January 27, 2023

With No Signs of Deer Population Recovery, Maine Increases “Any-Deer” Permits 29%

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Each spring, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) claims to crunch their data and do very serious contemplating to come up with how many “Any-Deer” Permits to issue for each of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts (WMD). Allotment of “Any-Deer” Permits is the only tool used by MDIFW to regulate the growth, up or down, of the whitetail deer herd. In theory, if the department wants to lower a deer population in a given WMD, it issues more permits. In the reverse, if the state needs to grow a population, provided that population is not beyond sustainability, the number of permits issued will be reduced.

With the State of Maine still trying to figure out what it is going to do to rebuild the deer herd in geographically two-thirds of the state, the MDIFW has decided it will increase the number of “Any-Deer” Permits by 29%. Granted there still remains no permits issued in those areas deemed to be the most severely affected by predator annihilation of deer (MDIFW will not admit this), but my jaw is left agape to learn that MDIFW has decided to increase the number of permits in the rest of the state, when just 2 years ago MIDFW admitted their shock to discover, through aerial counting, most of Maine’s WMDs contained fewer deer than guesstimated. Combine that with the fact that deer harvest over the past three seasons has remained flat and at near record level lows and any sane person wants to ask, “What in the hell are they doing?”

Is this action about finding ways to increase revenue to MDIFW at the risk of further depleting the deer herd in the rest of the state, or is this about building the herd to carrying capacity and managing for a healthy herd?

Poor deer management, somewhat the result of MDIFW using funds for nongame programs that should have been going to keep a better watch on the deer herd, has resulted in a state that has become most undesirable to out-of-state hunters, costing MIDFW and the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, clamoring to find funding to pay MDIFW salaries and benefits, is the fish and game department willing to further deplete the deer population in order to meet budgetary demands? It appears that way.

The only explanation, so far, given as to the reason for the increase in permits, is found on the official rule changed issued by the MDIFW and signed by Commissioner Woodcock.

This statement claims that the reason for increasing the permits would be to “enable populations in central Maine to track more quickly towards population goals and objectives.” From this then we are to conclude that MDIFW’s objective is to reduce deer populations in central Maine. How can this be? Only two years ago, these deer numbers were below objective. Does MDIFW want the deer herd reduced to levels where another winter or two of extreme cold and heavy snow pack would wipe them out again? Are they really relying on a return of global warming to do the job for them?

I am quite certain that MDIFW will claim, as they did after waiting nearly 5 months for the deer harvest data, that the decrease in harvest of deer was the result of a reduction in “Any-Deer” Permits. While I contend that may have contributed to that reduction it certainly was not the sole reason.

This move by MDIFW, coming smack dab in the middle of a troubling time, when the Maine people are wondering when, if ever, they will see a return to a healthy deer population, deserves a better, more detailed and precise explanation for their decision to do this. But don’t hold your breath. They are notorious for sticking their noses high in the air and refusing to provide the information, that if accurate and scientifically based, would help put doubts to rest, and forcing sportsmen to continue distrusting the MDIFW.

One has to wonder if deer management has become an unwanted task at MDIFW and if they can figure a way to finish destroying the deer herd, their money and efforts can be more focused on counting bats, identifying butterflies, growing their love affair with predators and saving piping plovers.