Monday, January 20, 2014

Maine's Bear Referendum Dangers

The following post on Maine's Bear Referendum was written by Registered Maine Guide, Matt Whitegiver, an outdoor professional with over 30+ years guiding bear hunters in remote sections of the state of Maine. He has an intimate knowledge of black bear and their habits and habitats. Please read the following and get the FACTS on Maine's Bear Hunting Referendum. 

For more information please see: and

Right now marauding bears in Maine are pretty much confined to remote camps in the big woods simply because it's the only human food smells in the area. Bears are opportunists when it comes to food and although they much prefer to avoid humans they will seek out food wherever they can find it.

If this referendum passes, state biologists say we can expect an enormous population increase. In search of food bears will search further and further because there is only so much in the wilderness where they belong. They will begin to move into more populated areas. Maine residential neighborhoods and even the big cities will be inundated with hungry black bears. Why? Food! It's a fact of nature that hungry bears will find food when the woods no longer hold enough nutrition to support their voracious appetites.

Our struggling deer herd will also take a heavy toll with that many hungry bruins roaming around looking for newborns to prey upon, and even adult deer if the opportunity presents itself. Our deer cannot sustain an increase of bears at any level. Those who like to hunt deer in Maine need to take notice and get involved, even if you are not a bear hunter.

Farmers will lose livestock because there is no easier prey for a bear than a penned up cow or sheep or horse. Farmers will, and rightly so, shoot any bear they see to protect their livelihood and many bears will go off and die a slow agonizing death because they will not be pursued . . . AND there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded bear.

What about the blueberry industry? Think about this for a minute. I'm not talking just about the acres and acres of berries that will be destroyed; I am talking about bees. More specifically, I’m talking about beekeepers. The bear population at current numbers is already a big challenge for the industry protecting their valuable hives in the spring from marauding bears. When the bear population Downeast doubles, triples, quadruples or worse, it will get to the point where the bee industry who supply the bees will decide not to come to Maine. The risk to their hives from so many bears will make it not worth the risk. It's not just blueberries they come for, apples etc. What will the blueberry & apple companies, including the small, independent growers, do if they can't get bees? Can the state afford to lose that segment of the farming industry and the jobs related to it?

Now let's talk about the day-to-day urban life with resident bears hanging out. It will be quite a challenge for these folks to time it right so they will feel safe to let out the dog or their kids! Putting trash out for pick up will be impossible. Anxiety, fear, and chaos will rule in people’s back yards and in whole neighborhoods. You won't want to cook bacon with your Sunday morning breakfast because bears will break into a sliding glass door. The cost to cities and state budgets will go through the roof to cover all the costs of dealing with nuisance bears. These scenes will be quite common all over the state of Maine if the referendum passes...I understand you think you are doing the bears a favor but in fact you will be doing them a grave injustice.

When a bear comes into a populated area and the “bear authorities” get involved, they almost always get driven up a tree. The only thing for them to do then is to shoot the bear either with a gun or a tranquilizing dart. Once shot, bears fall, injuring themselves even when less lethal means are employed. The bears that do manage to survive will die slow deaths due to starvation and disease. That is how Mother Nature deals with an over population of any species.

So weigh the differences....loss of revenue to the state, and local business's from all the visitors who come to Maine to hunt, coupled with huge costs to the state as they are overwhelmed with dealing with nuisance bears vs. millions of dollars of revenue brought into the state every fall. Businesses, many of which are seasonal, rely on the bear hunt, as do local communities catering to thousands of hunters from across the country. License fees go towards helping all Maine wild animals. We have a proven management program that keeps bear populations at a level that can be sustained by the resources vs. a huge spike in numbers of bears eventually flooding the streets of urban Maine. Healthy bears roaming the wilderness like we have now vs. starving disease ridden bears roaming downtown Portland. The choice seems to be clear. Vote no on this referendum. I feel strongly that it is important to show people what the likely outcome will be if this referendum should pass. The proponents are going to bombard the population of Maine with propaganda of what they perceive hunting bears looks like. We need to show everyone what the cost of falling for the rhetoric and propaganda will result in. These statements are exactly what happens to bears and neighborhoods when bear numbers grow beyond what nature can sustain.

Please feel free to call or e-mail with your thoughts...
Matt Whitegiver
Registered Master Maine Guide
Eagle Mountain Guide Service
cell: 207-610-9922

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - Eastern Coyote

The eastern coyote (Canis latrans "var.") exists as members of the canine family and ranges across the north and eastern United States and into sections of Canada. Eastern coyotes possess easily distinguishable characteristics including thick gray fur, pointy snouts and bushy black-tipped tails. Adaptable predators, eastern coyotes prospers in a diverse range of habitats, including forests, fields, swamps, and even the edging of urban areas.

The eastern coyote has an opportunistic and seasonally varied diet, gaining nourishment from a wide assortment of both plant and animal matter including rabbits, mice, garbage, fruit, berries and even insects. The eastern coyote is a formidable predator, equipped with powerful jaws, lightening speed and a nose capable of detecting blood several miles away.

Weighting between 30-50 pounds (approximately twice the size of their cousin, the western coyote), the eastern coyote is capable of easily killing large prey including adult deer. Genetic research has proven that the eastern coyote's large size and unique behavioral characteristics are directly tied to its interbreeding with wolves. In a recent survey, biologists sampled 100 Maine "coyotes", results showed that 22 had half or more grey wolf DNA & one was 89% grey wolf. Given that the largest coyote ever harvested in Maine was massive 65 pounds, this data is not all that surprising. 

The eastern coyote-mating season occurs in February and March. Females typically birth litters of between 4-8 pups born in late April or early May. Pups stay with parents for up to a year before venturing forth to find their own territory and mate. Coyotes tend to choose a singular mate for life, unless that mate is killed.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. What is the average weight of an adult eastern coyote?
 2. When do eastern coyotes mate?
3. How soon after birth can a pup eastern coyote leave its parents?
4. How much did the biggest eastern coyote harvested in Maine weigh?
5. What percentage of eastern coyotes in Maine have wolf DNA?
6. How many pups are born into a typical litter?
7. Do eastern coyotes mate for life?
8. When are eastern coyote pups typically born?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Eastern coyotes weigh an average of 30-50 pounds.
2. Eastern coyotes mating season occurs in February and March.
3. Eastern coyote pups will still stay with their parents for up to a year before heading out on their own.
4. The biggest eastern coyote harvested in Maine weighed 65 pounds.
5. Twenty-two percent of the eastern coyotes in Maine have wolf DNA.
6. Between 4-8 pups are born into a typical litter.
7. Yes, eastern coyotes typically mate for life.
8. Eastern coyote pups are typically born in April or early May.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hollywood Here I Come!

Had a fantastic morning showing novice ice angler and infamous television news reporter Danielle Waugh of WCSH6 how to ice fish. To see the excitement, check out the online videos available here:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ice Trap Photos

A "artistic" collection of photos of my tip-ups taken on a rainy day . . .

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ice fishing Brookies and Blasting Sea Ducks!

Brookies Through the Ice 
The current trend in global temperatures indicates the ice on Maine’s waters is arriving later and departing earlier every year. In recent years, the beginning of January often marks the earliest many anglers develop enough confidence to venture out onto the ice. Though obvious care must be taken at all times of year, those critical times near the beginning and end of the ice fishing season mark times when the ice is notoriously unstable.

Pond edging choked with cattails and marsh grass; tend to attract much more thermal radiation, than clear ice, making crossing these areas dangerous even after long spells of below freezing temperatures. Ackley Pond (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 27, C-1) located just outside of Culter, Maine and happens to be one of those fickle waters where extreme care must be taken, during the early season, when navigating the ice around the pond’s flora rich shoreline. Ackley Pond’s maximum depth is listed in the U.S. Geological Survey at being 15 feet and the entire pond covers an area of only about 7 acres. The small size of the pond makes it a relatively sheltered location and the perfect spot to spend the day when the hearty north winds are blowing their strongest. Ackley Pond contains a stocked brook trout population with a few “wild” specimens occasionally caught. Brook trout between 6-8 inches are common here, with 10-14 inch fish a possibility.

While the fishing isn’t non-stop, the pond does provide consistent action during ice fishing season and provides much entertainment for kids and those new to the sport of ice fishing. Ackley Pond is accessible via a woods road off of route 191 that ends in a small parking lot. A woods road leads from the parking lot to the small pond, making the pond just enough off the beaten path to provide dedicated anglers with little pressure from other ice fishermen. Anglers, who bring plastic sleds to assist in hauling gear, will find the short hike to the pond much easier and more enjoyable.

DownEast Sea Ducks 
Most people would ponder at the intelligence of a man who excitedly awakes well before dawn, during the height of the Maine winter, with the expressed purpose of venturing out onto the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean to hunt “sea ducks”. While this at first may seem a fool’s errand, let me assure you that sea duck hunting is the quintessential water fowling experience, having no rival. Watching the first rays of the sun break over the waters of the Atlantic and seeing the first flocks of Eiders, White Winged Scoters and Long Tailed ducks pile into the decoys is only described as unforgettable.

 January also has the distinction of being the time of the season that produces truly trophy level birds. Healthy adult specimens of every variety of sea ducks are now displaying full plumage and are prefect for hunters looking to have that mountable looking specimen to take to the taxidermist.

The ritual of sea duck hunting has many strange and bizarre initiations but none more interesting than a dog tired sea duck hunter attempting to make his way to the Atlantic without forgetting some crucial element. Over the years, I can tell you multiple stories of men brought to the edge of tears because they forgot firearms, shells, wet weather gear, their chewing tobacco or other crucial items. Years of waterfowl hunting, eventually hones these rookies into hard core “duckers”, men who through their skill, luck or possibly a combination of both, know how to operate with very little sleep and understand the importance of packing crucial items the night before. Having a waterproof pack or container is the only way that a sea duck hunter can even begin to expect that critical clothing and gear will be kept even partially dry during this unforgiving and often erratic part of the year. With daytime temps typically hovering in the low teens and furthered lowered by an unrelenting north wind, wet clothing can quickly create a fun day of hunting into a life threatening situation.

Those looking to attempt sea ducking should make sure that they first connect with a competent Maine guide or thoroughly explore and chart the areas they intend to hunt and during different tidal conditions. This is a dangerous time of year to be on the water and one must make absolutely sure that accidents do not occur. Having contingency plans in place and knowing and respecting the tides are paramount to success. Competent sea duck hunters with 16-18 foot deep v-hull boats, looking for an unguided adventure would be well served to check out Alley, Eastern Bay around Pig and Sheep Island, these areas are accessible from a well maintained boat launch on the northern end of Great Wass Island. (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, E-1)

Hunters, please remember that this is a “working mans” public launch and right of way should be given at all times, to the men and women who call Great Wass and Beals Island home and fish the waters of the Atlantic for their livelihood. Sea Ducks hunting including the harvesting of Scoter, Eider, and Long-tailed Ducks runs from October 1, 2013 - January 31, 2014 the Daily limit bag limit is set at a maximum of 7 ducks, not to include more than 4 scoters or 4 eiders. The possession limit is set at a maximum of 21, not to include more than 12 scoters or 12 eiders. Additionally, Sea Duck Hunting Areas are defined as all coastal waters and all waters of rivers and streams seaward from the first upstream bridge. In all other areas, sea ducks may be taken only during the regular duck season dates and are part of the regular duck bag limits.
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