September 22, 2019

Out of Control “Any-Deer Permit” Allocations?

You can do most anything with numbers to make a point or to raise a lot of questions. If you add some smoke and mirrors, the sky is the limit in what you can do.

Maine deer managers are proposing to increase “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) to over 66,000 – a tripling of the number of permits issued in 2011 (26,390). Has Maine’s deer population tripled statewide or within Wildlife Management Districts in six years?

State deer managers use the issuance of ADPs in specific Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) to control deer populations. Reports are stating that deer managers say they now need to reduce deer populations in some WMDs and therefore the need to increase ADPs. However, they also report that they are going to go ahead and issue some ADPs in WMDs that are in desperate need to grow the deer population simply to “provide hunting opportunity.”

Not that many years ago, Maine told people that the deer population exceeded 300,000 and the goal was to grow it even larger. During those banner years (if they even existed) ADPs issued amounted to around the mid -70,000. Now one report from a spokesperson with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) said the state has 240,000 deer. I doubt that, but we have few options than to use that as a baseline.

What doesn’t quite add up for me is even when taking into account the issuance of ADPs according to the needs of each WMD, how can the issuing of 66,000 ADPs for a population of 240,000 deer be reasonable when 70,000 permits were issued when it was guessed the deer population to be over 300,000? Something has changed.

By issuing permits in WMDs that have in the range of 4-6 deer per square mile, simply to “provide hunting opportunity,” seems irresponsible, especially when managers claim they are trying to figure out how to grow deer in these regions.

Another question that needs to be asked, it appears that the largest increases in ADPs come in regions where the human population is higher. The MDIFW has also said that it is important to reduce the number of deer in some Southern and Central regions to reduce the spread of tick-born diseases. Is this decision based on pressure from those claiming to have scientific evidence on this issue, or does MDIFW actually have scientific evidence to show the need to reduce deer numbers? We know that MDIFW, and most all wildlife management departments nationwide, manage wildlife mostly according to the demands of the public, while putting science on the far back burner. Is that what’s going on here and how much so?

It seems odd to me that MDIFW seems to be saying that too many deer causes the population to become unhealthy and may cause a public health concern. For that reason they are eager to cut down the deer population. However, when it comes to moose management, too many moose has resulted in a severe outbreak of winter ticks, which are in turn killing the moose population, and yet MDIFW wants to continue to grow the moose population. What’s going on anyway?

At a time when Maine is still in need of growing and stabilizing a deer herd, even preparing for the next round of “severe winters,” it may be necessary in a few WMDs to reduce deer numbers (a feat difficult to achieve because there is limited land access to hunt), but seems utterly irresponsible to issue any ADPs in WMDs that have no deer to begin with.

One has to wonder if this effort to appease hunters isn’t more about finding ways to cover up the decade long dismal deer harvest.

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