January 21, 2021

Is Maine’s Whitetail Deer Age Structure Changing?

*Editor’s Note* The graph and information below was crafted by contributor Richard Paradis from information provided by me in addition to his own information.

One of the most telling events that can occur in a deer herd is a change in age structure. In brief, age structure is a dynamic investigation into the complete breakdown of how many deer make up specific age categories. We are often discussing the relationship between male and female deer as well as the number of fawns (new born) in relation to the number of adult female deer. Seldom, or at least not to the same degree, is the age structure of a deer herd discussed.

A well educated and experienced biologist, providing they have been able to collect the necessary data, can tell what percentage of a deer herd makes up fawns; up to 1 and 1/2 years of age, young deer; 1 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 years old, and mature deer; over 3 and 1/2 years. The same biologist should know, according to the geographic information, as well as available habitat, etc. what the age structure of a herd should be in order to classify it as healthy and to make determinations as to what any harvest should be like for the upcoming hunting season based on herd structure and trends.

There can also be certain movements in that age structure that can indicate to the biologist that something is changing, alerting them to the need to investigate what those influences might be and make changes to the management strategies to maintain a viable and healthy herd.

Some people believe that in order to destroy a deer herd, something has to kill off all the deer, adults included. This is not entirely true. In theory, if there were never any new born deer to add to the herd and in combination with all other mortality to the deer herd, how long do you think it would be before the deer herd disappeared? Not long.

In this kind of scenario, an examination of the age structure might alert us to what could be happening. For the sake of discussion, let’s say a healthy deer herd looked something like this: fawn recruitment, that is the percentage of new born fawns that live to see their first winter, is 20% of the herd; Young deer, 1 and 1/2 – 3 and 1/2 years 50% and mature deer 30%.

In an attempt to keep this as simple as possible, let’s say that with the above situation of 20%, 50% and 30%, the average age of the deer is 2.9 years. If you played around with those percentages you would soon discover that it takes quite a dramatic change in those percentages to effect a noticeable move in the average deers’ age.

As an example, let’s say that in one year, the fawn recruitment was wiped out, i.e. 0%. That would increase the average age of the deer to approximately 3.3 years (I divided the 20% loss evenly between the remaining two age groups). Notice that what appears to be a rather small change in average age (less that 1/2 year), a complete loss of fawn recruitment is a devastating event. If we carried that out for a few years, where fawn recruitment remained at 0%, we can see that the age of the deer herd gets older and older. Once this is discovered, trust me, I think the deer herd is in trouble.

As far as Maine’s age structure for deer, I don’t have the kind of data necessary to calculate age structure and I’m not sure whether the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) does either. I am assuming they must. What I did do is to extract some of the data that MDIFW provides in their deer harvest information to use to see if there can be determined any trends in age structure.

All that is available on the MDIFW website is harvest information beginning in 2005 through 2011. In each of these reports, MDIFW provides in their harvest data the percentage of take based on the same age classifications I have used above, i.e. fawn, young and mature. I pulled out of these reports those percentages and listed them by year. Mr. Paradis was kind enough to compile them into a graph for better visual comparison.

However, bear in mind a few things. The data extracted may not be a clear representation of the entire herd of Maine’s deer. This is harvest data only and there are restrictions to the sex and age of what deer can be taken and in what geographical regions. Therefore, the only way we can make good comparisons is with the ability to compare those items that remain constant.

In theory, if we had for these seven years the same number of “Any-Deer Permits” in all the same regions, this harvest data would be a bit more accurate and reliable for my purposes. However, the changes in the issuing of Any-Deer Permits did not change drastically statewide until 2009 when Any-Deer Permits were halted in Northern, Western and Downeast Maine and again for the 2011 deer hunting season. As such, I’m not sure exactly how to use harvest data for 2010 and 2011 in comparison with all previous years.

From the graphs and information below, you can clearly see the percentage of Young and Mature deer taken for each of the years listed, 2005-2011. Over the span of the seven years, the average percentage of Young deer harvested is 46.4% and for Mature deer, 20.4%.

Not really knowing how to handle the 2010, 2011 harvest data, one could conclude that there is a slight trend upward in the age structure according to harvest information. Is this something to be concerned about. I would think so. Is MDIFW keeping an eye on this data and any trends? I certainly hope so. If the age structure of Maine’s deer herd is on the increase, there has to be a reason, which is generally related directly to fawn recruitment. Without good fawn recruitment a deer herd is doomed. Depending upon the severity of that loss, will determine how quickly a herd becomes decimated.

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Open Thread – March 15, 2012

Please use this open thread to post your ideas, comments and information about issues not relevant to the content of articles published on this web site. Thank you.

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The Gun Addict Song

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Alaska Moose Finds Rest and Warmth at a “Mootel Six”

The author of the below photographs was walking from his house, through an enclosed stairway and into the garage, when he spotted this moose. He writes: “from the top of the stairs I can see a napper laid up against the snow bank, chewing and napping in the 10 a.m. sunshine.”

He walked further down the stairs to the window to get a closer look and observe.

Moose settled in for a long late winter nap in the sunshine.

Photo by Al Remington

Snoring away!

Photo by Al Remington

Opting for a late check-out!

Photo by Al Remington

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Open Thread – March 14, 2012

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Milt Inman’s “Whatzit?”

It’s good to have Milt back contributing to his “Whatzit?” again. So, it’s obviously an aquatic bird by what kind?


Milt Inman Photo

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Two Ways to Fly

When I do this in the first photograph, although I’ve not flown out of or into Alaska, I miss the fun of the kind of flying I did in my youth shown in the second picture.


Photo by Al Remington


Photo by Al Remington

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Open Thread – March 13, 2012

Please use this open thread to post your ideas, comments and information about issues not relevant to the content of articles published on this website. Thank you.

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Maine’s F&G Biologist Kantar Will Oversee Fate of Moose, Leave Deer Behind (Literally and Figuratively)

*Scroll Down for an Update and a Correction*

Last week George Smith, former head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine now turned blogger/journalist/reporter, wrote on his blog that as part of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) “restructuring”, Commissioner Woodcock, with the approval of Governor Paul LePage, decided that MDIFW needed a separate head deer biologist and a separate head moose biologist. Currently Lee Kantar has held the position as both deer and moose head biologist.

In addition to Smith’s report of the restructuring, he stated that Kantar was given his choice by the Commissioner, of whether he wanted to be head deer or head moose biologist.

Lee Kantar, the agency’s deer biologist, “assumed responsibility for moose as a favor to the department,” said Chandler, who also announced that he offered Kantar his choice of species, and he took moose.

Favor? Hmmm, interesting perspective.

In a separate report filed by John Holyoke of the Bangor Daily News, we read about comments made by Lee Kantar, efforts by MDIFW to conduct moose and deer aerial count surveys and some data that seems to support earlier claims that Maine’s moose herd is at least triple what hunters and wildlife enthusiast have been told for many years now.

While the first part of Holyoke’s report attempts to gloss over the dismal deer harvest report by stating:

While Kantar hasn’t crunched all the numbers from the 2011 hunting season, he expects that more than 18,000 deer were taken by hunters. That’s a significant increase from preseason projections, which put the number under 17,000.

The numbers are out and the actual harvest number stands at 18,170 deer taken. However, somehow trying to make the 2011 deer hunt a success by spinning the facts to make it look like there’s a “significant increase” because what could have been didn’t happen, isn’t getting the job done.

Aside from that, Holyoke’s report along with data from Kantar, tells us Maine may have as many as 100,000 moose, all the while for the past decade we have been told that Maine has 29,000 moose and that moose lottery permits have been allotted during that time to maintain a moose herd of 29,000.

George Smith reported in one of his earlier blogs and Holyoke brings it up in his report, that former moose biologist Kim Morris recently stated that Maine probably has around 60,000 – 90,000 moose. However, Kantar is sure there are less than that but far more than 29,000.

Without fully analyzing the new data that has been collected, Kantar feels fairly confident that an estimate of 75,000 moose is accurate.

His new data comes from last year and this year doing helicopter aerial surveys to count moose.

It should be extremely disturbing to everyone that Maine has been saying the state has 29,000 moose and now they “feels fairly confident” that there are 75,000. This isn’t chump change. Who has been heading up the moose management in Maine up to this point?

Also, is this statement a misprint or an attempt at humor?

“One of my biggest concerns is, we have a lot of moose in certain areas, and then we have a lot of areas where we have a lot of moose,”

Assuming it is a stab at humor and bears a resemblance to some truth, what Kantar is saying is Maine has a lot of moose. He then turns around and tells Holyoke that just because we have three times the number of moose the state has been managing for, doesn’t mean we can increase permits so hunters can take more moose. This is followed by this ridiculous comment:

“We realize, more than anything, that moose are valued economically for viewing as well as hunting opportunity as well as being on the landscape and just the aesthetic of moose,” Kantar said. “We balance all those things. That’s our job.”

Balance, balance, balance. I wonder if wildlife managers anymore have any idea what they are doing except hiding behind some kind of shroud that requires invoking that magical word “balance”, as though balance was some kind nirvana achieved only by those most enlightened?

Are we to pretend to be stupid and say nothing when for years we have been told that 29,000 moose in Maine is a good number, perhaps even “balanced”, by using their own jargon? And then, within weeks we are told there are 75,000 moose but that’s not enough to provide more hunting opportunities and Maine is “balanc[ing] all those things”. This makes little sense and stinks of agenda-driven wildlife management.

Mr. Kantar does not make MDIFW policy but this kind of crap sandwich issued by our fish and game department is the stuff that drives hunters away in disgust. The state is trying to figure out why nobody from out of state wants to come to Maine to hunt deer and they act clueless. What are they going to do when the residents stop buying licenses? And here’s an even bigger question somebody at IFW ought to answer. Whose money and efforts set the stage to provide the resources necessary that Maine now has 75,000 moose? Here’s a hint for all you at MDIFW. It wasn’t the environmentalist clowns and animal rights freaks or even those who use are resources and contribute nothing to them. Now that we’ve fronted the money and made our investment, you want to send us away telling us these aren’t our moose.

I don’t have to be a biologist to understand that 75,000 moose, the majority of them living in the same regions of Northern Maine where the deer herd has been run into the ground, isn’t a very promising prospect when those same moose are in direct competition with the deer.

As long as MDIFW and the governor of the State of Maine insists that 75,000 moose or more is good for moose watching and helps to “balance” the landscape and provide increased “aesthetic of moose”, there will never be a rebuilt deer herd because I don’t think they know how to do it.

Here’s the key question: If Lee Kantar was the head deer biologist and the deer herd is in the poorest condition it has been in, perhaps in the last century, should the Commissioner have given him the choice to move on to another species?

If Maine has been managing its deer herd in the same fashion as stated above, “economically for viewing as well as hunting opportunity as well as being on the landscape and just the aesthetic(s)”, and we now have a deer herd that may never return in 2/3rds of the state, what then are we to expect of the condition of our moose herd a decade from now?

*Update*: March 14, 2012, 1:45 p.m.

If you look below at the comments left concerning this article, you will notice a comment left by John Holyoke, author of the Bangor Daily News article linked to in this report. Mr. Holyoke states: “John Holyoke here: A clarification: The passage attributed to Lee contained a mistake (on my part). It should have said, ‘We have a lot of moose in certain areas, and then we have a lot of areas where we have hardly any moose.'”

It is important to make this clarification because of my reference in the article wondering if Mr. Kantar was making an attempt at humor. One would assume after reading Mr. Holyoke’s comment, there was a misprint or typo and not an attempt at humor. This eases the thoughts that coming at a time of serious discussions about the condition of both Maine’s deer and moose herds, the head biologist was not attempting to pass off the seriousness through ill-timed humor.

This is not a case of humor, however, this does not change the fact that Mr. Kantar did state that he is comfortable with an estimate of 75,000 moose in the state of Maine.

Tom Remington

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The Moose “Down on ‘M’ Street”

I wonder if the moose here in Alaska think that “M” Street, means “M”oose Street?


Photo by Al Remington

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