AUGUSTA, Maine - As deer hunters ready for opening day, hunters will find deer populations in southern and central areas of the state have rebounded from the severe winter of 2001, but in northern and eastern Maine, the effects are still being felt. The regular firearm season for deer opens on Saturday, November 2 for residents, and Monday, November 4 for nonresidents.
"If normal hunting conditions and hunter effort prevail, the statewide deer harvest in Maine should in the vicinity of 35,750 deer," said Gerry Lavigne, deer biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW). Last year's deer kill was 27,769 deer, and in 2000, 36,885 deer were tagged.
While the winter of 2001 caused the statewide deer population to decline from approximately 292,000 to 241,000, conditions since then have been favorable for deer. According to Lavigne, the winter of 2002 was as remarkable for its favorable conditions for deer as the preceding winter was for its severity. Deer survived well throughout the state in the winter of 2002. That, coupled with a low hunter kill of breeding female deer in the fall of 2001 and expected above-average fawn production this past spring will contribute to greater potential herd growth in the following years.
Deer populations concentrations are heaviest in the southern and central part of the state, and the lightest in northern and eastern Maine.
The department issued Any Deer permits in conjunction with deer population management objectives set through public input. There were no Any Deer permits issued in northern and eastern Maine in order to facilitate herd recovery in those regions. There was conservative allocation of permits in western to northern central Maine, while there was a liberal increase in the number of Any Deer permits in central and southern Maine in order to maintain or reduce these populations.
The department issued a record number of Any-Deer permits this year, 76,989. The Any Deer permit system was designed to reverse a statewide decline in the deer herd that began in the late 1950's. Since 1986, the herd has grown from 160,000 to the present total of approximately 241,000. Population growth rates have been monitored in each of the 30 wildlife management districts within the state, and targeted harvest totals have been set accordingly to coincide with population level objectives in each individual district.
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