AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing a reduction in antlerless deer permit allocation numbers for this fall's hunting season as part of its ongoing efforts to manage deer herd numbers statewide.
Commissioner Chandler Woodcock is proposing 26,390 antlerless deer permits for the state's 29 wildlife management areas this year, a reduction of 22,435 permits or 46 percent from 2010. The allocations are based on biological and harvest data, winter weather information, population density levels and other factors thoroughly researched and analyzed by department wildlife biologists.
Antlerless deer permits also are known as "any-deer" or "doe" permits. This year is the 26th year that an any-deer permit system is being used to regulate antlerless harvest during the firearm and muzzleloader season. Once the allocation numbers are finalized, the department will inform hunters when it is time to enter the any-deer permit lottery.
"For the last few years, particularly after the harsh winters of 2008 and 2009, people have expressed concerns about the reduction in deer populations statewide, with some regions of the state experiencing more of a decrease than others," said Commissioner Woodcock. "We've listened, and in recent years, we've conducted additional studies, including aerial surveys, to determine the full depth of this situation. We need to help our deer herds grow. This year's any-deer permit allocation is one step in that direction."
The proposed allocation is not the final number and could be changed. Commissioner Woodcock's recommendation has been discussed through two of three rulemaking steps before the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council. Additional data still are being ascertained, including completion of this year's winter severity index, in which biologists survey how deer fared during the winter, and will be presented to the council during its May meeting. It is not anticipated, however, that the permit number will swing dramatically.
"As is the standard operating procedure, we summarize and analyze annual harvest data, multiple-year harvest trends, age and sex ratios, annual mortality influences, reproductive trends, hunter effort and sighting data, and population indices each year," according to state deer biologist Lee Kantar. "Thus the question of population trajectory is informed by a large amount of data that provides the input to our stepwise permit allocation process."
Last winter, the department conducted an aerial double count survey similar to what was pioneered in Quebec and adapted by New Brunswick's deer management program. The aerial surveys enabled wildlife biologists to gather empirical data on deer abundance in WMDs 17 and 25. When the results of the survey were analyzed with other data, it showed that WMDs 17 and 25 are below deer population objectives and that these areas in southern and central Maine need to be stabilized, as well as northern, eastern and western Maine.
"The aerial survey results provided some much needed data in reference to our most critical question to be addressed, that is where does the current population by wildlife management districts stand in relation to our publicly derived WMD population objectives?" Kantar said.
For 2011, the department is recommending that 17 of the state's 29 wildlife management districts as "bucks only." Districts not experiencing a reduction in antlerless deer permits this year are WMDs 21 and 29.
In the last five years, Maine has experienced a sharp decrease in harvest, from 29,918 in 2006 to 20,063 in 2010.
The public is invited to comment on the proposed antlerless deer permit allocation. Deadline for comments is May 13. Comments may be addressed to MDIF&W Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State St., SHS 41, Augusta, ME 04333 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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