The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is funded primarily through revenue that it produces. That includes the sale of licenses, permits, recreational vehicle registrations and federal funds that are gathered through excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.
Yet a very important segment of the department's revenue comes from the sale of Loon License Plates and the chickadee check off on your tax form. Funds from these sources are used in research of a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
The amount of funding available from these sources varies. Loon plate revenues initially went down with the introduction of the new chickadee license plate in 1999, and income from the Chickadee Checkoff dropped when the check off went from the primary tax form to the supplemental tax form. Still, last year, they brought over $500,000 in revenue to the department.
Below you will find a short summary on some of the research that is funded by these two sources. We hope that with tax time arriving, you will think of Maine's wildlife resources when you complete your tax forms. And when it is time to register your vehicle again, think about what the loon license plate has done for natural resources in Maine. These two voluntary funding options represent three percent of the department's entire budget.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has listed the lynx as Threatened in the lower 48 states under the federal Endangered Species Act. Maine, Washington, and Montana are the only states, outside of Alaska, where lynx currently have viable resident populations. Reasons given for listing the lynx are complex and include range restrictions and habitat concerns. In western states, lynx are associated with old growth forests at high altitudes, which are being cut for timber, and environmental groups have advocated greater restrictions on land use to protect western lynx habitat.
In the East, lynx occur in large tracts of woodlands, including areas of young forests that supply habitat for snowshoe hares. Maine's lynx are found across the northern part of the state, with a few reports from Down East Maine. They are rarely encountered, and little is known about the status of the population. Historical records suggest lynx have persisted in low numbers in Maine throughout the past century. They apparently were more common during the 1800s, according to fur trapping records. Although lynx may have lived as far south as Pennsylvania in colonial times, Maine is currently at the southern edge of the species' range in the east.
The Department has conducted track surveys each winter since 1995 to detect lynx and other furbearers. IFW began a field study of lynx in January 1999, in partnership with the USFWS, several nongovernmental conservation organizations, and the paper industry, including industrial forest landowners in northern Maine. Early field efforts began near the Maine-Quebec border close to St. Pamphile, but little lynx sign was observed; and we soon moved the study to a 4-township area near the Musquacook Lakes. Since March of 1999, we have captured 65 lynx, including 29 adults and subadults that were fitted with radio collars. Our intensive monitoring of the collared lynx is providing answers to questions about the persistence of lynx in Maine, the types of forest that they use, their reproduction, and mortality factors.
Land use practices on industrial forestlands in northern Maine, such as regenerating clearcuts, provide ideal snowshoe hare habitat and may be beneficial to lynx. However, additional information is needed on the effects that partial cutting and pre-commercial thinning practices have on snowshoe hare populations. Over the last 10 years, partial cut harvesting has become the dominant harvesting technique in Maine's industrial forest. In 1997, partial harvested areas composed 98% of the total acreage harvested in Maine. Several years ago, Dr. Dan Harrison, and Jessica Homyack, University of Maine, began studying the effects of pre-commercial thinning on snowshoe hare populations in northern Maine. This research should give us a better idea of how compatible current forest practices are for snowshoe hare and other animals that depend on early-successional habitat.
Although lynx are known to be long-distance dispersers, capable of traveling hundreds of miles before establishing home ranges as adults, only one of the radiocollared Maine lynx have moved very far from the study site, and several have made short trips. We have located the collared lynx chiefly in young, regenerating forest stands that provide cover, as well as food in the form of snowshoe hares.
Female lynx establish dens to protect the kittens they produce in late May, and by late June, the kittens have grown large enough for us to to examine safely. So far, we have located 17 dens and handled 37 kittens during 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. These kittens represent the first documentation of reproduction by Maine lynx since 1964. The newborn kittens are too small to carry radio collars, but 35 of them have been marked with numbered eartags.
We are already learning about the different mortality factors that lynx face in Maine. Ten of the lynx, plus one uncollared juvenile, have died during the study. Although these mortalities are still under investigation, it appears as if another predator killed 5 of the lynx, 3 starved to death, 1 died of unknown causes, and that the other was human related.
The Department continues to cooperate with researchers at the University of Maine in studying lynx and their habitat requirements. In addition to the snowshoe hare study by Jessica Homyack (discussed above), Angela Fuller, a Ph.D. student under the direction of Dr. Dan Harrison, began documenting sub-stand scale habitat use by three radio-collared lynx in our study area this winter. This information will help determine what components of a forested stand are important for lynx.
The eastern North American wintering population breeds from southern Labrador and southern Quebec to Newfoundland and northern New Brunswick and winters from Newfoundland to North Carolina. The eastern North American population of harlequins is currently estimated at 1,800 individuals and may be increasing. More than half of that population winters in Maine. In Maine, harlequins are seldom observed, because they winter along remote rocky shores on outer islands, including Isle au Haut, west of Acadia National Park.
In the mid-1980s, the eastern North American wintering population was estimated at fewer than 1,000 individuals, with numbers declining at some winter sites. Hunting harlequin ducks on the east coast was curtailed in the late 1980s. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was petitioned to federally list the harlequin as Endangered or Threatened several years ago, but the petition was denied. In Canada, the eastern North American harlequin population, of which Maine's birds are part, is designated as "Special Concern."
IFW listed the harlequin duck as Threatened in 1997, based on 1) the small number of harlequins occurring in Maine; 2) the small size of the eastern North American harlequin population and the substantial portion of that population (estimated as 50%) that winters in Maine; and 3) more than 90 percent of those harlequins wintering in Maine are located at fewer than five locations.
In Maine, work focusing on several objectives relative to the conservation of the harlequin duck began in 1995. These objectives included: 1) determining the status, survival, and movements of the wintering population of harlequins on the Maine coast; 2) developing and testing inventory techniques for assessing winter populations; and 3) working to coordinate regional and national survey, management, and research activities with Canadian and other U.S. interests.
It is not easy to survey this species because of difficulties in accessing Maine's offshore island locations during winter. However, since 1970, harlequins have been periodically counted along Maine's coast. Unfortunately, these surveys were not designed to obtain a coast-wide estimate of harlequins wintering in Maine or to accurately measure changes in populations, because birds were surveyed during December-March, which includes the migration periods. Only limited areas were regularly surveyed, and a variety of survey methods have been used (ground, aerial, boat). The first attempt to conduct a coast-wide estimate of Maine's wintering population was initiated during a 4-day period in February 1995. An estimate of at least 655 harlequins wintering along the coast of Maine was derived, with 86% occurring around Isle au Haut and adjacent islands in Jericho and Penobscot Bays. Boat surveys during the winter of 1999-2000 yielded a single high count of 952 harlequins!
In 1997, MDIFW and the University of Maine received an Outdoor Heritage Fund grant to study the movements, behavior, and habitat use of harlequin ducks wintering in Maine. Graduate student Glen Mittelhauser conducted this research. In 1998, he pioneered a new technique for using floating mist-nets to capture harlequins among the pounding surf and rocky coast of Isle Au Haut. During the last 5 winters, Glen and colleagues captured and marked over 400 birds. Resightings of marked birds, in Labrador, and other Canadian locations, are helping to determine the origin of harlequins that winter off our coast. Some birds radio-tagged at nesting areas in Labrador have also been monitored off the Maine coast in the winter.
In April 2001, in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service, eight males were captured and implanted with satellite transmitters during the spring banding effort at Isle au Haut. This technique consisted of fitting birds with radios that transmit signals to satellites, which in turn relay information to biologists. Biologists hoped to gain information on breeding and molting sites important for Maine's wintering population of harlequins. By late May all eight birds had migrated north. Three were tracked to possible inland breeding areas, one to eastern Quebec near the Labrador boundary and two to interior Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick. Male and immature female harlequins have specific locations used for molting that they occupy in late summer and early fall. Three of the radioed males likely molted at sites along the coast of Labrador. Biologists were surprised when four of the radioed males were recorded mid-summer near Greenland. This may indicate that some Maine birds use molting sites located in Greenland. By early September seven of the transmitters had failed, one however continued transmitting well into December, indicating the bird was back at Isle au Haut. During last winter Harlequin surveys (2001-2002), seven out of the eight radioed birds were observed wintering back in Maine off Isle au Haut.
To track these birds, please click here: http://www.state.me.us/ifw/wildlife/etweb/gr up/hduck.htm
Blanding's and Spotted Turtles
In 1995, University of Maine graduate student Lisa Joyal completed a study of two populations of both species in the Mt. Agamenticus area of southern York County. More than 80 turtles were marked or radio-tagged to gather information on nesting and hibernation sites, movements, and the types of wetlands being used. With financial support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, MDIFW has intensified efforts to learn more about the distribution of these rare turtles over the past 12 years. To date, over 2,600 wetlands have been surveyed yielding over 100 new locations for these rare species.
In 1999, MDIFW completed a population viability assessment (PVA) for Blanding's and spotted turtles to determine the size of populations that should be conserved. Results from this PVA, combined with data on movements and habitat requirements, suggest that large blocks of relatively contiguous forested and wetland habitat must be conserved to successfully maintain viable populations of these rare turtles in Maine. Southern Maine's landscape is rapidly developing, and one of the best remaining locations to achieve turtle conservation goals is on a 32,000 acre area surrounding Mt. Agamenticus in York County. MDIFW has begun working closely with the Mt. Agamenticus Conservation Coalition - including The Nature Conservancy, local land trusts, water districts, and towns - to initiate conservation planning for the turtles and other rare species in one of the largest remaining contiguous coastal forest ecosystems between Acadia National Park and the New Jersey Pine Barrens
Clayton's copper butterfly
Clayton's copper is found only in association with its single larval host plant, the shrubby cinquefoil (Pentaphylloides floribunda). This uncommon shrub requires limestone soils and has a scattered distribution throughout Maine. Although not considered rare, it occurs in relatively few stands large enough to support viable Clayton's copper populations. In Maine, shrubby cinquefoil typically occurs along the edge of calcareous wetlands (i.e. rich in calcium carbonate or limestone), which are also uncommon in Maine. It can also be found in old fields, but these stands are typically short-lived as a result of forest succession. All of the currently known occurrences for Clayton's copper are circumneutral fens and bogs, or streamside shrublands and meadows.
Clayton's copper butterflies take one year to complete their life cycle. In late July and August, when shrubby cinquefoil is blooming, females lay their eggs singly on the underside of cinquefoil leaves. Leaves and eggs drop to the ground in autumn, and the eggs overwinter. The pale green larvae hatch in spring and crawl back up the plant to feed on its leaves. After the larvae molt and pupate in early summer, adult butterflies emerge during July and August to start the cycle over again. Throughout the flight period, Clayton's copper remains local to its cinquefoil stands, where the abundant yellow flowers provide its primary nectar source.
In 1997, Clayton's copper was listed as Endangered in Maine because of the extremely limited number, size, and distribution of its populations; the limited availability of its habitat, and its near-endemic status in Maine. Forest succession, impoundments, and dewatering of wetlands for irrigation are currently the most serious threats to the butterfly and its habitat. In 2001, MDIFW completed an assessment of the Clayton's copper's status and conservation needs in Maine, and convened a public working group to establish recovery goals and objectives. Studies initiated in 2000 at Dwinal Pond Wildlife Management Area - where a proposal to stabilize water levels could potentially effect the largest known occurrence of the butterfly - were continued in 2001. Five survey plots were surveyed throughout the peak of the copper's flight season in order to begin estimating population size and monitoring trends at Dwinal Pond. These surveys will continue in 2002. Also in 2001, consulting botanists Sally Rooney and Jill Weber surveyed and described the Clayton's copper's habitat at Dwinal Pond and prepared management recommendations for shrubby cinquefoil at the site. Management efforts to improve the existing stands of cinquefoil, and potentially to create and maintain new upland stands, will be undertaken at Dwinal in the near future. What is learned about monitoring Clayton's copper populations and managing habitat at Dwinal Pond will then be applied to benefit other sites and potentially improve the butterfly's status.
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