February 1, 2023

Deer Yards and Recreational Trails

Note: The below article has been submitted to the Bethel Citizen, a local newsprint publication and subsidiary of the Lewiston Sun Journal (Sun Media Group). It is intended as an open letter to the State of Maine, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Legislature, and any and all groups that develop land and in particular recreational trails.

Maine’s Trails Need Consideration for Wildlife

Open Air with Tom Remington

The Bethel, Maine area has become one of the fastest growing areas when it comes to the use and development of recreational trails. With little or no guidelines to develop, expand, or limit use, perhaps now is a better time than later to closely examine the effects of increased use by people and pets on trails throughout the year.

Trails for recreation are a great thing. As cultural demands change, I have watched as old logging roads, railroad beds, footpaths, hiking trails, snowmobile and ATV trails, etc., have been upgraded and are maintained for increased traffic far beyond foot traffic alone. The Western Maine area, which includes Bethel, at present has the most recreational trails available than at any other time in history.

With the development of paths, capable of moving more and different forms of recreation to greater distances, in less time, with manual and motorized transportation devices, with this come direct threats to our wildlife. We don’t always think about how our presence and activities can negatively effect habitat.

If we take a look at the whitetail deer population and how their biological cycles go allowing them to survive long winters in Maine, then perhaps we can see a definite need for considerations in locating trails, size of trails, and intended uses.

During the winter months, the whitetail deer in Maine, move into what our biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) call Deer Wintering Areas (DWA). Most don’t realize that the Bethel region is home to a few of these DWAs, with one that used to be one of the state’s largest located near the Bethel Airport and within land which is now part of the Bingham Forest Park.

When deer enter Deer Wintering Areas (typically at the end of November into mid-December depending on weather conditions), their metabolism begins to slow. This is a necessary and natural adaptation that allows deer to conserve energy needed to stay warm and survive. This approximate 100-day period, where deer eat very little and what they do consume is more to fill a void than provide nutrition, is an extremely critical time.

It is during these mid-winter days, that deer are at their most vulnerable stage of existence. Any disturbances within these DWAs can result in near immediate death.

I have written in the past about concerns that I have with DIFW offering late season deer hunting opportunities for concern that deer that have already begun to “yard up” will be unnecessarily stressed by the presence of hunters. I also have concerns about when and where people can “shed hunt” (search of antlers) because efforts can stress deer and other wildlife during critical times.

Biologists at DIFW repeatedly echo that the biggest obstacle in efforts to maintain and manage healthy levels of whitetail deer is destruction/loss of habitat.

With all of this in mind, it would seem but only reasonable and responsible that all efforts to seek advice and guidelines be sought from professionals BEFORE construction or expansion of recreational trails. This is far better than waiting for the strong arm of the “law” to come down on all of us.

It’s not just a trail. Consideration must be taken as to the location of a trail and just as important, what types of use are intended. For example, a small walking path through the middle of a DWA, while I would strongly urge that no trail be built going through any DWA, would seem less stressful on deer than motorized recreational devices that would frighten and cause deer to run away, using up valuable energy to stay alive. Any and all activity penetrating a DWA is undue deadly stress and can be easily prevented.

As trails are developed, upgraded, and advertised for use, with it comes increased use. This use always includes those who want to go outside on trails with their pets. A combination of people, noise, and ambitious dogs looking to bark at and chase (they are dogs after all) yarded up deer, can be catastrophic.

I would implore all who are looking to create and/or expand new or existing trails anywhere, first seek help from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The DIFW has biologists who can help locate DWAs and advise on the best possible ways of getting where you would like your trials to go with the least chance of wildlife and ecosystem disturbances.

This is in no way intended to speak negatively against recreational trails, only to request that all trails be done in the best possible way for ALL.


Maine Map: Deer Wintering Areas

I was sent the below map the other day. When I finally got around to looking at it more closely, I began formulating some questions. Perhaps you will have them too. If so, please become part of a discussion in the “Disqus” portion of this post at the end.

As you will notice, the dark green spots on this map show the locations of what the creators of the map are calling Deer Wintering Areas. The map also shows the locations of all the major highways throughout the state. Is it my imagination or do the majority of deer wintering areas happen to exist near to all the main highways? Is it reasonable to assume that much of the population of Maine can be found in and around all the major highways? If so, why?

Also, notice in the Northwest sector of the state – an area often referred to as the Big Woods. Where are all the Deer Wintering Areas? Is it because all the trees have been cut and there are no more Deer Wintering Areas left? Or do many of the deer migrate to the East near Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1?

In the far north, take notice of the large Deer Wintering Area near the town of Allagash. Is it my imagination, again, or do the deer move closer to civilization in order to spend the winters?

Or maybe, the mapmakers didn’t want to venture too far from the main highways to locate Deer Wintering Areas.

I’m trying to make sense out of the map and what we have repeatedly been told that there are no Deer Wintering Areas left – that they have all been destroyed by logging. Is this why we seem to see the majority of Deer Wintering Areas near major highways? Or have the experts got it all wrong?

What I would like to see, if it even exists, is a map of Deer Wintering Areas from 30, 40. 50 years ago and overlay it with this map to see if those areas have moved, some lost, some added, etc.

Talk is cheap. Valued scientific research might tell us some truth.


It’s Always About Habitat: It’s What’s Easiest to See

Several years ago I asked the question that if Maine’s loss of a deer herd was mostly to be blamed on loss of habitat, including so-called “Deer Wintering Areas” (DWA), then why are there many acres of DWAs throughout Maine that are now empty during the winter months or have reduced numbers of deer in them? One would think that if there’s less habitat/DWA that more deer would be crowded into available space.

I’ve never received an honest answer and know that I never will.

It’s much easier to bitch and complain about loss of habitat. Why? People can look out the windows of their climate-controlled SUVs and see trees that have been cut down. That equates to man is a destructive, non caring, greedy SOB and their actions are killing all the animals and plant life.

Of course I am forced to attempt to explain to the emotional, mental midgets, that habitat is vitally important for all living things…that is ALL LIVING THINGS. Last time I checked I was a living thing, although some mornings I wonder.

Realizing also that there are many who don’t understand that good habitat for a yellow warbler isn’t necessarily the same as good habitat for a Canada lynx. In addition, because habitat changes or is changed deliberately by the actions of man, does not necessarily mean some animals and plants die or are in danger of going extinct, as media and environmental groups state for the purpose of playing on our emotions.

In short, wildlife will adapt and in some cases certain species are more readily equipped to adapt than others.

A decade ago I wrote about predator/prey relationships, which included information about which negative influences had the most effect on prey. In other words, it is easy for most people, lacking any knowledge or understanding of facts, to continue their perverse hatred to the existence of man (excluding themselves of course) to say that hunting kills more deer, elk, moose, bear, etc. than any of the other influences. However, that’s not true, as you might discover if you bothered to take the time to learn.

If you take the time to read the article at the above link, you may learn something about those relationships. Along with your learning, you might discover that protecting habitat, believing the act will mitigate prey losses, is not going to achieve what most people think it will.

If it was a fact that loss of habitat was the major factor in the loss of deer in the State of Maine, then we might expect that protecting and or growing that habitat will help. Saying it is and proving that it is are not the same thing.

I applaud those major landowners who have volunteered to work with the fish and game people to come up with ways of protecting deer habitat, including DWAs, but doing so will not grow the deer herd because habitat is not the largest factor in the loss of deer. Understand loss of habitat may be the major contributor in some areas, but statewide it is not the major problem.

According to all the excuses, climate change and severe winters are the two items that kill the most deer. Are they? Climate change be damned. To believe that climate change is killing deer is to believe that deer cannot survive in warmer climates, when the facts are the opposite. So, then, the deer herd should be growing, right? It is also to believe that such effects happen overnight. Why don’t more people ask deer managers why, if climate change is killing our deer, that severe winters are still killing deer?

When deer managers fall heavily on these excuses, toss in the sob story of how loss of habitat is putting management over the edge, why bother to even have a fish and wildlife management department? According to what we hear, nothing about deer management is within their control. We’re all going to die!

Evidently, while all this is going on, we’ve come to be taught that whitetail deer are worthless creatures incapable of adapting to a changing environment. There is hope, however, when one of Maine’s wildlife biologists was caught saying that there is a “new normal” when it comes to understanding deer behavior. Essentially he stated that increased predator pressure, combined with the public’s deer feeding programs, have changed how deer are spending their winters. Could this be the answer I’m looking for as to why many, many acres of traditional DWAs are going unused? It appears perhaps the deer have adapted but the deer managers are many years behind.

Expending effort to protect habitat for deer and other wildlife can be a good thing. Placing all your markers on forcing land owners to protect the king’s deer, will do nothing except anger a lot of landowners.

The “new normal” theory makes good sense. The wild canines in Maine’s woods are a hybrid of coyote, wolf, domestic dog and just about any and all kinds of dogs, wild or domestic. Their numbers are probably the highest they have ever been. Combine this with a very large bear population and it makes sense that deer must adapt or die. One has to wonder what the mortality rate in those DWAs would be minus the coyotes, and what the fawn recruitment would be like minus a couple thousand black bears? Perhaps those “severe” winters wouldn’t be quite so severe on the deer.

Habitat is not everything and it is not THE answer. Get over it. Time to move on.


Deer management study raises eyebrows, plenty of questions

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.

Source: Deer management study raises eyebrows, plenty of questions | Sun Journal


“Deer Wintering Areas in the State of Maine” by Samuel Wasserman

*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.

Source: “Deer Wintering Areas in the State of Maine” by Samuel Wasserman


Coyotes on the Run? Let’s Get Bears on the Run Too

LonelyCoyoteI have never met V. Paul Reynolds, but I think I should. I was never blessed with the ability to see a half-filled glass of water as half full – it’s always half-empty. Perhaps his positive and optimistic attitude would rub off on me.

Reynold’s latest article in the Sun Journal extols the successes of Maine’s coyote “suppression program” saying this effort has “coyotes on the run.”

According to Reynolds this year’s effort to limit the damage to deer in deer wintering areas has realized a harvest of around 500 coyotes – combined total from hired state coyote hunters and trappers, and private citizens by hunting, trapping and coyote derbies. Ryan Robicheau, Maine’s Wildlife Management Section Supervisor, says the budgeted amount of money for this programs, and using 500 coyotes as the number of coyotes killed, works out to $175.00 a coyote. However, if my calculations are correct, and I’m understanding the information provided, aside from the state’s effort and coyote yield of 270 varmints, all the rest of the kills were paid for out of individuals’ or groups’ pockets. Therefore, the cost per coyote harvested by state officials runs well over $200.00 – a figure most of us have come to recognize, wishing that money could be allotted to citizen trappers and hunters. Alas!

Actually, I was a bit surprised that there was still an ongoing coyote control program. It’s been so quiet (Okay let’s blame this on no PR position at MDIFW) I just assumed, like many programs the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) undertakes, just abruptly ended.

The article in reference states that the money appropriated is used to pay “professional” hunters and trappers to kill coyotes in and around “52 major deer wintering areas.” This is good and, in my opinion, with the limited supply of money, efforts should be targeted in critical areas where coyotes do the most harm. I would like to also see targeting of coyotes in known deer fawning areas. Like deer yards, coyotes know where the does go to birth, as do bears.

Maybe this is all a difference of perspective from being very optimistic and being realistic. I intend to not take away from the effort or the results. Some is good. More is even better. Here’s the take away…or is it a giveaway?

Robicheau says that this math[cost per coyote], coupled with anecdotal reports from winter trappers, strongly suggests that this coyote suppression program is working.

“Our people are seeing fewer coyotes this year in our designated deer wintering areas,”

The only way this program can continue to be successful is that this “suppression program” must be continuous, because the following year other coyotes move to the deer yards and more deer killing will commence.

What readers should not be confused about is that it might be a bit unclear about the success of this program and a program that would be designed to control the coyote population state wide. Robicheau says that anecdotal reports show a reduction in coyotes. It appears he is clarifying that when he says in the next sentence, “in our designated deer wintering areas.”

Because without exact clarification, math and previous statements made by such deer professionals as Gerry Lavigne, could get confusing. We don’t need confusion and we don’t need suppression of information. For instance, Lavigne has stated before that in order to begin reducing coyote populations, an annual coyote harvest needs to be about 70% of the existing animals. Once coyote numbers are reduced to the desired levels, that 70% harvest would need to be adjusted smaller in order to maintain a desired number. The program has to be continuous and well-monitored. Will that ever happen? NOPE!

Math can get fuzzy if we attempt to use Lavigne’s logarithm and apply it to the 500 coyotes killed and claims that there are now fewer coyotes than before. On it’s face, if we took those numbers, then if killing 500 coyotes reduced the overall number of coyotes to a point where fewer coyotes are being seen, then one would have to ask just how many coyotes does Maine have?

I have read, and I don’t believe there is an “official” population number, that coyotes in Maine number between 15,000 and 20,000. Clearly we see that a 500-coyote harvest is NOT a 70% reduction. A 70% reduction would be somewhere around 11,000 coyotes.

My point is not to confuse Lavigne’s general statement about state-wide coyote population control and that done in targeted deer wintering areas. As far as helping to protect the deer herd in winter deer yards, the program is good and appears to be helping. Personally, I would like to see a more substantial effort, because too many coyotes can have real negative effects on many other wildlife species, not just deer. But, I’ll take what we can get that works at any level.

And, if officials can figure out a way to protect deer fawning areas, perhaps a joint effort can be undertaken to limit fawn kills of deer, by both coyotes and bear. Bears are sleeping during winter months, but when they wake up they are hungry. When the does fawn, like the coyotes, the bear knows where the does fawn.



12 Deer Killed by Vehicles in Allagash, Maine

The St. John Valley Times is reporting that with an early arrival of deer to wintering areas, 12 deer have been hit and killed by vehicles.<<<Read More>>>



Maine: LD1248: An Act To Establish Trail Standards In Deer Wintering Areas

This bill directs the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in consultation with the Maine Land Use Planning Commission and the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, to adopt rules that establish standards for the construction of trails in deer wintering areas. This bill also directs the Maine Land Use Planning Commission to incorporate these standards for the construction of trails in deer wintering areas in the State’s land use standards.

An Act to Establish Trail Standards in Deer Wintering Areas
This bill is to establish Standards for the Construction of Trails within Deer Wintering Areas (Designated P-FW sub districts) on private and public lands within the State of Maine to enhance the survival rate of the state’s overall deer herd.

The regulation/restriction of human intrusion by the incorporation of these Standards within the deer wintering areas is to prevent additional yet avoidable stresses to the states depleted deer herds, which have been and remain an important value to the State of Maine, both economically and to the heritage of its citizens. The current declined condition of the deer herd is the result of several factors including damaged wintering areas due to timber harvesting, predation by large populations of predators, loss of mast crops due to market development of mast crop wood, and the loss of habitat by land development. All of these contribute to the current deer population problem.

Another major stress to wintering deer herds is that of human impact which is the result of the rapidly developing recreational trails within Maine. Specifically, trails can negatively impact deer wintering areas in several ways, first by the users traveling through the deer yard areas, which can spook the deer causing them to expend valuable energy during a critical period of reduced metabolic rate. Humans appear to deer as a predator; as such the deer will expend critically needed energy to escape them. Second, these trails compress the snow pack which promotes the passage of predators into the deer yard. The volume of and impacts from humans entering the deer wintering areas during these critical winter months should be stopped.

The Standards were originally drafted by staff members of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game, The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission (now the Land Use Planning Commission) and myself to become a Draft Rule Amendment to Protect Deer in Deer Wintering Area (P-FW) sub districts from disturbance in Chapter 10 (Land Use Districts and Standards) of the then Maine Land Use Regulation Commission. As areas designated as Deer Wintering Areas are found both within and outside of LUPC’s jurisdiction these Standards should be enacted state wide to best protect the states deer herd.

As more people other than sportsmen within the state are becoming aware of the true economical value that a viable deer herd has state wide, more private land owners and community owned parcels are seeking the help of IF&W staff in designating and enhancing deer wintering areas on both private and public lands. Others, who are developing various types of trails for recreational/commercial use, see the deer wintering areas as a “tourist attraction”. The influxes of those individuals into the deer wintering areas are a detriment to the deer herd and in time may lead to actual extinction of those using the area.

It is my intent that the existing trails of all types’ currently penetrating deer wintering areas would be grandfathered by this act, but no additional ones would be allowed that do not conform to these standards.

David L. Miller

Standards for Trails within Deer Wintering Areas

Intended purpose of the Construction Standards are to:

*Increase protection of zoned deer wintering areas and Maine’s deer population by minimizing or otherwise eliminating new herd disturbances by recreational uses during winter months and minimizing transportation corridors for predators into those zoned deer wintering areas.
Deer go into a reduced metabolic rate (to slow down) so they don’t burn up calories during a critical 100 day period
*Increase opportunities for consultation with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) to avoid and minimize impacts on wildlife and their habitats.
With permits required in a P-WF (fish & wildlife protection sub-district), it would cause the two parties to come together to eliminate or minimize any impact to the deer herd
*Increase protections within the P-FW subdistrict by restricting the types of trails that are allowed within a P-FW subdistrict

*Regulations are rare in regards to the protection of wildlife

*IF&W has never dealt with anything on this scale, standards would ensure consistency state wide
More Specific Info:
Trails constructed today include a much wider range of types and uses than those constructed in the past. The proposed designation and division of trails better aligns the Land Use Planning Commission definitions with current land uses and more appropriately match land use controls to the intensity of the specific use.
There currently are no specific designations of trail types in Maine, or the regulation or permitting of any that could impact protected sub-districts (sensitive areas of concern).

The need for Standards, for the Construction of Trails in areas of concern / critical habitat has been brought about by the fact that some organizations are currently targeting specific areas Zoned as Deer Wintering Areas (a subdistrict P-FW) to allow customers/users to see deer. A human (particularly on foot) is seen as a predator by the deer causing the animal(s) to flee resulting in excessive stress, thus affecting its ability to survive.
The purpose of establishing Standards for Trails is to regulate activities within an area of concern in a manner that produces no undue adverse impact upon the resources and users in that area.
This proposed change requires a permit for all trails within the P-FW subdistrict in order to provide LUPC & MDIFW oversight and opportunity to avoid or mitigate impacts upon these resources.

Prior to construction of a trail, MDIFW and the MNAP shall be consulted with if a Level B and/or Level C would be located within a Fish and Wildlife Protection (P-FW) Subdistrict

There are four categories of trails to be established.
These are:
Trail, Level A:
A route or a path, other than a Level B or C Trail, roadway, or water trail with a travel surface width of less than 4 feet. Level A trails are developed and maintained with hand tools, and designed to facilitate human foot, ski, snowshoe, or non-motorized bicycle traffic only.
(Examples include – hiking & nature trails, mountain biking trails, portage trails, residential paths to waterbodies, etc.)
Trail, Level B:
A route, other than a Level A or C Trail, roadway, or water trail with a travel surface width of less than 6 feet, used for travel on foot, ski, snowshoe, motorized and non-motorized bicycle, equestrian, musher, snowmobile or ATV.
(Examples include – hiking & nature trails, mountain biking trails, portage trails, residential paths to waterbodies, ATV trails, snowmobile trails, and any use other than 4×4 jeep trail that meets specified dimensional criteria)

Trail, Level C:
A route, other than a Level A or B Trail, roadway, or water trail with a travel surface width less than 10 feet designed for one or two lane passage, used for travel on foot, ski, snowshoe, motorized or non-motorized bicycle, equestrian, musher, snowmobile, ATV, 4×4 vehicles, or other mechanized equipment. Level C trails may include travel surfaces wider than 10 feet provided the travel surface is not compacted or otherwise hardened, such as snowmobile trails.
(Examples include – hiking & nature trails, mountain biking trails, portage trails, ATV trails, snowmobile trails, and jeep/4×4 trails, and any other trails that meet the specified dimensional criteria)

Trail, Water:
An aquatic route, such as streams, rivers, bogs, ponds, lakes and other bodies of water, by which various forms of watercraft may travel. Watercraft may include, but are not limited to rafts, canoes, kayaks, motorized or non-motorized boats, or barges. Water trail does not include any associated trails on land as defined herein as any other type of “Trail”.
(Examples include – the water potion of the Arnold Trail, The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, whitewater rafting routes, etc. Water trails do not include any associated trails on land, such as but not limited to portage trails.)


Scientific Research With an Axe

Once again readers of the Bangor Daily News, from out of Bangor, Maine, got to read about one retired Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) biologist who has the answer about why Maine’s deer herd has disappeared. Ready? Habitat. Yup, once again them damned landowners, and this time with government accomplices, cut down all the trees and thus the deer have all starved to death.

Unlike the author of this piece, I will concede that loss of habitat plays a role in the demise of the deer herd. Habitat is an important factor in deer management, along with many other issues. However, I am also willing to consider other contributing factors that it appears this author is not.

There’s two things in this opinion piece that need to be noted. The first is the author’s story telling of making a scientific determination in late March of 1989, by using an axe and chopping up deer bones, determining two things; the deer starved to death and the deer were not killed by coyotes, even though he admits the deer had been eaten by coyotes.

Amazing isn’t it that conclusions about animal health and death can be determined with an axe. People who are specialists at trying to ascertain whether livestock have been killed by predators or died first and then eaten by predators, struggle to make a determination, with even more tools than an axe, and often are left without a firm result, of which the benefit of the doubt goes to the predator being innocent. Are we to believe that this retired MDIFW biologist, 24 years ago, carried out a necropsy with an axe and made a determination that the deer he found dead in a deer yard starved to death? And that he remembers the details so well 24 years later?

I also wonder if this author understands that predator presence, also known as harassment, is a major contributing factor in accelerating the declining health of deer in wintering yards, and throughout the entire year for that matter? In a recent article written by Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecologist-Range Management Specialist, Utah State University, and published in Muley Crazy Magazine, he states the following:

In addition, under certain environmental conditions, such as deep, crusted snow, even relatively small-sized predators, like coyotes, can kill large-size prey, such as mule deer, at will and without regard to sex, age, or physical condition of the prey. Then too, there is the question of whether the prey animals are naturally substandard, or are they substandard because they are constantly being chased and harassed by wolves and other predators?

One need ask if this retired biologist, on his one trip into a deer yard in 1989, where 10 deer laid dead, was able to scientifically ascertain (with and axe) that these deer were substandard in health because they starved or had been harassed by predators, or both? Also, can he remember all the environmental conditions that year? That would help.

The second issue deals with the timing of the release of these stories and what appears to be the admission of complacency, or perhaps even neglect, on the part of the biologist back 24 years ago. The author accuses foresters of cutting down trees in deer yards or clear cutting around them, as well as intimating that some cover-ups were also taking place. These kinds of accusations, along with other information given in this Bangor Daily News opinion piece, for the purpose of pitting readers against landowners and promoting predator protection, leads me to ask: In 1989 what did this biologist (not retired) do about what he claims to have witnessed? Who did he speak to once he was told or supposedly witnessed what had happened? Did he go to his boss at the MDIFW to see what could be done? Who did he talk to, if anybody? Was it the MDIFW policy to overlook these actions and not bring it to anyone’s attention? If he got no cooperation from his hierarchy, did he take his concerns to perhaps the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine or to media outlets to let all Mainer’s know of the malpractice of foresters and what it was doing to our deer herd? And finally, the author makes no suggestions as to what he would do now if this same thing was brought to his attention, other than, in this opinion piece, suggest more government control and buying up land that he claims will protect the deer yards. If he was MDIFW boss, what would he tell his subordinates to do in such cases?

The timing of these stories are quite convenient and suspect, coming at a time when there exists efforts, including legislation, to do something about predator control. Because this author, obviously a predator protector, will never admit that predators play a significant role in deer depredation, his aim here is only geared toward protection of his beloved dog; a shame actually.

Efforts are underway to attempt to do something about protecting deer wintering areas. It’s not an easy task to accomplish. Deer management is a bigger task than hugging a tree. Saving a tree will NOT necessarily restore Maine’s deer. Studies exist that suggest that all attempts at habitat restoration has no effect on ungulate rebuilding without predator control.

Predator control is a task that can be undertaken much easier than finding ways to ask or force landowners to not cut their forests. Because predator control in an integral part of deer management, it should be undertaken while efforts continue to come up with better ways to protect the habitat needed to help the deer survive the winters. Making deer management one dimensional is not only ignorant but is irresponsible and suggesting habitat is the only problem wreaks of special interest.


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