ISLESBORO, Maine — Along with flowers, warm breezes and visitors from other states, warm weather on Islesboro brings worries about ticks, Lyme disease and, by most accounts, an overabundance of deer on the picturesque Maine island community. Earlier this month, residents voted 45 to 27 at a special town meeting […]
During the regular firearms, and muzzle-loading seasons, only those hunters possessing a valid Maine Any-Deer permit may hunt antlerless deer and bucks with antlers less than three inches in length.
What do you do when you really, really, need a hunter to kill some deer? Simple. You make it worth his while. When he registers a whitetail he’s killed, you give him $150 for his trouble—or, rather, for his deer tail. That’s what officials in Block Island, Rhode Island, did last fall. Like many suburban areas, Block Island—a 9,734-acre landmass off the state’s coast—struggles to control its whitetail population. “We’ve had estimates as high as 80 deer per square mile,” says Nancy Dodge, town manager in North Shoreham. “And the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recommends about 10 deer per square mile. We have a high incidence of Lyme disease here, and people were getting really concerned.” Hunting is legal on Block Island, but not on weekends or during school holidays. “We have hiking trails and open spaces throughout the island that are used heavily by residents and tourists alike,” says Dodge. “Basically, our hunters were telling us that in order to and hunt, they’d need to take time off from work, and many couldn’t afford to do that.”
The following is the very last paragraph in an article written by V. Paul Reynolds and published in the Sun Journal. After reading what this paragraph says, is it any wonder why Maine’s deer herd is going to hell in a hand basket?
I would suppose it’s more important to spend money and staff flying around in helicopters counting deer to verify the fact that deer managers stink at the task of actual deer management in order to further hunting opportunities (after all, it’s what pays their salaries).
Maybe if wildlife managers took a closer look at piping plovers and did a better job of counting bats and butterflies, somehow from that maybe they can figure out how better to grow deer. It seems that’s the method in play, along with waiting on that global warming.
How’s that all working out for you anyway?
As you might guess, this report — which has not had much media scrutiny that I know of — raises as many questions as it answers. When I asked wildlife managers in Augusta to react to this somewhat controversial study, I was told that other priorities have been in play, and so far there has not been the staff or the time to assess the study, or weigh its findings against contemporary deer management goals.
*Editor’s Note* – The following contains a map of great value to anyone who is interested to know where the State of Maine recognizes “Deer Wintering Areas.” The map can be magnified to locate even the smallest of DWAs.
Wasserman, Samuel “Atlas of Maine: Deer Wintering Areas in the State of Maine,” Atlas of Maine: Vol. 2015: No. 1, Article 10.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/atlas_docs/vol2015/iss1/10
This map shows deer wintering areas throughout the state of Maine in relation to Wildlife Management District boundaries. Deer wintering areas are defined by a forested area that deer use when (a) snow gets deeper than 12 inches in the open, (b) when deer sink into snow deeper than 8 inches in the open, and (c) when mean daily temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Major highways and roads are also shown on the map to illustrate the proximity of DWA to many urban and developed areas.
A reader took the time to do some sampling of data taken over several years to help Maine hunters better understand deer harvest trends. Below you will find a blow-up of one squared-out region of Central Maine, numbered and labeled with town name. Within each of those boxes is a number that shows the number of deer harvested for 2014. You can see the entire map of Maine and the deer harvest report by visiting the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife webpage.
The second graph requires a bit of study. It shows certain comparisons of deer harvest, beginning in 2005 and up until the latest – 2014. The number of deer kills is taken from the Maine map and recorded according to the matching town. These numbers are then compared with other years by straight numbers and percentages. I found it very interesting.
I’ll go out on a limb here, but mind you I’m quite conservative, unbrave and often resort to just laughter, and say that 99% of Maine deer hunters are pretty much only interested in how many deer get tagged each deer season. All deer that are shot and handled legally, are tagged at a volunteer (that gets paid a small fee) tagging station and reported to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). So how long can it take to count registered deer? (See the 2014 deer harvest report just posted.)
Evidently quite a long time (see chart below).
There’s very few people, other than a couple of biologists at MDIFW (maybe), who care about how many bucks, how many does, what the weather was like or whether or not Aunt Mabel wore her thermals this year when hunting. Aside from interest in “trophy” deer, hunters just want to know how many deer were taken so they can compare it to many things…the most of which MDIFW couldn’t give a dried up deer bladder for.
Why then, do Maine deer hunters have to wait for a report that includes the number of deer tagged in each town, etc.? Perhaps a few like to have that information and wouldn’t bother them too much to get it in June or July even, and I question why that would take so long. (Note: I like every piece of data that COULD be gotten from MDIFW but still is like a slippery eel trying to get it.)
We live in an age where information is available in just about real time. “Unofficial” deer harvest numbers should be available, at a minimum of once per day; once a week would be nice or even one or two days after the conclusion of all the deer hunting seasons around mid-December. (Another note: Many states have near-instant reporting of deer harvest now. Maine doesn’t need to invent this on their own.)
Over the years, I have heard probably all the excuses of why it takes so long to report. The two that seem to rise up to the surface the fastest are: 1. The tagging stations take so long to report, and 2. It takes deer biologists(?) a long time to process all the data in order to put the report together. Both excuses are BS.
You and I could have a discussion about the hows, whys and wherefores of devising a deer harvest report but at least consider this. If MDIFW is still living in the dark ages, i.e. they can’t get registered deer information to August in a timely manner and it takes months to draft a report, then by God it’s time for a change – a change that would save license fee payers lots of money. Aside from the initial outlay of a handful of computers and Internet modems, if service is not available in remote areas, a tagged and registered deer should be on MDIFW’s hard drive in a matter of hours from the time the deer is tagged. A simple computer program can accomplish all tasks assigned to it. This becomes electronically accomplished, instead of hours of man-hours paid – how much per hour?
Any business taking 3-7 months to take data and devise a report has inefficiency and unnecessary costs plastered all over it. It is also destined for failure.
I’ll leave this rant with another thought. I hear unending calls for more money for MDIFW. Some work tirelessly to get general tax dollars to prop up MDIFW. I’m not necessarily against responsible funding of MDIFW. However, I have called for a complete audit, made available to the public, BEFORE any more money is thrown at MDIFW. The above example might just be proof of one incident where money is being wasted and could easily be corrected through efficiency.
Who knows. Maybe combine this with some sound deer management and Maine could once again have deer to hunt. Cheer up. According to many of these managers, global warming is going to save the deer.
In the June 2015 edition of Whitetail Journal, there’s an article about the affects coyotes are having on deer populations nationwide. Essentially the article is not very helpful to anyone wishing to know facts about predators and prey, their relationships, and all the things that effect those relationships. The article boldly states that, “The data shows…that [coyotes] don’t have major impacts on [deer] population levels.” That might be somewhat akin to saying that deep snows in Alaska don’t have major impacts on building snowmen in Florida.
It is impossible to draw conclusions, such as this, from a potpourri of studies from different regions under completely different circumstances, by agents seeking an outcome. While it might be useful to gain a basic understanding of how some coyotes, wolves, bobcats, etc. might act and react in their specific habitat, such actions do not necessarily trend into other zones by different predators, because everything is different and changes in ways not uniform across the entire nation.
Missing from the article was any discussion about how continued protection of predators, resulting in larger populations of the deer-killing varmints, would continue to negatively impact deer herds. Perhaps the author is a bit of a believer in “natural balance.” On the one hand the article states that, “…the impact of winter coyote predation is greater when deer are low, below five deer per square mile.” That is a fact. Possibly deer numbers were below 5 per square mile because coyotes reduced them to that level and kept them there. This is sometimes referred to as a “predator pit” – the result of Predator Mediated Competition. A predator pit occurs when there are more than one prey specie that predators can eat, otherwise, the coyote/wolf will move to another area where it can find prey. This will allow the prey species (deer) to somewhat recover before the next round of killing begins.
You will also read in this article that when deer populations are running as high as 55 deer per square mile, predator effects on deer seem low enough that managers can control the deer herd by limiting or increasing deer hunting permits. Is that acceptable?
But, don’t we all know this by now? If your favorite place to hunt has been or is overrun with predators resulting in 5 deer per square mile, then this is a problem at every level. Just because down in the Southeast, where there’s 50 or more deer per square mile, coyotes don’t seem to matter, this does little in understanding and taking the right positive steps to cure the problem.
Don’t forget! I’ve mentioned this often and will keep repeating it because it is proving to be quite a prophetic statement by Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus University of Calgary. He stated before the annual Southeast Deer Study Group in 1995, in reference to their complaints of too many deer, “Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”
The article states that predator control doesn’t work and one excuse given is because coyotes are transient – meaning that if they kill all their prey in one area, they will move to another area and eventually other, or the same, coyotes will return if prey begins to recover. This is nothing new. The author cites studies that prove in the first year after substantial numbers of coyotes were removed from one study area, deer numbers, in particular fawn recruitment, increased dramatically. Over the next two years the numbers didn’t grow so much. And this is what the conclusion that coyote control don’t work is based on? I would like to know what the author expected.
The author goes on to conclude that the only way coyote control – that is for the purpose of protecting and growing deer herds, can work is, “…keep at it all the time, month after month, year after year.”
Like the Geico commercial says, “Everybody knows that.” Don’t they? They should. Anybody that I have ever talked with, who has a good understanding of the need for predator control, knows that it must be an ongoing endeavor. Deer management must include predator control. Without it, the ONLY other option is loss of hunting opportunity and eventually loss of hunting altogether, when growing numbers of predators cause dwindling game populations to predator pit levels. Is that acceptable?
If not, then don’t settle for predator protection over hunting opportunity.
An additional note: Environmentalist are always trying to butter their bread on both side. They have, historically, repeated the mantra that hunters and trappers, using bounties, extirpated or nearly did so, wolves and coyotes. In the next breath, they will tell us that hunting, trapping and using bounties not only won’t have any effect on reducing coyote numbers but will cause the numbers to go up. Amazing brain power there at work.
If we kill fewer deer, will that not place more stress on limited food sources and yarding areas and lead to even more winter kill? In fact, that’s likely to happen.
Prior to settlement, the habitat supported few whitetails. Then that habitat changed, and deer numbers boomed.
Winter conditions have been fairly consistent since the beginning. Wolf numbers aside, there has been but one factor that’s determined whitetail boom or bust in the U.P.: habitat.
Now that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided to at least release some information about the 2014 deer harvest, some 5-1/2 months after the fact and they have yet to post the data on their website, the information that was made available shows a continued trend toward smaller-sized buck deer harvested.
In years past, I have provided readers with our own graphic showing recent year’s harvest data in order to make comparisons. A look at the graphic below shows the downward spiral in size of buck deer harvested.
Would Horace Hinckley be an OUTLIER today? His buck would be. . . .