November 13, 2018

Maine Deer/Car Crashes: Trying To Make Sense of What Was Said

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Sometimes what someone says about something doesn’t make a lick of sense. Such was the case when I read a report about cars crashing into deer in Aroostook County, Maine.

Let’s see if we can make any sense at all over this.

The report begins by saying that “vehicle crashes with deer have quadrupled in Aroostook County in the last five years” because deer populations have grown. Seriously? I wonder how many hunters would agree that deer numbers in Aroostook County have grown so much that it has caused a quadrupling of accidents? (If we ever get the 2017 deer harvest data from MDIFW, I wonder if it will show an increase in deer harvest in Aroostook County?)

Then we are told that last year a “feeding operation” (no details about it) caused 100 crashes with logging trucks, but has since been moved (to where?) and “no longer poses a road hazard.”

A regional biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) says, “We’re doing everything we can to keep deer away from the roads. Deer numbers have swelled and more often spend their winters in towns where there are roads and cars.”

Huh? I want to know, other than educating people about the potential problems of feeding deer (accidents), what “everything” is that is being done to keep deer out of the roads. Is that kind of like doing everything to make sure bears and coyotes don’t destroy the deer herd? Perhaps global warming can resolve this problem(?) too.

I just don’t plain get it when the biologist says that deer are now spending time living in towns where there are roads and cars. I can only guess what this means but this statement appears to be contrary to the talking points always spoken by MDIFW officials that deer winter in their idealistic deer yards, which have all been destroyed, or they die. Is MDIFW now suggesting that deer adapt and due to reduced habitat and the overwhelming presence of large predators, they have moved into town where the odds of getting run over by a logging truck are less than being eaten alive by coyotes, bobcats, and lynx?

However, the same biologist attributes the growing deer population to (you have to get ready for this) “reduced coyote predation, supplemental feeding and relatively mild winters.” MDIFW evidently believes their coyote program in Aroostook County accounts for part of the increase in deer but state that there hasn’t been a severe winter in Aroostook County in 10 years. It must be like all good environmentalists would do, MDIFW changed the criteria as to what constitutes a severe winter. Perhaps it’s just the thought that global warming exists, therefore, there is no longer any such thing as a severe winter.

Maybe MDIFW knows from their ongoing deer study, which is a huge secret, it appears, that there are more deer in the North Country than they thought. But, we’ll never know that because they never share that information with anyone…unless it makes them look good.

But isn’t this report and all comments geared to address but one thing? – feeding deer. MDIFW does not like it when people feed deer. They never have and probably never will until they can find a way to tax it or somehow make money from it. Never finding anything good to say about people feeding deer, MDIFW goes out of their way to even make up reasons why people shouldn’t do it.

The news report found someone who obviously doesn’t approve of deer feeding and someone who coincidentally had a crash with a deer recently, to share his “expertise” about deer feeding programs. This person describes deer, because of being fed, “they were so fat they couldn’t get over the guard rails.” 

This same “expert,” who claims there are “[a]bsolutely, there are more deer this year,” is contrasted by what the Washburn Police Chief said, “It’s not clear if there are more or less deer-related crashes this year than in others.” Well, don’t ruin a good story injecting facts into it. Fat deer that can’t get out of their own way are dropping like flies.

In more efforts to demonize deer feeding, the regional wildlife biologist says, “In some places, the deer have over-browsed their natural winter foods such as hardwood trees.” He also says there’s nothing left to eat. Not to be just contradictory, but, if this is true doesn’t this mean three things? One, that if there wasn’t supplemental feeding, deer will starve to death. Two, deer must have grown so much in numbers they have exceeded carrying capacity, and three, deer are eating their “natural food” despite feeding programs. If this is the case then why hasn’t MDIFW begun issuing “Any-Deer Permits” to reduce the size of the deer herd. We are told that the population has been “swelling” for at least five years (and it must be longer because Northern Maine hasn’t had a severe winter in 10 years and we know that, when convenient, severe winters are the biggest killers of deer.) So what’s taking so long to get those Any-Deer Permits passed out? Surely it would be much better for everyone if the deer were legally harvested by hunters, and for food to hungry people, than to simply let them starve to death while MDIFW continues to promote the stoppage of supplemental feeding.

Or isn’t this just about injecting some more emotional clap-trap into the media to discourage them to stop feeding deer?

But most bizarre of all in this article involves the comment apparently intended to address disease…or something.

To be forthcoming, there is a threat to the spread of disease, when any disease is present and when there are large concentrations of deer. MDIFW has always stated deer feeding programs as being potentially problematic in the spread of some diseases.

However, I have tried to get my wee small brain wrapped around the very last statement at the end of the article.

“Eventually, those deer are going to share diseases, ticks, everything else. The gene pools are going to get shallower. They’re not going to be able to get their own food.”

I could spend hours guessing what any of this might mean. “Eventually” we have no idea what is going to take place. If you believe the lies about Climate Change, then you might also believe that there might be more deer in the north and fewer moose, Canada lynx, etc. Historically speaking, there has never been an overwhelming number of deer in the North Woods of Maine. Experts love to be like echo chambers and when it’s convenient, tell us how northern Maine is at the northern fringe of the whitetail deer’s range. They also like to tell us, when it’s convenient, that severe winters keep the population down. If it’s convenient, as appears in this case here, the population has “swelled” and it’s because people are feeding deer AND the winters are mild – convenient truths.

So what’s to believe?

I’m completely at sea about the comment about gene pools. I’ve done a fair amount of writing and research about gene pools in deer and I haven’t run across the term that a gene pool will get “shallower.”

Maybe we’re all gonna die!!

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the “expert” knows nothing about gene pools but it makes for good copy, as I have seen many places before.

MDIFW hates it when people feed deer. I understand their position and their reasons given. I can’t say that I agree completely with their reasoning about it. I think it has become exceedingly clear the MDIFW and the State of Maine would have a difficult time trying to stop it. The upside to deer feeding is the sense of ownership that many people take concerning their local deer herds. A lot can be said about that.

Has anyone done a study to determine how much supplemental feeding is taking place and how many deer that involves? This might tell us what percentage of the overall population of deer is being affected and whether or not any of this hubbub is worth being that concerned about. Just asking.

I recall many years ago emailing with Maine’s head deer biologist about feeding programs. I don’t have the exact quote but essentially he said (at that time) the number of deer affected by feeding was so small percentage-wise, that it wasn’t worth making a fuss over. What, if anything, has changed since then?

It sounds like, from what I read in this article, that efforts are underway to move deer feeding locations away from highways or to places that don’t cause deer to have to cross busy highways to get to them. This is positive.

Maine is fortunate that is doesn’t have diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease to deal with. If and when that time comes, deer feeding stations will have to either become illegal or designed in such a way as to limit the threat of diseases spreading. However, in those states that do have CWD, efforts to ban feeding has shown little change in the presence or spread of the disease.

I guess I’ll leave the “shallower gene pools” for another discussion.

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