Significant changes to the state's moose lottery and efforts to implement key components of Maine's Game Plan for Deer are accomplishments being heralded by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock as the legislative session ends.
The department aggressively examined the Moose Permit Lottery due to the concerns and complaints heard over the past years. Commissioner Woodcock made it one of his first priorities in the new administration.
According to Commissioner Woodcock, the moose lottery is being changed through legislation to reflect specific suggestions entrants have offered. He said he expects the new system will level the playing field.
While the new law goes into effect the end of September 2011, the changes will take hold with the 2012 lottery as this year's lottery already has occurred. The changes include:
Another priority of the new Commissioner was to continue research into deer population concerns in northern, eastern and western Maine.
According to the Commissioner, state Deer Biologist Lee Kantar is doing an exceptional job conducting deer census research in the field and through aerial surveys. Kantar's data are being used in the implementation of "Maine's Game Plan for Deer," an initiative to address predation and other concerns affecting deer herds.
Woodcock said he credits Wildlife Biologist Sandy Ritchie and Kantar, under the direction of Wildlife Division Director Mark Stadler and Director of Resource Management John Boland, for working with interested stakeholder groups to develop the department's deer strategy.
Based on Kantar's aerial surveys and other data, Commissioner Woodcock said he decided to reduce by 46 percent the number of Any Deer (antlerless) Permits for this year's upcoming deer season because deer numbers are below publicly derived population objectives.
Also, through legislation, penalties were established for persons who hunt antlerless deer in wildlife management districts where no permits were issued. Except as otherwise provided in law, persons cannot kill an antlerless deer in a wildlife management district that does not have any-deer permits issued. A person can possess an antlerless deer in one of those "bucks only" districts that was lawfully registered in a district where antlerless deer permits were issued. Violators face a Class D misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $1,000 and three days in jail.
Additional legislation establishes a key component of the "Game Plan" – the establishment of a Deer Predation Advisory Group, which will hold its first meeting on July 14. The group will evaluate critical habitats for white-tailed deer and areas of concern for deer predation.
The intent is for the group to develop a plan to control predation on deer.
By invitation of Commissioner Woodcock, the following people will serve on the group: Gerry Lavigne, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine; Don Dudley, a hunter, trapper and Maine Registered Guide; Jerry McLaughlin, president of Aroostook County Conservation Association; Dan Wagner, president of Maine Trappers Association; Skip Trask, Maine Professional Guides Association; and, Sgt. David Craven, Maine Warden Service. Shawn Haskell, supervisor of MDIF&W Wildlife Resource Assessment Section, will chair the group. John Pratte, MDIF&W Management Section Supervisor, John DePue, MDIF&W Furbearer Biologist, and Kantar will provide technical assistance to the group.
A task force also has been formed "To Examine the Decline in the Number of Non-Resident Hunters in Maine." The membership of the task force will include Professional Maine Guides, Maine Outfitters, DIF&W, members of the Maine Tourism Commission, Department of Economic and Community Development, resident and non-resident hunters.
The group will examine the decline in non-resident hunters over a five-year period, compare Maine data to national trends, examine the reasons for the decline and produce a list of recommendations of how to increase the number of nonresident hunters to the Legislature by December 1, 2011. The task force will be chaired by the I&E Division of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and its first meeting will be in August.
Commissioner Woodcock stated this week, "The steps we have taken the first few months of the new administration are very exciting to me. They will not necessarily solve all our issues, but there is much more attention being devoted now to these problem areas which are so important to the people of Maine and to our economic future."