expenses, and then pay politicians to tell them how to manage wildlife. According to Maine law, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife "shall maintain a coyote-control program." It has no choice, but that excuse carries it only so far. The law also provides leeway: "The commissioner may employ qualified persons to serve as agents of the department for the purposes of coyote control." There's nothing in there that says he has to. Glenn Manuel, who thought penguins belong in Maine, was a career potato farmer. Lee Perry—the current commissioner, appointed in the fall of 1997—is a career wildlife biologist. Wildlife advocates expect more from him, especially now that the Nosnare Task Force has shown them the nasty realities of coyote control. As a first step Perry could order his information-and-education staff to drop everything and start disabusing Maine deer hunters of their copious superstitions. But instead of leading and educating, the department plays subordinate coyote to the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and the Maine Trappers Association, rolling over and peeing on itself whenever it gets barked at.
    In response to Chick's resolution, the department organized an ad hoc "study group" to make recommendations for new snaring regs.

     But of the groups that participated—the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, the Maine Trappers Association, coyote-control agents, the department, and the Maine Audubon Society—only the last disapproved of snaring. "The so-called 'study' consisted of one meeting and one phone call," complains Maine Audubon biologist Jody Jones. "The department took none of our advice. One thing that really upset me was that in the commissioner's form letter responding to letters and e-mails critical of the snaring program, he said Maine Audubon had participated in this group and these were the recommendations that came forward. That wasn't a lie, but the implication was that we supported the snaring program. We got angry calls from members."

    The department also ignored a lot of advice from its own biologists, who had expressed concern for the nontarget wildlife that have been found dead in coyote snares—eagles, deer, moose, bears, fishers, foxes, bobcats, and especially Canada lynx, now federally threatened. They had asked that snaring not be conducted in March, when so much of this wildlife is on the move. They had objected to the proposed regulation that did away with the limit on the number of snares an agent can set. (Since snares cost less than a dollar each, there's scant motivation to collect them when the season is over.) They had asked that snaring not be done where lynx had been seen and in lynx-study areas. In every one of these cases they were overruled.

    On the other hand, the department acquiesced to George Smith, director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, who had written Perry as follows: "The [snaring] limits are apparently proposed to appease federal officials and radical environmental groups now that the Canadian [sic] lynx has been listed. . . . We cannot support a policy that puts lynx ahead of deer in the north woods. . . . Our suspicions that DIF&W is not really committed to this program are only enhanced by this most recent decision [now revoked] to stop protecting deer in one of the largest and most important deeryards in the entire north woods."

    The department's report to the legislature in response to the resolution listed 25 concerns of the ad hoc study group, followed by detailed explanations from the department. Concern No. 11 was "lack of support for snaring throughout MDIFW." But in the draft report the department declined to provide a single reason for this lack. When Hulsey suggested to his bureau director that the public deserved an explanation, he was told to write one. He complied, with a five-page memo that spared no detail. But the final report contained not a word of that explanation or of any other.
    Whenever the public expresses concern about the threat to lynx, the department responds that no snarer has reported killing a lynx since the species was listed. Of course no snarer has reported killing a lynx. Such a confession could elicit prosecution under the Endangered Species Act. "We've had open discussions about the dangers of coyote snaring in lynx areas," says Paul Nickerson, chief of threatened and endangered species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's northeast region. "So if a lynx is taken, no one can just say, 'Oops.' "

    The official word from the department—repeatedly contradicted by internal correspondence from its own biologists—is that the coyote-snaring program is legitimate animal-damage control, not paid recreation. But animal-damage control is, as the name implies, a response to animal damage. You don't do it in advance. The department doesn't go around knocking off bears because they might one day tip over a beehive; it doesn't eradicate beavers in spring because they might flood someone's cellar the following winter.

    However, the days when Maine wildlife could be managed by politicians like Howard Chick and radical special-interest groups like the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and the Maine Trappers Association appear to be drawing to a close. For one thing, the Nosnare Task Force has alerted the public to the cruelty and stupidity of coyote control. Of recent comments received by the department from Maine residents, 7 supported coyote snaring, 4 were undecided, and 77 were opposed. Because the department is funded almost exclusively by hunters, fishermen, and trappers, it hasn't had to pay a lot of attention to anyone else. But that's changing, too. Next year 18 percent of its budget will come from the general fund, and with public funding comes public representation.

    It is not clear how much of a threat eastern-coyote "control" is to nontarget species. It is abundantly clear that it is no threat whatsoever to the eastern coyote. Maybe what it threatens most is the reputation of legitimate, ethical sportsmen who already are getting kicked around by the animal-rights crowd. As Mark McCullough, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's endangered-species leader, has advised his supervisor: "All it will take will be one animal-rights advocate to videotape a 'jellyhead' in a snare and your program will be over, and maybe even take recreational trapping with it."

    Moving into Maine with the coyotes themselves is the image of the western coyote controller, eloquently captured by Tom Rush. You wouldn't have heard "A Cowboy's Paean to a Coyote" (a paean, pronounced "pee-in," is a song of joyful praise or exultation). Rush wrote it when he lived in Wyoming, to commemorate a three-day coyote shoot in which several hundred participants came up with a total of two coyotes, one with tire tracks on it. Herewith, a few verses:
    Go on out and shoot yourself some coyotes, / Makes a man feel good, Lord, it makes a man feel proud! / Go on out and shoot yourself some coyotes, / One for Mother, one for Country, one for God. / Well, if you're having trouble with the truck, or with the woman, / Maybe them kids are screwin' up in school. / If the cows are actin' smarter than the cowboy, / You gotta show the world you ain't nobody's fool. / I got my field rations straight from old Jack Daniel's, / Hank, Jr.'s on the eight-track in my four-by-four. / And I'd shoot a thousand coyotes if I could only just find one, / 'Cause, boys, that's what God made coyotes for.

    Maine coyote control wastes something much more valuable than time, money, or even the sportsman's image. It wastes the credibility, effectiveness, and morale of an otherwise enlightened agency that is doing superb work restoring native ecosystems.

    This year the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has an $8 million deficit, and Governor Angus King, who appears oblivious to the bad image coyote control is giving his state, has asked it to come up with ways of cutting back on expenditures. Under the liberalized snaring regulations, the costs of administering the coyote-control program have about tripled, at least according to one internal estimate. The governor needs to pay more attention to the people who truly know, the people who make the recommendations that get ignored by the decision makers, the people the public doesn't hear from except when someone rifles through dusty file cabinets—Maine's wildlife biologists. For the first budget cut, every one of them would have the same recommendation.

    Ted Williams worked on one of Maine's last log drives.