In this Nov. 11, 2015, file photo, a coyote walks across fresh snow in Boulder, Colo. Credit: Brennan Linsley / AP

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Rep. Sally Cluchey, D – Bowdoinham, and Rep. Cheryl Golek, D- Harpswell, serve on the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

When you complete Maine’s hunter education course, you are informed that “the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife requires that you read ‘Beyond Fair Chase,’ a book by Jim Posewitz.” Focused on “The Ethics and Tradition of Hunting,” this book lays out what it means to hunt ethically and responsibly. “Under all circumstances,” it explains, “the ethical hunter cares for harvested game in a respectful manner, leaving no waste.”

Maine’s proud hunting tradition is grounded in this ethos, and the vast majority of hunters in the state strongly support it. In fact, they live it every day. That’s why we believe they will support our amendment to LD 814, which would close a loophole that excludes coyotes from ethical hunting practices and provide the state with data about coyote populations so they can be managed more effectively.

With this amendment, the bill will not limit coyote hunting in Maine in any way. Instead, it will return coyotes to the state’s “wanton waste” list, meaning they would have to be used or disposed of (not necessarily eaten), rather than shot and left. After being quietly removed in 2010 via an amendment to an unrelated bill, coyotes became the only mammals excluded from this list, which even includes skunks and porcupines.

During the public hearing on this current bill, it was clear that most Maine coyote hunters already behave ethically and do not leave coyotes on other peoples’ property after they have been harvested. But some do not. We’ve heard stories of landowners stumbling across piles of rotting coyote carcasses on their land. Allowing practices like this actually threatens to alienate landowners and undermine hunters’ access to land in the state.

Another fact that became obvious during the hearing is that data on coyote populations in Maine is woefully lacking. The last coyote population survey was conducted in 1995. To address this, our compromise amendment would require the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to improve data collection (perhaps through surveys, electronic tagging, or other methods) so that Maine can gather important data on how many coyotes are harvested every year.

Having this data would let the state better target and manage coyotes. During the public hearing, we heard valid concerns from deer hunters who worry about the threat coyotes pose to deer populations. We also heard from farmers who value the role coyotes play in culling deer that would otherwise be devouring their crops. Improving data collection would mean that management efforts could be focused on protecting deer in some parts of Maine, while protecting farms in others.

Maine’s legacy of ethical and responsible hunting is at the heart of who we are as a state. As “Beyond Fair Chase” reminds us, “using what is killed is essential to ethical hunting.” We believe Maine sportsmen and women — in whose numbers we proudly count ourselves and our families — will welcome this opportunity to strengthen Maine’s hunting tradition.