August 20, 2019

Lee Kantar: “Talk of a Declining Deer Herd is Old News”

I have used as an analogy many times over the years a story of my nephew, when at the age of perhaps 4 years, got me to laughing. I was visiting my brother one day and when I arrived he was struggling to get his son to eat his lunch. My brother and I retired to the living but only after he had told his son that he was to stay in the kitchen and eat his lunch and only then could he be free to play.

After about 5 minutes, my nephew walked into the living room and said to his dad, “Dad, I ate all my lunch….but don’t go look!”

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) deer biologist, Lee Kantar, told Mark Latti in an interview published in the Portland Press Herald yesterday, that concerning the state’s whitetail deer population, “(It’s) 150,000-200,000, but things are definitely towards the higher end (and) talk of a ‘declining’ deer herd is old news. We are trending up.”

BUT DON’T GO LOOK!!!

There are two issues worth discussing here. First, it is easy to say that the number of deer in Maine is “trending up” when there really is no other direction to go in. And from that perspective one could not be talking of a continuing decline in the population. However, calling it old news is pushing it just a bit. Sportsmen still want answers and action.

Secondly, Latti’s column is about game population estimates. He writes about black bears, turkey, woodcock, moose and grouse. According to what is written in the article, Maine has 31,000 black bears, 60,000 turkeys and 76,000 moose. The deer population is somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 but Kantar believes the actual number to be more towards the 200,000.

Why isn’t there a specific number for the deer? Maine announced it was going to spend $100,000 to aerial survey the whitetail deer population and while they were at it would do some moose counting as well. So, where’s the results of the deer count?

It seems it didn’t take very long to whip out a number for moose, being that everyone was making comments about how many there were and perhaps so many that the winter tick infestation is very high. Has all the complaining and grumbling about the deer herd scared the biologists away from publishing a more exact count of deer or are they trying to hide from sportsmen something?

They flew with helicopters to count moose and have determined there are 76,000 of them. They flew with helicopters to count deer and have determined that there are somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 deer and maybe it’s closer to 200,000. Or maybe there’s 50,000 or 350,000? Why don’t we know?

If the deer population in Maine is trending upwards, which I believe it is in places, it comes as the result of nothing MDIFW has done. The article linked to attributes the increases to, “After severe winters in 2008 and ’09, Maine’s deer herd was blessed with a relatively short winter in 2010, and then two mild winters in 2011 and ’12.” Lee Kantar takes credit for helping that increase by reducing the number of “Any-Deer” permits for a couple of years. This probably did help grow the population in zones where the herd isn’t in serious danger. In those zones where deer are in the most threat, there are no “Any-Deer” permits issued.

I would think that if MDIFW can state that there are 76,000 moose, then I think they can do a better job of informing sportsmen of what the real deer population is rather than a +/- 25% guess.

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