AUGUSTA, Maine -- The 2001 deer harvest was down by 25% from 2000 due to several factors, including a population decline from the severe 2001 winter.
Overall, 27,769 deer were registered during 2001. Statewide, deer harvest decreased by 25% (9,116 deer) in 2001, compared to the previous year (36,885). IFW biologists estimate that Maine's wintering population of deer declined by 18% from 292,000 in the beginning of winter 2001, to 241,000 in the winter of 2002.
Primary reasons for the decline in statewide deer harvest included the reduced number of bucks, and reduced allocations of antlerless deer permits following the severe 2001 winter, as well as declining hunter participation and poor hunting weather during the firearms season.
Maine's wintering population of deer this past year was 241,500 deer, or 8 deer per square mile during 2001. Since December 2000, the statewide herd has declined by roughly 50,000 deer (18%) due to the effects of the severe 2001 winter. Last year's winter losses of deer were greatest in the spruce-fir zone of Maine (eastern, western, and northern WMDs), while deer losses in central and southern Maine WMDs were less pronounced.
"Last year's winter was one of the harshest in the past 30 years, but early spring was good for fawn survival, and last year's lower deer kill coupled with the easy winter this year means that we do have a jump in restoring population levels in some areas, but we will need to increase permit numbers in other areas to halt or slow population growth," said IFW Wildlife Biologist Gerry Lavigne.
Winter still has a grip on much of Maine, with IFW biologists measuring a foot of snow in some of the state's northern deer wintering areas. So far, however, this winter is much less severe in its scope, and in parts of the state, the deer population is continuing to increase, while in others it is stable. IFW Biologists will continue to monitor deer wintering areas through the end of April.
The department plans to make its any-deer permit recommendations later in April. Deer Management Strategies for 2002 will focus upon herd recovery in the spruce-fir zone that occupies the eastern, western and northern part of the state, and population maintenance and control in central and southern districts.
"In the northern, eastern and western districts we will continue to be conservative in issuing any-deer permits in order for the deer population to increase back to its 1999 level," said Lavigne, "and in southern and central districts, we will look to increase the number of any-deer permits to control or reduce population levels. The mild winter of 2002 helps us in the north where deer survival is very good so far this winter, but the mild winter in the central and southern part of the state mandates that we act aggressively."
The department has worked with public working groups in determining population goals and objectives for white-tailed deer throughout the state. Hunting is the primary management tool for managing deer populations.
"Posted land and lack of hunter access is the greatest deterrent we face in managing the deer herd in southern Maine," said Lavigne, "the greatest tool to manage the deer population in southern Maine would be getting hunters access to posted land."
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