September 29, 2022

Maine’s Bear Management Program. Too Bad They Didn’t Have a Similar Deer Management Program

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Maine’s black bear population exceeds 30,000 animals. The population of bears has risen 67% in the past 20-plus years and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has been undertaking a bear management plan since 1975 resulting in a bear population that may be the largest ever in Maine’s history.

According to a recent press release, MDIFW just completed their spring bear capture, where they tag bears, radio collar them and collect data. Here’s a look at some of the things they did/do.

1. Capturing, radio collaring and releasing 115 bears in the Downeast region of Maine. I have no knowledge that any whitetail deer were captured, radio collared and released for study purposes.

2. Capturing and radio collaring black bears allows IFW’s biologists to collect information on birth and death rates to ensure a healthy population of black bears in Maine. MDIFW doesn’t do this with deer. They collect random samples and data at tagging stations during the hunting season, just as the can and do for black bears.

3. Gather important scientific data to monitor the health of Maine’s bear population. The only studies or data collected and used for deer comes from information at tagging stations.

4. They will examine the bear for ear tags and a tattooed identity number on the inside of the bear’s mouth to see if it has been captured before. If none are found, they will place tags on the ears, and mark the same tag number inside the bear’s mouth. This is not done for deer in Maine and the herd is disappearing, short of the modest recovery due to three mild winters in a row.

5. Biologists then examine the bear to see if it is healthy or injured, note the sex of the bear, measure the size of the bear and weigh it. If it is a female, the bear will be equipped with a radio collar so biologists can locate the bear in the winter to see if the bear has cubs, and gather other data. Not with deer!

6. Data gathered from each bear is compiled then analyzed during the winter. Not with deer!

7. The Department tracks between 79 and 100 radio collared black bears annually, and generally inspect over 80 bear dens each winter. The den visits also provide biologists with crucial information on Maine’s black bears including birth rates, survival, behavior, and bear health and nutrition. Not with deer!

8. By monitoring Maine’s bear population closely, the Department can adjust rules and regulations concerning the bear hunting season to meet bear population objectives and ensure the conservation of the population. Not with deer!

9. Maine’s bear population is rising, and is estimated at more than 30,000 bears. Maine has the largest bear population in the east and one of the largest in the continental US. Maine’s bear population has risen by 67 percent since 1990, and in the past ten years has grown from 23,000 bears in 2004 to over 30,000 currently. NOT WITH DEER!

For all us rocket scientists, here’s the million dollar observation and question. Maine has had an extensive and ongoing bear management and study/research program since 1975. The bear population is the biggest it has probably ever been and still growing. Maine has no similar deer management program. They only collect data at tagging stations and are lacking in information to understand what is really going on with the health and survivability of the deer. The deer population has been shrinking for several decades now. It reached the lowest levels perhaps in history and now excitement is in the wind as people are seeing a few more deer because of mild winters and think all is well.

Maine is spending time and money to monitor and study bears and the population is growing. Maine spends no money and does not study deer and the deer population is shrinking. Even a schmuck like me can figure that one out.