January 18, 2022

Maine Announces “New Deer Initiative” in an Odd Way

Below is a copy of a letter I received on Saturday that announces an “outdoor partnership” that will address Maine’s non existent deer herd and create what they are calling a “network” to accomplish three major tasks: Habitat Management, Predation Management, and Hunting.

What’s odd about the announcement and creation of this “network” is that on Saturday evening, this conglomeration of hand-picked “outdoor partners” met for a fundraiser/game supper ($25.00 per plate) at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) headquarters in a bit of a secret fashion.

I learned of this event on the morning of the day the event was scheduled and it appears I certainly am not in a minority of those uninformed. I was told by one interested party that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) is going to be the “facilitator/coordinator” for the “network” and all work will take place at the club level.

I was also told that an announcement of this fundraiser was sent to the “outdoor partners” and because of space restrictions a broader announcement couldn’t be made. However, some of those emailing me in disgust are members of those lowly “clubs” that will be called upon to do the grunt work and, no doubt, contribute money.

I will reserve comment on the plan of action and the three major components of that plan for a later date but I just don’t understand this action. To date, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has failed miserably in management of the state’s deer herd. It would appear to me that any actions undertaken by private interests should remain a completely separate function of MDIFW; not in isolation but certainly not as partners. Until MDIFW can prove itself seriously dedicated to the restoration of the deer herd, considering them an “outdoor partner” is a bit premature.

Regardless of my opinions, here’s the letter that accompanied the announcement of the fundraiser:

OUTDOOR PARTNERS TO LAUNCH A MAJOR NEW DEER INITIATIVE
Gerry Lavigne
Retired deer biologist

It’s no secret that the white-tailed deer population is in tough shape in Maine.  Severe winters, wintering habitat loss and excessive predation have taken their toll over the years.  Waning deer populations have diminished hunting and wildlife watching opportunity, and Maine’s rural economy has taken a severe hit as a result.  It is widely agreed that white-tailed deer populations need to be recovered.  The question is how do we go about it?

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is in the early stages of implementing a plan to increase deer populations, focusing heavily on the northern half of the state (see “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer” on the Dept.’s website: www.mefishwildlife.com).  MDIFW’s deer plan anticipates extensive collaboration with its outdoor partners.  And they are right to reach out for help in restoring the deer herd.  With a Warden Service second to none, and a well-trained and dedicated biological staff, the Dept. is well-positioned to implement many of the remedies needed to restore Maine’s deer herd.  Yet, the Dept. cannot do this alone.  With 94% of the state in private ownership, and a land area nearly equal to the rest of New England, the logistics of improving habitat, reducing predation losses, and enforcing the game laws would be impossible without a lot of help from Maine hunters and landowners.

We sense a great willingness among Mainers to do something for our deer resource.  Hunters are beginning to realize they need to be stewards of the deer resource and not just consumers of it.  And landowners, large and small, are awakening to the reality that what they do with their land can have a profound impact on wildlife populations, including deer.  Although willing to help, many hunters and landowners lack the knowledge, or skills, or even the encouragement to get involved in deer restoration and management efforts.  What is needed is some way for all of MDIFW’s outdoor partners to network to exchange ideas, increase management skills, and monitor progress in restoring Maine deer.
 
Sportsmen, SAM, the Maine Professional Guides Association, fish and game clubs are stepping up to fulfill that need by creating the MAINE DEER MANAGEMENT NETWORK.  We will provide links to our outdoor partners, so that users can readily access information available on their websites.  As funding becomes available, we will host meetings, conferences, and training seminars dealing with habitat management, trapping and predator hunting, and a variety of other topics related to deer restoration and management.  We will produce DVDs and other educational materials.  And we will provide a place where hunters and landowners can share tips, tactics and ideas that may help others succeed at protecting and managing deer.

We will also support the Maine Deer Management Network at the Legislature and in other political venues.  We will provide outreach by attending meetings at Fish and Game clubs, Wildlife Conservation associations, Landowner associations and others, when possible, to provide input to their deer management efforts.  We will provide information in the print media by providing feature articles on deer management and outdoor recreation topics for the daily newspapers, and sporting magazines in Maine.  Finally, we will coordinate closely with MDIFW to assure mutual progress in restoring and then maintaining healthy deer populations again.

As presently envisioned, the Maine Deer Management Network will focus on three major topics:  Habitat Management, Predation Management, and Hunting.  Successful restoration of Maine’s deer herd depends on how well we manage deer productivity and losses.

Habitat management involves both summer and winter range.  The amount and quality of wintering habitat greatly affects deer survival.  Both malnutrition and predation losses are minimized in high quality wintering habitat.  Maine has lost a great deal of its deer wintering areas over the past 40 years, particularly in the northern half of the state.  MDIFW has made deer yard protection and enhancement a priority.  We agree, and we want to help the Dept. succeed by helping them network with large and small landowners who own deer wintering areas.

The quality of summer range affects deer nutrition, productivity, and pre-winter condition.  Many individual landowners are interested in improving their acreage for deer.  Too often, they lack the information needed to get started.  There are several landowner organizations and land trusts already involved in providing information to landowners.  We hope to partner with groups like the Small Woodlot Owners of Maine (SWOAM), the Maine Farm Bureau, the Maine Tree Farmers Association, the Quality Deer Management Association, the Downeast Lakes Land Trust and others to share information and to increase awareness of these organizations and what they have to offer.

Predation management is essential to restoring deer populations in the northern, western and eastern parts of Maine.  Deer inhabiting poor quality wintering habitat are highly susceptible to predation by coyotes and to a lesser degree, bobcats.  Even in good habitat, losses to predators occur in excess of malnutrition losses during severe winters.  Low deer populations can be held at low densities by abundant predator populations.  Adult deer are not the only targets of predators.  Predation on newborn deer fawns can, and in many places is excessive as coyotes, bears, bobcats, fishers, foxes, and domestic dogs all exploit this food source during June and July.  Excessive predation on neonate deer can prevent populations from increasing, even when adult deer losses are held to a minimum.

While no one is advocating elimination of mammalian predators of deer in Maine, many of us have come to realize that predator populations should be held at levels that allow depleted deer herds to rebound.  This is no small task, considering the abundance of coyotes and black bears in Maine.  MDIFW has recently revamped its animal damage control program to better manage predation effects on deer by reducing coyote densities near major deer wintering areas prior to the onset of severe wintering conditions.  This is a good approach and we are eager to support Dept. efforts to reduce predation losses near deer wintering areas.  But the Dept. cannot afford to target all wintering areas, given its current funding and personnel resources.  This is where individual hunters can really have an impact!

We believe that one path toward annually reducing coyote densities is to develop coyote hunting into the next big hunting activity in Maine.  Specifically, we’d like to transition the coyote from varmint status, to the valuable, huntable furbearer resource that it can be. As with trapping of coyotes, hunting these large, wary canids is challenging and exciting.  If just a few thousand of Maine’s 150,000 deer hunters also become coyote hunters, we may just have the right pressure to annually reduce the negative impacts of these predators on deer.  To that end, a goodly portion of the Maine Deer Management Network will be devoted to promoting coyote hunting.  We will dovetail with the Department’s, coyote management efforts.  We envision a volunteer “Adopt a Deer Yard” program targeting coyote hunting near deer wintering areas by individual hunters, or clubs.  We will link with organizations involved with coyote hunting.  We intend to be a resource that individuals can turn to for information on coyote biology, hunting tactics, available equipment, bait sources, etc.  We can be a source of input and news on coyote hunting, club activities, hunting contests and the like.  Generally we want to establish that sound predator management is an important component of successful deer management in Maine.

The third major element of the Maine Deer Management Network is the human side of the equation, both hunting and non-hunting.  No hunter lives and hunts in a vacuum.  Most of us hunt on someone else’s land, and the continuation of that privilege depends on how landowners and non-hunters perceive our activities.  As part of this network, we will find opportunities to strengthen the connection between hunters and the non-hunting public.  We will inform all Maine people about the impacts of hunting and outdoor recreation on Maine’s economy.  We intend to be a resource where hunters can find information on the latest hunting regulations, including legislative changes as they occur.  We will stress the importance of ethical hunting behavior, encourage active participation in game law compliance, and help define the importance of hunting and trapping as a means of keeping wildlife populations at compatible levels.

As a concept, the Maine Deer Management Network has been percolating for quite a while.  It is still a work in progress, but we are excited about its potential.  Over the next couple of months, will be putting this network online with the help of retired deer biologist, Gerry Lavigne.  Let us know what you think of the Maine Deer Management Network, and contact us with your ideas at any time.        
          

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For Maine: Consideration of More Restrictive Trapping Regs, Could Become Costly to Canada Lynx

Below, please find a copy of the letter I have sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for comments being received concerning the State of Maine application for an Incidental Take Permit for trapping and the Canada lynx.

January 13, 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Maine Field Office
17 Godfrey Drive, Suite 2
Orono, Maine 04473

To Whom it May Concern:

The Endangered Species Act, from the time of its inception being signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, is intended to prevent the needless extermination of species and to implement plans to protect and recover any species that is determined to be “endangered” or “threatened” according to certain criteria contained within the Act.

Maine is attempting to recover a species of Canada lynx and are presently involved in obtaining an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for its trapping industry that is workable and in the best interest of the lynx recovery as well as doing what is in the best interest of maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the people of Maine.

As part of the application process for ITP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is seeking harsher restrictions for trapping regulations, including equipment modifications and limitations. According to the application and the Environmental Assessment, the USFWS is seeking input on the following items that they believe to be required for lynx protection and recovery:

Require lynx-exclusion devices for all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets on poles and trees, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require that all trappers phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over the next 5 years and rescind existing jaw-spread restrictions once BMP trap requirements are fully implemented.
Eliminate the use of drags and require short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Limit the use of killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, to size #120 (5-inch) and smaller in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require 24-hour check of all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require pan-tension devices on all foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Limit the use of foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19 to the months of October and November only.
Prohibit trapping with land sets (including elevated sets) in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
Require periodic re-training of all trappers on how to avoid incidental lynx captures.

Maine is presently under a court-ordered Consent Decree (Animal Protection Institute v. Roland D. Martin – Civil Action No.: 06-cv-00128-JAW, Document 134) This Consent Decree, as ordered by the Court is to remain in effect until the State of Maine obtains an ITP from the U.S. Government. This Consent Decree was filed on October 4, 2007. Since that time, it is my understanding through unnecessarily difficult information to obtain, that only two Canada lynx have been “incidentally” taken, resulting in death to the species. It is also my understanding that both of these events were deemed accomplished through illegal acts and no death of lynx have occurred as the result of all legal regulations agreed to in the Consent Decree. It is for this explanation that it must be questioned as to the reasoning of further restrictions on trapping in and/or outside of critical lynx habitat areas.

Please consider also the following information:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has published on their own website, a study entitled, “Habitat Fragmentation and Interspecific Competition: Implications for Lynx Conservation”. That specific publication lists several species that are competitors in both habitat and prey for the lynx. It also clearly defines the coyote as the leading competitor of the lynx.

On page 91 of referenced document, you’ll find the following information:

“The coyote, because of its wide habitat niche, heavy predation on snowshoe hares (O’Donoghue et al. 1998), high reproductive rate (Quinn and Parker 1987), great behavioral plasticity (Murray and Boutin 1991), and high tolerance of humans (Litvaitis 1992), must be considered a potentially formidable competitor with mesocarnivores, including the lynx. Indeed, coyotes are suspected in various declines of mesocarnivores, as evidenced by documented cases of coyotes competing with or preying on sensitive and endangered species (reviewed by Litvaitis 1992 and Goodrich and Buskirk 1995).”

According to Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, coyotes present a problem in 1.) being a part of the reasons for a depleted whitetail deer herd, and 2.) a continued and growing presence prohibits efforts in recovering that species of deer.

The concern then becomes whether further restrictions on trapping, which will result in limiting a trappers ability to remove coyotes from not only deer habitat but the very habitat that the Canada lynx relies on for sustainability, while speaking little of growth.

I have been unable to find any studies that can tell us to what point do we strive to save lynx from trapping activities, that the end result is the death of more lynx via competition than is attempting to be saved? It is my concern that the USFWS consider this concept before implementing further restrictions on trapping.

If the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is so restricted through unnecessary trapping laws, resulting in the further loss of whitetail deer, the state does, through the Endangered Species Act (10j), retain the right to apply for a permit to kill coyotes to save deer. This could become costly and complicated for both the state of Maine and the U.S. Government, when perhaps more careful consideration of the rules governing the ITP could ward off such actions.

Because nature does not “balance” itself in any idealistic fashion, man works hard at managing our fields and forests for health. At would run contrary to the Endangered Species Act and its intended goals, in consideration of protecting one species, it cannot come at the loss of another.

If the intended goal is to continue to rebuild the Canada lynx in Maine, consideration of all aspects is in the obvious best interest of not only the lynx but all species and the people of Maine.

It is my wish that the USFWS will thoughtfully consider that further actions to restrict trapping, could create a larger negative feedback in your efforts to recover the lynx by allowing for the increased growth of a direct competitor.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Thomas K. Remington
Largo, Florida/Bethel, Maine

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“Recodification” of Maine Statutes in 2003 Gave That State It’s Ban on Snaring

In 2003, by mandate of the Maine Constitution, laws governing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were “recodified”. The end result was a statewide ban, with exceptions, on the use of snares for trapping, other than underwater snares for beaver and foothold snares for bear.

If you are puzzled, join the ranks of thousands of other Maine sportsmen.

Let me present a bit of personal history to help readers understand how I got here. As a hunter, I have become concerned over what I believe to be an overgrown population of coyotes in many parts of Maine. This has contributed to a sizable reduction in the whitetail deer population there. Efforts to do something about that population have seen many hurdles and are currently mired in court orders and confusion over just what the Maine laws are. Perhaps it is intended to be this way.

Trappers using snares has proven to be an effective tool to target those coyotes who like to consider wintering deer yards as their own private 5-star restaurants. Implementation of snares around deer yards took care of a respectable number of coyotes that would kill winter-weary deer.

Use of snares was stopped and subsequent lawsuits by environmental and animal rights groups, coupled with a federal listing for protection of Canada lynx, has left Maine in a situation where, even if IFW agreed coyotes were that serious a problem, there is little they are willing or able to do to stop the demise of the deer herd.

But confusion has run deep as to what the Maine laws governing trapping and in particular snaring are. Here’s a brief history.

In 1929, the Maine Legislature passed and was signed by the governor, a law that banned the use of snares…..period. Over the years there have been minor changes to what equipment and definitions constituted a snare. I believe it was in 1983 when the Maine Legislature mandated that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) begin a program to control the population of coyotes. This, to my knowledge, was the first attempt at implementing the use of snares.

Through the 80s and 90s, it seems the Maine Legislature as a whole has been mostly supportive of controlling coyotes and have instructed MDIFW to do something about coyote control, and yet there is none.

To keep my focus where it needs to be in this article, I’ll become more directed to the events of 2003. The Maine Legislature and Gov. Baldacci, signed into law LD237, “An Act to Improve the Coyote Control Program”. Initially, LD237 was a bill to ban snaring again, even after it had shown its effectiveness. Subsequently and during debate, etc., LD237 was amended and thus the title I gave above was attached to the bill.

LD237 was not an all out ban on snaring. What remained was the authority given to the commissioner of MDIFW to use “agents” to “meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer……”. I say this with all due diligence that I firmly believe the overwhelming majority of Maine sportsmen believe this is the law that is in place today as it pertains to snaring. If this were the case, then surely the Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, or any commissioner before him or after, could have easily put together a plan to implement a targeted snaring program for coyotes in areas of Maine most vulnerable to coyotes……if that were the law.

As the result of a lawsuit filed against Maine by the Animal Protection Institute, in 2007 a Consent Decree was activated by the Courts. In that Consent Decree, the use of snares was prohibited within those Wildlife Management Districts that had been deemed critical habitat for the Canada lynx; a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Because the majority of hunters and trappers (and to be honest, I think the ignorance ran deeply into MDIFW and probably the Maine Legislature) were still thinking that Maine was operating under the statute of LD237, people began asking why MDIFW didn’t implement snaring programs in areas outside critical lynx habitat. Downeast regions come to mind.

The Consent Decree was to remain in effect until such time as Maine was granted an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), for the “incidental” taking of lynx during trapping season. Once again, sportsmen waited eagerly for Maine to acquire such a permit, believing that with this ITP, the commissioner has authority under LD237 to begin a snaring program. In the meantime, the deer herd is suffering.

I was one of many in the ranks of those led astray, or poorly informed, who wrote extensively on LD237 and the commissioner’s authority granted in that bill, fully believing through many hours of research that LD237 was the snaring law we were abiding by. Nobody has attempted to clear this up that I am aware of.

So, what law is the MDIFW, trappers and the people of Maine being governed by as it pertains to the use of snares? It took me many hours of research and a lot of dead ends and frustration, before I contacted the Maine Law Library seeking information, hoping it would answer some of my many questions.

What really piqued my level of frustration came when I was reading the Application for an Incidental Take Permit. Included at the end of this application was a copy of the trapping laws and rules that govern trapping in Maine. This is where I came upon Maine Statute 12252. Reading that statute, it says that it is unlawful to “set or tend a snare…….”. I told myself that there was something seriously wrong here. This isn’t even close to LD237, the law I and many others believed to be the law governing snaring.

A very important note that needs to be made here: This is the only statute provided in the ITP application that refers to the use of snares for capturing and killing coyotes. More in a minute.

Once the fine people at the Maine Law Library helped me and sent me some 800 pages of files and documents, I have learned that LD1600, “An Act To Recodify the Laws Governing Inland Fisheries and Wildlife” is the bill that governs trapping statewide.

Before I proceed, I want you to embed into your memory that LD237 was signed into law by Governor John Baldacci on April 25, 2003.

On June 3, 2003, Governor John Baldacci signed into law LD1600. LD1600 was introduced by Senator Bruce Bryant. There were no sponsors or cosponsors. Mr. Bryant was Chairman on the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at that time I was told by the Law Library. By law, the Joint Committee was to read LD1600 and debate all 600 pages or so and they ultimately made a unanimous recommendation to the Maine Legislature, “Ought to Pass”. According to House and Senate records there was no debate on LD1600. It passed the Legislature on May 27, 2003 and was signed into law by the governor as described above.

The Maine Constitution, Article X, Sec. 6, mandates the “recodification” of statutes every ten years beginning in 1973.

Section 6. Constitution to be arranged by Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court; Constitution to be enrolled and printed with laws; supreme law of the State. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court shall arrange the Constitution, as amended, under appropriate titles and in proper articles, parts and sections, omitting all sections, clauses and words not in force and making no other changes in the provisions or language thereof, and shall submit the same to the Legislature; and such arrangement of the Constitution shall be made and submitted to the regular session of the Legislature in 1973 and every 10 years thereafter unless sooner authorized by the Legislature; and the draft and arrangement, when approved by the Legislature, shall be enrolled on parchment and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State; and printed copies thereof shall be prefixed to the books containing the Revised Statutes of the State. And the Constitution, with the amendments made thereto, in accordance with the provisions thereof, shall be the supreme law of the State. (emphasis added)

My first knowledge about codification as it pertains to laws taught me that codification was more of a housekeeping measure. Its intent was to clear up language, redundancies, typos, grammar, etc., that sometimes made it difficult to interpret and administer the laws, but never to alter the law. Once statutes have been “codified”, which according to the Maine Constitution appears to have been in 1973, each ten-year term becomes “recodification”.

Wikipedia defines “recodification” this way:

Recodification refers to a process where existing codified statutes are reformatted and rewritten into a new codified structure. This is often necessary as, over time, the legislative process of amending statutes and the legal process of construing statutes by nature over time results in a code that contains archaic terms, superseded text, and redundant or conflicting statutes. Due to the size of a typical government code, the legislative process of recodification of a code can often take a decade or longer.

I think it becomes clear and should be a logical conclusion that the purpose of recodification isn’t to rewrite existing laws; only to clear up any confusions, etc. that make it difficult to understand the law.

And so, with the passage of LD1600 by the Maine Legislature, this is where the MDIFW came up with the statute that they provided in the application for an ITP to the USFWS that included a statewide ban on the use of snares.

As you might expect, this story doesn’t end here. In the “recodified” MDIFW trapping laws, i.e. Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A reads: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and section 12259;” (emboldening added). If we examine the “recodified” MDIFW statutes under section 10105, subsection 1, we see that it tells us that the commissioner has the authority to issue permits to anyone in order to assist in the “taking and destruction of any wildlife”.

However, there is no mention in Statute 12252, of any reference to section 10105, subsection 3, “Coyote Control Program”, which I am under the impression is an attempt to recodify LD237. There exists no other place in the MDIFW statutes any law that resembles LD237 except for what is found in Statute 10105, subsection 3.

But, I’m left here with some of what I am considering serious and troubling problems with this entire procedure and the end results. First, if the purpose of recodification is to clear up confusing laws, errors, etc., one would think that during this process that Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A. would have been changed to read: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and subsection 3 and section 12259;” (I emboldened what should have been added during recodification.)

As far as the laws that govern snaring, doesn’t it make sense that if a law is created that bans snaring and there were exceptions to that ban that all exceptions would be listed? Furthermore, shouldn’t it be expected that this should have been corrected during the recodification process? So was this a mistake by those undertaking the ginormous task of recodification, or something more sinister?

Second, before you answer that last question about the possibilities of something being more sinister, let me get back to something I mentioned before about the only snare-relevant statute included on the application for an ITP was 12252. Why didn’t the application also include statute 10105? The ITP application was drafted, according to dates on the draft, August 13, 2008. Gosh, the recodification and passage of LD1600 took place on June 2003.

The purpose, I am to presume, of MDIFW including the trapping statutes for Maine, is to show the USFWS what Maine’s current laws are that pertain to trapping, including snares so that USFWS officials can better determine how current laws will effect protection of the Canada lynx. The application included 12252, which “exceptions” 10105 subsection one but no mention of subsection three.

Was the omission of Statute 10105, the recodified law about coyote control and snaring an error, or something more sinister? You have permission to attempt to answer that now, however, you might want to read further.

Third, I have one more issue to discuss and bring to light. Above I provided information that I had as it pertains to codification and recodification. I think I made my case that recodification is not a tool to be used to rewrite existing laws, only to clear up discrepancies.

If that be the case, then certainly there is room for debate as to whether the recodification of the laws governing snaring were clearing up discrepancies or rewriting laws.

I am of the opinion that Maine Statute 12252 is a clear attempt at re institution of a statewide ban on snaring as was done in 1929. Maine Statutes in 1929, Chapter 331, Section 44 reads: “No person shall set a snare…..for any fur-bearing animal…”. Statute 12252 reads that it is unlawful to: “Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird”. Other than changing up some non existent and outdated terms and language, the recodification appears cut and dry.

I’m not sure the same can be said about Maine Statute 10105, Section 3, paragraphs A, B, and C. This has to be either an attempt to recodify LD237 or LD237 was stricken from Maine Statutes and this law was inserted in its place. This article is already quite lengthy but I believe it’s imperative to post the following information in order that readers can easily review and decide for themselves.

First, is LD237 passed into law on April 25, 2003:

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B, as amended by PL 1999, c. 636, §1, is repealed.

Sec. 2. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B-1 is enacted to read:

B-1. An agent may use snares to control coyotes during winter months under the following conditions.

(1) Agents may use snares only for animal damage control purposes to help meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer, threatened or endangered species or other wildlife species or to benefit agricultural interests as described in paragraph C.
(2) Agents must be trained and certified by the department in the use of snares.
(3) Agents must be deployed by a department wildlife biologist before setting snares.
(4) Agents shall post access points to areas in which snaring activity is taking place, including, but not limited to, roads and trails for motorized vehicles, cross-country skiers or hikers or other obvious travel ways that may be used by people.
(5) An agent shall plainly label snares with the full name and address of that agent.
(6) An agent shall keep an accurate record of the number and location of snares set by that agent and must be able to account for those snares at all times.
(7) An agent shall check that agent’s snares that are equipped with relaxing locks on a daily basis.
(8) Department employees may accompany agents at any time an agent is checking snares.
(9) Agents shall report monthly to the department on forms provided by the department the coyotes and nontarget species taken by snaring during the reporting period.
(10) The commissioner shall revoke the snaring certificate of an agent who violates any provision of this paragraph.

The commissioner shall adopt policies and procedures on the use of snares as necessary to minimize the potential for taking nontarget species and to adequately protect threatened and endangered species.

And the following is Maine Statute 10105, Section 3:

3. Coyote control program. Pursuant to section 10053, subsection 8, the commissioner shall maintain a coyote control program as follows.

A. The commissioner may employ qualified persons to serve as agents of the department for purposes of coyote control. These agents must be trained by the department in animal damage control techniques and must be utilized by the department to perform coyote control duties in areas where predation by coyotes is posing a threat to deer or other wildlife. Each agent shall execute a cooperative agreement with the department specifying the conditions and limitations of the agent’s responsibilities as an agent, including any terms for reimbursement of expenses or payment of wages.

B. Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. All snaring must be carried out under the direction of department officials and with the knowledge of the local game warden. All areas of snaring activity must be adequately posted.

C. Agents may be utilized for the benefit of agricultural interests as long as the department is reimbursed annually for the cost of those efforts by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources from funds specifically appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources for that purpose.

It certainly would appear to me that certain liberties were taken in “recodifying” LD237, if that is what this is supposed to be. While at first glace it may appear that this recodified statute is the same or at least similar to LD237, there is at least one specific qualifier in this statute that does not appear in LD237 and is far more than a clarification of text or outdated language, etc.

The first sentence in subsection “B” above states: “Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. (emphasis added).

In my opinion, this far exceeds what should be considered “recodification” of existing laws. Nowhere in LD237 did it state that snaring can only take place in “unorganized townships” nor was it limited to the winter months.

Granted LD237 gave the authority to the commissioner to formulate a plan which may spell out precisely that snaring will be in unorganized townships and in winter only. However, that was not necessarily the desire of LD237 nor was it even implied, nor is it the point of this article. If the Maine Legislature had intended to ensure that snaring was only going to take place in unorganized townships during the winter, then the bill would have stated such. Whoever rewrote this took the liberty to add in language that didn’t exist in LD237.

The question should become, who authorized or took in upon themselves to rewrite the laws of the state of Maine? Unless the laws in Maine that govern the recodification process are so lenient as to provide for such action, one must be left questioning whether this in an illegal action that needs some serious attention.

It should matter not whether one thinks snaring should or shouldn’t be used. It matters not whether snaring, if used, were to be relegated to unorganized townships. It matters not whether snaring should take place in winter or summer. What should matter is whether or not the recodification process in Maine results in the rewriting of laws enacted by the people of Maine? This cannot be. There has to be some kind of better oversight here, otherwise what confidence do any of us have that every 10 years our laws will get changed and we know nothing about it.

Did the process fail the people or was the failure a result of the process, which includes certain checks and balances or lack thereof? The Maine Supreme Court, via the constitution, is responsible for this undertaking. Were there all the necessary checks and balances done here to ensure no rewriting would take place.

The recoded laws, done by whom I am not sure, then went to the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Did they read the entire revised statutes or give it a cursory nod that it must be alright? Was there a failure to perform according to the wishes of the people of Maine?

And then it went on to the Legislature in which there was no debate recorded. This should tell us nothing was read and obviously no questions asked. It all appears like a very easy and convenient way to make changes and rewrite existing laws for which most people will never be informed about until one day it might effect them personally.

While recodification may be a great idea and may help in the process of reading, understanding and applying laws, if laws are being rewritten, whether intentional or not, whether allowed by law or not, it can’t be. Something must change. This is a faulty process to say the least.

In my mind, I am left with three very important and unanswered questions:

1. Was it someone’s intent through recodification of the MDIFW statutes to actually alter the existing laws that govern snaring or was it ignorance, lack of proper skills and poor workmanship?

2. Was the omission of Maine Statute 10105 on the application for an Incidental Take Permit from USFWS an error, oversight or was it intentionally left off in order to deliberately deceive anyone reading the application?

3. And during the recodification process was it also intended to NOT make reference to Maine Statute 10105, subsection 3 when the recodification of Maine Statute 12252 was carried out?

Answers to these questions will never come about as there is no way to prove a person’s intent. I feel it is my duty and responsibility to share what I have learned and to ask questions that many of us will also be asking.

If, however, there is intent here somewhere to deliberately mislead the people of Maine through, 1). Using recodification as a tool to rewrite Maine’s laws, and/or 2). intentionally deceive the USFWS in order to achieve an ITP, then I shall have nothing to do with that. Other than exposing what I know, there is no way that I will become partner to any unethical, illegal or deceitful acts in order to obtain an objective that I feel is important.

I hope my efforts have helped some to come to better understand where we are as it pertains to snaring and trapping and its associations with Canada lynx.

Tom Remington

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Maine’s “Game Plan for Deer” Getting Nowhere Fast

Growing up, my father was forever angering me with his platitudes in hopes of proving his point or putting you into a context of uselessness. Growing up poor we spent many hours of many days doing physical work around home, such as firewood, weeding gardens, mowing lawns, etc. I recall sometimes being told to do things I didn’t think possible and my first and repeated reply was, “I can’t”. His scripted retort was always, “Can’t never did anything!”

Is it me and my expectations of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are too high or has the passage and implementation of the Maine Game Plan for Deer, become a useless instrument supported by “I can’t”?

Some say I’m not fair in my criticism of MDIFW but frankly what criticism is ever considered fair when you are the target of the criticism? Criticism should always be followed by suggested remedies, which I usually try to do.

Maine sportsmen held out hope going into the last election of governor, thinking that an administration change at both the Blaine House and regime change at MDIFW, that resources and attention would shift back toward actual game management, particularly deer, addressing a decades-long downward spiral in the state’s deer population.

When all the changes took place, personnel went to work to draft an official plan to rebuild the deer herd. George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and now writer and outdoor/environmental pundit, attended a long meeting with members of the MDIFW to update the progress of the Game Plan for Deer. George files an initial report on the meeting.

I did not attend the meeting so I can only comment on Smith’s perspective of what he took away from the event. In essence, Smith relates that there was little optimism for the future and little had been accomplished and little projected to take place. Perhaps he puts it best when he wrote:

expectations are now high and his [MDIFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock] ability to deliver is low

In reference to the content of the meeting, Smith says: “A lot of time was consumed with a discussion of deer feeding problems, predator controls, and deer/vehicle collisions.”

I’m not sure that I agree, as Smith writes that the number one issue facing a depleted deer herd is habitat, it appears nothing is even being done to address that problem.

But very little time was devoted to habitat protection and enhancement – the key problem and the major reason for the state’s diminished deer population according to the agency’s wildlife staff. Surprisingly little is actually being done on this.

I guess the catch phrase here might as well be, “I can’t!” After reading this assessment, once again my blood pressure spiked and I began breaking pencils and tossing them across my office. One stuck into the screen to the side door. What I sputtered about for the next 20 minutes sort of came out something like this:

It’s all about habitat! I’m so sick and tired about hearing how everything must be blamed on habitat. Well, you know, habitat is important but nobody has ever answered my question about why if there just isn’t any deer wintering areas left there are many acres of deer wintering areas where there are no deer. I could better understand this excuse if the deer herd was near the state’s carrying capacity, but it’s not. And yet, according to George Smith nothing is planned to deal with that so………

We can’t do anything about the weather and MDIFW is not going to do anything about habitat, so………

Then logic would force a sane individual to ask, what CAN we do? Let’s take what we CAN do and prioritize it into what has the biggest negative impact on down to the least and begin there.

So once MDIFW gets done forming more task forces, putting up more signs of deer crossings, paying to fly around and count deer, reduce Any-Deer Permits, shorten the deer season, close it in some areas, raise the license fees, pray for more global warming, take the dog for a walk, go out to lunch, form another task force, walk the dog again, investigate how many deer are being killed by farmers, then perhaps they could get down to predator control or does that have any negative effect at all? Maybe they see coyotes and other predators as positive effects on the deer. I mean take the wolf. They are like the wonder drug, geritol, spandex and lycra, WD-40. I think the presence of wolves cures cancer. Can coyotes be that much different?

And I still haven’t calmed down yet!

I can’t! MDIFW doesn’t have the resources. I can’t! The demands are too high. I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!

CAN’T NEVER DID ANYTHING!

Where’s the effort here? Who’s on board with this effort to rebuild Maine’s deer herd? Has the state really made a commitment to rebuild the deer herd? Does Maine honestly see and understand the economic as well as cultural impact the loss of a deer herd and ultimately a hunting season would have on the state?

I have to seriously question that commitment.

Recently I received an email from a gentleman who is head of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Utah. I shared that email with a few select recipients on my email list, including the MDIFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock.

The email was a call to arms for Utah and other sportsmen from the Western regions of the United States, to come together in a united effort to rebuild a depleted mule deer herd. The email begins by clarifying what efforts had been done to date to fix the problem.

While more than 750,000 acres of habitat has been restored, cougar populations have been reduced, and $650,000 a year in coyote control is spent, $50 Million has been invested to fence highways with underpass crossings, still not enough has been done. It is the feeling that 80% of Utah’s deer herds are still in decline, and only 20% or so are doing well.

How many acres of this much needed habitat restoration has been done in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. What concerted efforts are underway in Maine to reduce predators, including black bears, bobcats and coyotes, even if only temporarily until the herd rebuilds? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How much money has been put toward coyote control in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How much has been invested in other projects around the state to protect and build the deer herd? Oh, that’s right. I can’t.

WE already know Senator Hatch has helped get tens of millions in habitat restoration money, personally toured Habitat restoration areas, won the wolf war for sportsmen etc.

In Maine, it appears the Governor has promised to do everything he can do, but when was the last time Sen. Snowe, Sen. Collins, Rep. Michaud, Rep. Pingree attended one of any meetings on the issue of rebuilding Maine’s deer herd? Or toured any deer yard? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How about the last time one of these elected officials sent a key staff member to assist? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. When was the last United States senator or representative who “helped gets tens of millions” to help do anything with wildlife management in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t.

As was written about in this email, there is an election coming up again next November. Maine sportsmen should be looking at every candidate and demanding that they have an agenda to actually do everything they can to save Maine’s deer herd or they won’t get your vote.

The overall effort here is just coming across as pathetic. Certainly there are pockets of positive accomplishes and isolated individuals doing what they can, but Maine’s overall effort is poor. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, once the backbone of lobbying for the sportsmen is in disarray with a sinking membership and disunity among those members still hanging on. Perhaps David Trahan can right the ship. It is imperative for Maine’s future for sportsmen. The governor makes promises to “do what he can” but is he? Isn’t it time to rattle the cages of the 4 Congressional delegates and tell them it’s time for them to get involved. If Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah can “find” millions of dollars to help with restoring habitat and mule deer there, isn’t it reasonable to expect the same might be available somewhere for Maine?

Can’t never did anything. As long as the current administration in Augusta insists that there’s nothing they can do or they are doing all they can, what hope is there? To exclaim that “expectations are now high and his ability to deliver is low” is a loser attitude. There is no room for this when a state is faced with such a serious problem. But, then again, maybe the real problem is that those in high places don’t really view a lost Maine deer herd as a serious problem or even a small problem.

The Maine Game Plan for Deer is a worthless document until a strong and united effort is undertaken. It has to be more than task force creations, meetings, talk and rhetoric, while fractured small groups or individuals practice futility. It appears Maine has to learn how to build a coalition that brings everybody onto the same page. Until that happens the only rebuilding of any deer herds will be happenstance.

Maybe David Trahan, if he were to successfully pull all this together in a united and powerful force to reckon with, this would, at the same time, resolve the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s membership problems. Just a thought! Let me know when you are ready to fight.

Tom Remington

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