September 18, 2019

Who’s Counting Deer in Maine Anyway?


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

While some media outlets across the state of Maine are reporting on Gov. LePage signing a handful of bills to fund portions of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), from the perspective of someone who has a slightly higher than average grasp of the deer herd situation in Maine, I have to wonder who’s counting deer and making deer density estimates. Somewhat in fairness to those who might be creating the numbers, what makes its way into press pieces may be more of a product of poor reporting, the result of accepting numbers without substantiating the claims.

The Portland Press Herald this morning reports on the governor’s efforts to do something about saving the deer herd. In laying out claims of deer densities across the state, the article states that, “it hovers around 40 to 50 [per square mile] in southern and some coastal areas and islands”, as they say was reported to them by David Trahan, who is Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. It should be made clear here that all of “Southern Maine” is not populated with deer densities running 40 – 50 per square miles. I think this is a matter of poor choice of words to describe that in some pockets of Southern Maine and some coastal areas and some islands, you will find those densities. It is not the norm.

But the blaring error, at least from my perspective and I don’t think I’m alone, is the claim that Maine’s deer population is around 250,000. In Maine’s hay day years of record deer populations of around 300,000 plus, historically the harvest struggled to reach 10% or 30,000 deer. If Maine’s present deer population was 250,000 one might expect the harvest numbers to be approaching 25,000. The deer harvest over the last 3 hunting seasons has averaged just under 19,000 animals. That statistic alone would draw one to conclude that the population might be closer to 200,000 than 250,000, a near 25% difference.


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

In the Press Herald report was the following: “a new law that expands the mission of a state deer-management fund to include preserving deer yards, in addition to its traditional focus on controlling coyotes.” (Emphasis added)

The “new law” in reference here will do little to “preserve deer yards”. At 19,000 deer tagged, times 2 dollars is $38,000. While all help should be welcomed, let’s not paint a picture of something that isn’t going to happen on $38,000 a year. There is a bond issue that awaits the Governor’s signature (most doubt he will sign it) that would appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Land for Maine’s Future. Some of that money is to be used in the “protection/preservation of deer yards”. Even George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, says this amount of money will do little in buying up and protecting deer yards. Perhaps if a plan could be devised first, it might be helpful.

Laughable was the phrase, “traditional focus on controlling coyotes”. Traditional? Before something can become a tradition, it first has to have been tried…..at least once if I may be so generous. Maine has no tradition of focusing on controlling coyotes. Quiet the contrary. Maine’s tradition has been more to ignore problems and protect the predator, while members of the MDIFW, along with animal rights groups and environmentalists lay false claims that coyotes make for a healthy ecosystem.

I would also like to point out another thing that caught my eye in media accounts of Gov. LePage’s bill signing. I found it in the Press Herald article as well as other press releases.

Deer hunting and viewing in Maine generate at least $200 million per year in spending on guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and related businesses, Burns said.

Burns refers to Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, who is the sponsor of one of the pieces of legislation that Gov. LePage signed. What has happened here, as has happened all across the nation, is that environmentalists have hijacked the claims of revenue generated from hunting and related businesses to include “viewing”. It’s a farce and a shame really. There are no statistics or studies to prove that so-called wildlife viewing generates any substantial amount of revenue to the state. Some have attempted to steal the reality by invoking information provided by polls done that show how many people like to “watch wildlife”. What has never been differentiated in these polls is how many “wildlife watchers” are hunters and how many pure “wildlife watchers” there really are.

A prime example of this hijacking is found in Yellowstone Park. Officials there polled visitors and asked them if they saw wolves or would like to see wolves. They took those responses and concluded that that number of people came to Yellowstone Park for the sole purpose of viewing wolves. They attempt to use these numbers to falsely pin a monetary value to wolf watching. It’s almost criminal.

At the rate the environmentalists are laying claim to things they don’t own, or had anything to do with, they will soon be claiming they are responsible for every nickel that comes into the state and as a result will demand control over it. Oh, wait! They already are!

Tom Remington

Share