January 26, 2023

Maine Trapper Submits Bill to Create Standards for Trail Development in Deer Wintering Areas

Dave Miller, a Maine trapper, hunter, conservationist and concerned citizen, is drafting and submitting a bill to the Maine Legislature to create standards needed for the development of trails in deer wintering areas. Below is a letter that accompanied his proposal followed by an informational outline of the draft proposal.

I fully support the efforts of Dave Miller, and others, in this regard. Where Maine is struggling trying to find ways to protect deer habitat, developing trail construction standards to avoid further disruption of deer wintering areas and prohibiting the unnecessary stress deer can suffer during tough winters by intrusion from outsiders, is one of those efforts that should be easily undertaken and is very reasonable.

It is my understanding in speaking with Dave about the trails, it seems that deer wintering areas have been targeted for trail construction for the purpose of tourist observation of the deer. I understand and actually support the development of trails but also know the need to have them built responsibly.

To this end, I am asking readers and outdoor sportsmen to please pass the information contained in this blog to all your friends and acquaintances. In addition, I would request that each of you, in the professional manner in which we are all accustomed to, contact your representatives and ask them for the support necessary to see this bill to fruition. It is something all of us can participate in, knowing that every small effort is a giant helping hand for our deer herd.

A lot of time and trouble from many and varied individuals and organizations have gone into finding a solution that I find to be quite workable and needed.

I am informing you all that I have submitted a bill “An Act to Establish Standards for the Construction of Trails Within Deer Wintering Areas” through my State Representative.

I am doing this after a number of years addressing the disruption to our deer herds by trails being constructed by various organizations within designated deer wintering areas. They have purposely been targeting these areas to allow observation by tourist of the deer during the winter months. The adverse affect of human intrusion during this critical period of the year is well documented.

So as a result, I am submitting Standards that have been developed by various wildlife biologist within the state, The Land Use Regulation Commission staff, and myself over a period of several years that address the issue of trail construction to minimize its impact on deer. Other methods of getting these Standards in place has not materialized for various reasons.

We all know that our deer herd has been greatly impacted in recent years and its affect on our local rural economies and that of the state in general. This is a result of various impacts, such as that of several bad winters, timber harvesting, predation, expanding development, and other land use practices.
Human intrusion is one of these that require a level of control. The construction Standards we have developed will provide a level of control in the disruption of our deer herd during a critical time of the year.

I am hopeful that you will support our efforts to provide a level of protection to our deer herd by supporting this bill and letting your legislators know that you would like the bill supported.

This bill is currently in Augusta being processed and has not yet been assigned a number. The basic information (minus the actual Standards) submitted to start the process is attached for your information.

David Miller

An Act to Establish Standards for the Construction of Trails Within Deer Wintering Areas

This bill is to establish Standards for the Construction of Trails within Designated Deer Wintering Areas on private and public lands within the State of Maine to enhance the survival rate of the state’s overall deer herd.

A. Establishes Standards for the Construction of Trails that enter/penetrate designated deer wintering areas throughout the State of Maine on both private and public lands.

B. The enactment of the attached Draft Standards by both the Maine Department of Conservation and its Land Use Regulation Commission “state wide” and a joint enforcement effort by the responsible state agencies will enhance the growth and management of the states’ deer herd, benefitting both rural and urban economics. The tourist industry as related to big game hunting would be rejuvenated by the return of a well regulated/managed state wide deer herd returning a multi-million dollar industry (deer hunting) to Maine. Maine could again recover its designation as one of the best hunting states in North America helping in a state wide economic recovery.

C. Existing trials currently penetrating deer wintering areas would be grandfathered by this act.

D. The attached Draft Standards were drafted by various staff members of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, The Maine Department of Conservation, The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, and myself (David L. Miller) to become a Draft Rule Amendment to Protect Deer in Deer Wintering Areas (P-FW) Sub district from disturbance in Chapter 10 (Land Use Districts and Standards) of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission.
As areas designated as Deer Wintering Areas are found both within and outside of LURC’s jurisdiction these Standards should be utilized/enacted state wide to best protect the states deer herd.

Attachement: Proposed Draft Rule Amendment to the Regulation of trails.

David Miller


Dave Miller on Predator Workshop: “First Real Positive Efforts”

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Gerry LaVigne, sponsor and put on Maine’s first Predator Control Workshop. Below is a summation of that workshop by David Miller, who attended the workshop and was a presenter for the function.


On Saturday, September 29th, The Sportsman Alliance of Maine sponsored the first workshop addressing the need for and the methods required to control predators, which is one of several key factors causing the decline of the deer herds in the Western Mountains, Aroostook County, and Down East portions of Maine. The loss of these deer herds has resulted in a tremendous impact on the state’s rural economies. Deer hunting has for generations brought in millions of dollars annually to the state’s economy and been a welcomed addition of healthy meat to the family dinner table.

This work shop is one of the first real positive efforts to reverse the situation. The Maine sportsmen have not had much in the way of constructive support in stopping the downward spiral of the deer within the state. This workshop was the first big step in a statewide effort.

This day long work shop was the result of efforts by Dave Trahan of the SAM, Gerry Lavigne and the dedication and professionalism of the guest speakers and demonstrators from a cross section of well known “working outdoorsmen”, not the normal outdoor writers and politicians seen at many events like this. These keynote speakers were the hands on experts in their respective fields which included two MIF&W [Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife] personnel who addressed land owner relations and ethics, a firearms specialist who addressed firearms and ballistics commonly used in predator control work, and experts in their respective fields of predator calling, coyote hounding, coyote baiting/shooting shacks/and night hunting, and coyote trapping.

The SAM facility was packed with over one hundred concerned outdoorsmen who are fully supportive of efforts to reduce the predation of deer to a level where the herds will be able to recover. With the excellent results of this first step it is hopeful that this effort will continue at larger facilities across the state to stimulate the public in participating in these efforts.



By David Miller

Tularemia is commonly called rabbit fever, which is a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Tularemia is typically found in animals, especially rodents and of importance to us trappers, it is most commonly found in beaver and muskrats here in the United States. It has been reported in all states except for Hawaii.

In the U.S. it was never particularly common, with the disease most frequently found with trappers, hunters, cooks and agriculture workers. The incident rate has dropped through the 20th century resulting in an occurrence rate of 1 in 1,000,000 between 1990 and 2000, meaning that the disease is fairly rare today. This is in part mostly due to less and less people processing and handling animals in todays society, resulting in most all reported cases being in rural areas.

Infection may be caused by bites of infected insects (most commonly deerflies & ticks), by handling infected sick or dead animals, by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or by inhaling the air born bacteria. Trappers and hunters can most easily be infected through a break in the skin while handling an infected animal, and more rarely by eating the poorly cooked flesh of infected animals. Waterborne infections account for up to 10% of all reported cases. The tularemia organisms can live for several months in the carcass of dead animals, and the same period of time in mud and water. Evidence of tularemia in an animal is white spots on the liver. I would suggest any one eating beaver or muskrat, or feeding them uncooked to pets to check the liver prior to use.

The history of the disease is interesting in that it was first documented in ancient Canaan in about 1715 BC. Subsequently, wars spread the disease in ancient times (sparing Egypt in the 14th century BC due to a quarantine). During this period it was deliberately introduced into western Anatoia, constituting the first known record of biological warfare. Today it is considered a viable biological warfare agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been included in the biological warfare programs in modern times by the United States, Soviet Union and Japan. It is of concern today, as it may be used in terrorist attacks as a bioweapon and would most likely be made airborne so that the bacteria would be inhaled. Those who inhaled the bacteria would experience severe respiratory illness, including life threatening pneumonia and systemic infection if not treated.

Various natural outbreaks have occurred in recent years around the world. Interestingly, in January of 2011 researchers searching for brucellosis in feral hogs in Texas discovered widespread infections or evidence of past infections in populations of the hogs in two counties, though Tularemia is not normally associated with hogs. The spreading of the disease over a large area is of particular concern, or even may be already present in a very wide geographical area. Precautions were recommended for those who hunt, dress, or prepare feral hogs.

The incubation for the disease is a period of normally 3 to 5 days after expose, but it can be as long as several weeks. The illness usually starts suddenly, and may continue for several weeks after exposure. Symptoms include chills, eye irritation (conjunctivitis – if infection began in the eye), fever, headache, joint stiffness, muscle pains, red spot on the skin (growing into a sore – ulcer), shortness of breath, sweating and weight loss.

Testing for the disease includes a blood culture for the tularemia bacteria, blood test measuring the body’s immune system to the infection, chest x-ray, and a test for PCR from an ulcer.

It is cured with antibiotics. The disease is fatal in about 5% of untreated cases, and less than 1% of treated cases. Complications can result in bone infections, infection of the sac around the heart, meningitis, and pneumonia. Call your doctor if symptoms develop after a rodent bite, tick bite, or exposure to the flesh of a wild animal. This gives new meaning to “wearing rubber gloves” while pelting and dressing animals, and especially beaver or muskrat. Normally we trappers think of donning rubber gloves while handling animals normally associated with rabies. Although Tularemia is fairly rare today in the general public, we trappers have a greatly increased chance of contracting the disease – as they say, An Ounce of Prevention Is worth a Pound of Cure.

Dave Miller
Lexington TWP.

Dave Miller is a Maine resident, an outdoor writer and a member of the Carrabassett Valley Trappers Association.