Hunters say coyote population dwindling in Aroostook County

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — Deer hunters are seeing a drop in the coyote population in wild areas of Aroostook County.

The drop is due in part to the Aroostook County Conservation Association’s coyote control management program, which is in its 14th year. In its first season in 2008-09, hunters saw at least two or three coyotes on white-tailed deer tracks, but that number has dwindled in recent years.

The coyote management program was created to control the animal’s population around wintering grounds, giving depleted deer herds in northern Maine a chance to rebound. Between the annual coyote cull and additional food sources, the deer population is on the rise in Aroostook County.

In 2021, hunters and trappers killed 147 coyotes, down from the previous year, according to Jerry McLaughlin, president and founder of the Aroostook County Conservation Association.

“In areas where the coyote is so crowded, [they] come around the houses and take little cats and little dogs. The other morning a friend of mine in Van Buren let his dog out, a good sized dog, and a big coyote met him face to face and they almost got in there and the guy grabbed his gun and ran killed the coyote, McLaughlin said.

The highest number of coyotes killed during the program was 209 in the 2019-20 season, 164 in 2020-21, and 77 in 2021-22. About 60% are killed by trapping and 40% by hunting, according to the Aroostook County Conservation Association.

“Everyone I’ve talked to sees all kinds of deer, all kinds of does and lambs. The big thing is our [fawns] are our future, and I see it with two [fawns]some do it with three, which means they had a good winter,” McLaughlin said.

The return of the deer herd is not entirely due to the coyote control program, according to McLaughlin.

The Conservation Association supplements the deer population’s food sources with a mixture of alfalfa grown at Guerrette Farms in Caribou. The alfalfa is cut, packaged and shipped to be weighed in New York and returned. The first cut contains 19% protein and the second 22% protein. It works well for white-tailed deer, McLaughlin said.

White-tailed deer have lost about half their habitat in northern Maine, forcing herds into towns in Allagash and south of Benedicta in Aroostook County.

McLaughlin said when coyotes are healthy with plenty of deer to eat, their populations increase dramatically.

The control program runs from October 16 to March 18, 2023, with the number of coyotes trapped and killed counted days after the end date.

Thirty hunters and trappers signed up for the Aroostook County Conservation Association’s 14th Annual Coyote Control Management Program.

The association donates $25 for each coyote killed. Local businesses and individual hunters fund the payments. Coyotes can be tagged for their pelts at SW Collins Hardware, Hemphill & Sons Butchery, and Mac’s Trading Post.

Registrations and $25 ticket purchases to participate in the program are available at five locations: Spartans Arms and Ammo in Almost Isle, SW Collins Hardware in Fort Kent, Hemphill & Sons Butchery in Woodland, Northstar Variety in New Sweden, and Mac’s Trading Post. in Houston.

Aroostook Conservation also reports the tags to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to help biologists track the coyote population. The Aroostook County Conservation Association was founded by McLaughlin in 2008.

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