Hunting Wolves

We don't have wolves in Maine, but we do have an increasing number of large eastern coyotes that have begun to reoccupy the environmental niche once filled here by wolves. Like wolves in the Mountain West, these coyotes are predators that prey upon the economic assets of farmers (which is a jargonish way of referring to animals like sheep and goats) and compete with sportsmen for game. Maine has a year-round open season on coyotes, meaning that a licensed hunter can pursue them every day or night if he or she wishes, killing as many as possible. Despite this arrangement, coyotes continue to thrive here. Their numbers may even be increasing.

It turns out that managing predator populations is something of a voodoo science unless you resort, as our ancestors did, to outright extermination. I'm sure there are deer hunters in Maine that would love to return to those hoary days of yore when the state paid a bounty on coyote hides, and it's clear that there are a lot of people out west who feel the same about gray wolves. Hence the recent wolf hunts in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. According to the New York Times today the results have been mixed, if one's definition of success is meeting a quota on animals killed. If I lived in the Northern Rockies, I would support a moratorium on wolf hunts while scientists studied ways to ensure that a reduced wolf population remain genetically strong, but I also believe that, as long as humans and wild animals occupy the same landscapes, hunting and trapping remain the most effective tools for creating eco-systems that aren't terrifically unbalanced. That said, I personally have no more desire to shoot a wolf — or a coyote — than I do a German shepherd.