GREENVILLE, Maine – The economy of the Moosehead Lake region depends a lot more on moose watchers than moose hunters. That was the message strongly conveyed at Friday’s public hearing at Greenville Consolidated School on a proposal by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to increase the number of […]
I think that sometimes sportsmen get a bit hung up on having to know exactly how many of any game animal exists. I suppose at some level, knowing this makes us feel better…or worse. And, I would also suppose that wildlife biologists also get hung up, perhaps more accurately, cave to the social pressures from outside sources demanding to know precisely how many deer, or other animals, there are.
In a recent letter to the editor of a Connecticut Online newspaper, a writer claims the deer population estimating system being used by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is flawed, but the new Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) survey is accurate. Neither system is completely accurate, but the FLIR may be more accurate than the method being used by DEEP.
It is important to understand what this letter writer is saying. His claim is that by using FLIR the survey determined that in a 60-square-mile area of Connecticut, 689 deer were counted. This calculated out to 11.41 deer per square mile.
By comparison, the old method of estimating deer populations, according to the writer, had the deer population in the same area at 33.5 deer per square mile.
The author claims that this shows the town has lost a lot of deer because of hunting. Huh?
Regardless of how deer are counted or estimated, deer populations realistically do not change only the estimated number. If the DEEP used nothing more than numbers to determine hunting harvest quotas, there might need to be some concern about what was really going on with deer numbers. It would appear, from what I am gathering for information, that this is not the case. As with most fish and game managers, an estimated deer population is used only as a relative measure of deer densities. When managers factor in the realities of what is taking place on the ground and compare that with the baseline deer population estimates, then population management decisions are made.
Instead of getting all upset because a possibly more accurate counting system was employed that determined a closer estimation of the actual deer population, and because that new estimation is much lower than the DEEP estimate, certainly doesn’t mean the town lost all of those deer.
If it is determined that the FLIR counting method is that much more accurate, then there should be a certain amount of celebrating to do because more accurate numbers should make managing a bit easier. However, we should understand that even if the FLIR is more accurate, the estimate given is still just a baseline in which to operate from. The actual number of deer is all relative.
For me personally, the importance I place on knowing what the fish and game department estimates the deer population, is determined by the estimated comparisons from year to the next based upon the same method of estimating deer numbers. When counting methods change and the method continues for many years, then all comparisons must be made only within that counting method.
As a hunter, I base my judgement of deer populations in the areas where I hunt, on what I am able to visually see. If I see more deer and more signs of the presence of deer, I know my opportunities to harvest a deer increase. The reverse of this holds true as well. Is it important to me to know that technology provides more accurate counting? Not really. What is going on in the forests that I hunt is not going to change simply because one method counted more or less deer.
Each state’s fish and game biologists will make management and deer harvest decisions based on many things. An accurate counting system should make the task a bit easier. Poor management will result in lost opportunities for hunters, not how accurate estimation are.
The Minnesota legislature’s non-partisan watchdog will scrutinize how the state manages its deer population — a review that could impact how the state oversees whitetail deer hunting.
“Specifically, the audit will likely examine the following questions:
— How does DNR estimate and monitor Minnesota’s deer population, and how do these methods compare with other estimation and monitoring approaches?
— How does DNR establish the state’s deer population goals, and how does this compare with methods used by other states?
— To what extent do DNR’s deer population goals reflect an appropriate balance between stakeholder interests?”
Minnesota’s deer population management program will be audited this year by the state’s Legislative Auditor — a move pushed by some deer hunters critical of the Department of Natural Resources deer management
“In the current plan we actually have objectives and were fairly well able to achieve those until the last five or six years,” said Kent Gustafson, wildlife program administrator at Fish and Game.
Unlike the current plan, the proposal would allow the state to change the goals to reflect what’s happening with moose.
“We can’t stick to these come hell or high water. We have to be able to maneuver should things continue to change,” said Kristine Rines, the moose project leader. “It may simply become impossible to even think we’re going to reach the goals.”<<<Read More>>>
*Edited for corrections 4/23/2015*
Understand this logic(?) if you can. In North America there are an estimated 61,000 – 69,000 wolves alive. In the South Selkirks 11 wolves were killed, leaving 10 behind. This, they say, was done to save the caribou. There are an estimated 14 caribou left in the South Selkirks.
Where wolves live near caribou, one adult wolf kills 15-20 caribou in one year.
In all honesty, does this make any sense at all?
Staten Island, New York covers about 102 square miles, has a human population of just under half a million and nearly 800 whitetail deer. It’s my guess that people on Staten Island are perceiving deer as a nuisance because they are killing the deer and leaving them to rot, or in some cases cutting off heads for the antlers.
Out on Long Island, more deer troubles (too many deer?). Dead deer are being found on on the railroad tracks in East Quogue. It’s described as a “mystery.” With an estimated deer population in 2013 of between 25,000 and 35,000 deer, along with a failed effort to reduce the deer herd in this same area of eastern Long Island by up to 3,000, is it really honest to label as a mystery that deer are being killed on the railroad tracks?
When NPR asked a New Hampshire deer biologist how they went about guessing how many deer the state had, the answer was…well, it was…actually, I don’t know what the hell it was. But the response went like this:
For deer, this is the two-year running average of the adult buck-kill. That’s kind of what we use as an index to the trend in the population. That’s kind of the best index we have.
And that’s it? Go figure. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I have a strong suspicion that deer hunting in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and Vermont, generate the most income in order to fund each state’s fish and (no game, just) wildlife departments. And, this is the best explanation a deer biologist from New Hampshire could come up with to explain how counting deer is done.
Is it important to know how many deer each state has? Geez! I would think so. If you don’t know, how do you know how many deer should be killed each year? Is this one of the reasons deer populations in Northern New England are struggling? Maybe. Ask any biologist though and they’ll probably say it’s being caused by global warming. But let’s not get into that.
One might conclude that New Hampshire’s “model” of guessing is pretty pathetic. What it sounds to me that they do, is count the number of adult bucks harvested during the hunting season for two consecutive years. They use that data to somehow wave a magic wand and then after repeating the “magic” incantations, guess how many deer there are. That’s sad…isn’t it?
If you think that’s sad, then how damned sad is it when a state can’t even count to know how many adult buck deer were taken during a deer hunting season? That’s beyond sad. It’s down right pathetic.
As of this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), has not posted on their website the harvest numbers from last November’s deer hunting season. God, we’ve all been down this road so many times, but nothing ever changes.
Some have asked me what difference does it make? I think it makes a lot of difference. Seriously, do I need to explain why? But forget what I think or whether you care. If Maine uses anything like New Hampshire’s methods, and they count adult buck deer killed to guesstimate deer populations, how can they responsibly manage deer – like how many “Any-Deer Permits” to issue if they can’t count deer?
So, I can only guess what is going on. Either MDIFW is terrible at managing deer or they won’t release the deer harvest numbers because they are hiding something. What else could it be? And, as an aside, MDIFW hasn’t posted the bear harvest data either.
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
The Bangor Daily News editorial staff made some good and sound points about alternatives to changing the process involved with gathering signatures and getting a proposal put onto the ballot for voters to decide. However, the staff made two statements that I think need clearing up and providing a better and more accurate explanation.
To be forthcoming, I have stated in the past that I hold some reluctance in a flat removal of the right of citizens to petition the state and the referendum process. In this article, it makes reference to a proposed bill, LD1228, that would amend the signature gathering process for ballot initiatives. I haven’t finished a thorough examination of this proposal, but on the surface it appears to be a sound proposal.
However, I do think there are instances in which an exemption from the ballot initiative process may be necessary. The Bangor Daily News states: “…taking away the citizen initiative when it comes to hunting and fishing laws, or any other area of law, is wrong.” I do not agree. “Any other area of law,” is not specific to hunting and fishing laws, which, in and of itself, is an inaccurate labeling of what bill proposals that exist are attempting to do.
Hunting and fishing laws, i.e. rules, are set by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). The Legislature can amend those laws/rules and/or force the department to do things it might not think is in the best interest of wildlife management. In the existing format, there are many opportunities for Maine voters to participate in the rule-making process. This is the same throughout all law making proposals, with or without the referendum process.
In my mind, this really isn’t the issue. The issue is that wildlife management, including fish and game management, is a scientific process and should be a scientific process driven by goals set and established as a complimentary effort between the wildlife department and voters. Science should be the determining factor. It is my opinion that when MDIFW began putting too much emphasis on what social impacts their scientific decisions had, proper and responsible wildlife management took a back seat to social pressures, many coming from special interest groups. This result is far worse than any perceived fallout from eliminating a ballot initiative.
For this reason, we may be looking at a terrific example of why an exemption from the petitioning of the state government to change it’s wildlife management plans, should be seriously and honestly considered.
The second issue is directly connected to the first. The Bangor Daily News called a potential law to limit ballot initiatives on issues pertaining to fish and wildlife management as “draconian.” When this issue is viewed from a totalitarian perspective of forcing lifestyles onto others, I can understand why the newspaper, with their history, would consider this exemption as draconian. It appears the newspaper’s importance is weighted toward socialistic issues rather than science.
I hate laws in general because all laws limit and steal away my rights and my God-given right to self-determination. Playing within the rules, what is good for the goose is most often good for the gander.
And just one more thing. The editorial states that, “Twenty-four states allow citizen-generated initiatives on the ballot.” Why didn’t the report state that 26 do not? More than half do not provide for citizen-generated initiatives. Clearly there are other means of ensuring that all citizens can be heard, or made to think they are heard, other than the current and very expensive process Maine now has.
Changes in this process should be forthcoming.