Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

August 15, 2013 @ 10:00 a.m.
100 Cabela’s Boulevard, Scarborough

Attending:       Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Acting Director Bureau of Resource Management
Doug Rafferty, Director of Information and Education
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Judy Camuso, Acting Wildlife Division Director
John DePue, Wildlife Biologist
Lieutenant Adam Gormely, Warden Service
Sergeant Tim Spahr, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Jeff Lewis, Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Bos Savage
Sheridan Oldham       
Gunnar Gundersen
Lance Wheaton, Vice Chair
Dick Thurston
Dick Fortier
Don Dudley
Lila Ware

Gary Corson
Judy Finley
Brian Cogill, President, Maine Trappers Association
Gilbert Butera, Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee
Bill Tilden, Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee

I.  Call to Order

Jeff Lewis, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II.  Introductions

Introductions were made.


III.  Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting. 

Vote:  unanimous – minutes accepted.

IV.  Rulemaking

A.  Step 3

1.  2013-14 Migratory Bird Season

Mr. Connolly stated the public hearing was held and the Waterfowl Council met.  We were updating the season dates to reflect the current calendar and we had proposed one change in the bag limit of the early goose season to go from 8 to 10.  Our Federal regulations were always slow in coming, the framework we were allowed to operate under, and we received late word in the process that we could go with a bag limit at 3 times the daily limit rather than twice.  That was discussed at the hearing and by the Waterfowl Council and they accepted that.  That was designed to address a problem the Feds had noted that hunts from people coming in from out of state typically ran 2 to 3 days and they were concerned people weren’t hanging onto the first day’s take because they wanted to continue hunting over the weekend.  They wanted to create a possession limit that would recognize that and not have those birds wasted.  There was the population there to support that. 

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Savage to accept the proposal as amended. 

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed.

B.  Step 2

1.  2013-14 Furbearer Seasons/Regulations/Beaver Closures

Mr. Connolly stated there had been some comments received from the Maine Trapper’s Association (MTA) with regards to the fisher proposal.  Mr. DePue had additional information.

Mr. DePue discussed the handouts presented to the Council (see packet).  He discussed the suggestions from the MTA for our fisher season.  They asked that we exclude a few WMDs from our proposal.  We looked specifically at those districts and consulted with biologists and Augusta staff and looked at the data, and a few of those districts we did exclude from our proposal.  However, WMDs 13, 18 and 19 when we looked at the harvest data for fisher it indicated that the fisher population was declining and we felt that we still needed to do something to reduce the fisher harvest in those districts.  We were shortening the fisher season in those districts which did have a marten population and we were not shortening the marten season.  We knew that fisher did get caught in marten traps and you could still trap for marten when the fisher season was closed.  We needed to move the proposal forward to help the fisher population, but we had a number of recommendations to provide to trappers to help them avoid catching fisher.  A couple examples were smaller diameter poles, steeper poles…it was not 100% exclusive but did reduce the chances of fisher climbing the pole.  Another example in WMDs 18 and 19 was the use of exclusion devices with the 4” hole.  That would exclude fisher from entering the marten trap but still allow marten to be caught. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if there was any kind of sunset clause, would we revisit next year.

Mr. DePue stated there was not a sunset clause but harvest data was looked at annually.  We would have to have the shortened season in place for a number of years to see a response to the fisher population.  One year probably wouldn’t be enough, this was based on a trend with 10 years of trend data.  We would need at least 3 to 5 years to see a trend to see what’s out there.
In WMDs 13, 18 and 19, those were districts that trappers did target marten and we were not reducing the marten season.  In those WMDs where you could trap for marten the proposal was to shorten the fisher season to Nov. 15 – Dec. 15, so you could trap for marten outside of the fisher season and fisher were susceptible to marten traps.  By not having a fisher season prevent the bad guys from targeting fisher specifically and providing recommendations to trappers on how they can reduce the chances of catching fisher.

Mrs. Oldham commented on Wildlife Management Units vs. Wildlife Management Districts.  Was it time to coordinate those?

Mr. DePue stated they were working on it.

Mr. Fortier asked what would be the trigger in looking at the data to come back and look at it and what would be the baseline that you had to come back to.

Mr. DePue stated we wanted to see the trend stabilize at the very least because currently we were on a decline.  If it increased we could open up opportunity.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he had met with members of the MTA 3 times.  He felt we had a good relationship with the trappers.  Sunset clauses were instituted for an automatic review of something.  The furbearer season was automatically reviewed by the Department annually so the need for a sunset was not there.  Data was presented on an annual basis.

Mr. Connolly stated the original proposal presented in Greenville was a little broader.  It included WMDs 7, 8 and 14.  Those were dropped as we had more time to analyze the data.  There were two other parts in the furbearer proposal, one being a clarification on the teeth on traps.  We went through the process of applying for an incidental take permit (ITP) on lynx, we noticed there was a conflict between the interpretation in the rule book that we pass out and in the law in terms of whether auxiliary teeth or manufactured mattered whether you could have them or not.  When we looked at the statute, it appeared the intent of the statute all along irregardless of the label was that toothed traps on land would not be allowed.  The proposed rule was an attempt to clarify that and make that consistent.  There was never a desire by the Department to limit toothed traps that were used when they remained completely under water.  We recognize that as a legitimate tool by trappers and as long as they were under water that was not a problem for lynx.  There were two parts with the traps remaining under water.  With the consent decree killer type traps were allowed within the lynx zone as long as they were completely under water or on pole sets.  The understanding with being underwater at all times, we ran into issues with enforcement in the language that led us to want to clarify what the intent was.  Lt. Gormely would clarify.

Lt. Gormely stated he felt some of the argument came from the definition of the word “set”.  We had some cases in recent years where the term “set” was taken as the time the trap was actually put in place.  If the trapper had set the trap underwater, but the next day the water level had fluctuated.  The prosecution was having difficulty because the trapper’s argument was they had set it underwater, but had no control what happened to the water level.  From an enforcement point the term “set” was viewed to remain underwater.  By adding the language it clarified to show our intent was that it remain underwater.  Other species were susceptible when the trap was out of the water.

Mr. Dudley asked if they did understand why the trappers had a problem with the proposal. 

Lt. Gormely stated he understood they would have a hard time putting in a trap, they came back and the water level had changed and the trap was exposed.  They reset the trap and the water level changed again…  He had dealt with those cases in the past and worked with the trappers to make sure it didn’t happen. 

Brian Cogill stated the MTA sent in a proposal to IFW worded “upon tending a trap, the trap must be reset underwater if above”.  Another Lieutenant had told them up front that they would be criminals if the proposal went into action.  It was all up to the warden in general.  If there was some type of language to cover the trapper, but there was none the way it was proposed.  The ITP, he knew the Department wanted to get it through but there had to be some other type of language in there. 

Lt. Gormely stated there were some problems with that notion.  There was no way to prove the trapper was there and knowingly left it exposed.  There may be some that would take advantage and there was no mechanism to hold them accountable.

Brian Cogill stated if you looked at the law, after December 1 everything was considered under ice sets for beaver.  Prior to that, you had a 3 day tend in southern Maine and a 5 day tend up north.  They had 3 days to check their traps.  It was like the 24 hour tend on a foot set, you had to tend it every day.  If there was a question by a warden he would have to sit there for 24 hours and watch the set or put a camera up.

Lt. Gormely stated they could no longer put cameras up.  That was another issue, but was a handicap they were dealing with.  They would not have to sit 24 hours but 48.

Mr. Connolly stated up until we had the case involving the language in the statute, there was a reference and an understanding of what underwater meant.  There was the intent if you were there you would fix the trap and have it underwater and it could be underwater.  Enforcement was handled that way.  Everybody understood you were trying to keep that trap underwater all the time.  Now the reality was that standard wasn’t there anymore.  That confusing and changing of the word set to not imply the whole process and to be turned around and set to the moment that you put it in the ground, that’s the only thing that counts, changed our reference point.  That was significant because we had lost the control.  There was the ability of people that trapped to just stick that in and walk away and not come back and fix it.  We wanted a reference point that was clear.

Mrs. Ware stated it brought the burden back to the trapper to understand the water from which he was trying to take the animals and to know whether it was transitory water or permanent water and to exercise good judgment.  She felt that was a reasonable standard for a trapper to be held to.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated currently the law was not in place.  Were there a lot of situations where people’s pets were getting caught?

Lt. Gormely stated they did receive some reports.  They received some regarding bird dogs getting in caught in coyote and fox traps.  He was not sure they were getting a lot of house cats reported.

Mr. Lewis stated they were talking conibear water sets, not foothold.

Lt. Gormely stated they were not getting a lot of conibear reported incidental catches.  He felt trappers were doing a pretty good job keeping the conibear underwater.

Brian Cogill stated a 330 is 10 x 10 with 2 springs on it.  Most trappers will find a run in a brook, they’ll set their trap so it’s just off the bottom and then they put a dive stick so when a beaver, otter or muskrat comes up to it they dive underneath it.  You were maybe 12” on top of the water and the trap was underneath that.  Picture a bird dog in the woods and they come to something standing this high, what do they do?  They don’t go under it, they go over it. 

Mrs. Ware asked if the dive stick was a requirement when setting a trap.

Brian Cogill stated if you did not put a dive stick and a beaver came along, there was nothing there to make him stop.  It was not a requirement.

Lt. Gormely stated he would counter that with a different kind of dog (Jack Russell terrier), out for a walk with its owners.  The terrier is sniffing around and gets to the trap and sees the stick, what was he going to do?

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were many plateaus being discussed.  He wanted to focus on how the law was interpreted in the legal system, not “on the ground.”  He was sure mistakes were made in both arenas.  How the law was interpreted was a very important part of the discussion.  There was something else involved other than just the practical application and that was how people who sat in other offices were viewing our interpretation of the law.

Mr. Wheaton stated there were so many fluctuations how could you set one law?

Mr. Thurston stated the proposal was there was no 3-day window, that was a request.  He felt we had to meet the law.

Mr. Lewis asked what the fisher population was based on.

Mr. DePue stated page 5 of the handout addressed that question.  They looked at all the metrics (gas prices, weather conditions, etc.) The line on the bottom was the number of land trappers that set a trap that could catch a fisher and that stayed fairly stable over the past 10 years, but the fisher harvest had declined; very different trends. 

Mr. Connolly stated the beaver closures were pretty standard.  We did have areas where landowners asked us to close their property to beaver trapping.  We used trappers in our management.

Brian Cogill stated in WMD 15, Bickford Pond and tributaries and Thurston Brook, was there any chance in getting the tributaries opened in that area.  That had been closed for 25 years and there had been a lot of complaints in that area.

Mr. Connolly stated he would need to look into that.  We did not allow people to request to close public water.  The request for a closure had to come from the landowner.

Mr. Dudley stated WMDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 open Oct. 20  - April 30, WMDs 1, 2 and 4 were relatively isolated, not so with 5.  Trying to get trappers up in 1 and 2 the landowners there were having severe beaver problems and were trying to get trappers there.  The problem was that most say WMD 5 is open, why would anyone want to go in 1 and 2?  He would suggest that if 5 were removed, 1, 2 and 4 would get that pressure.

Mr. Connolly stated he felt he saw something that said there were still issues in 5 and there was a concern if we changed that and limited the access in 5 we would increase problems there.  We were looking to work with landowners in terms of some of the folks they had working for them in the spring addressing problems (ADC).  He would review the comments and draft a response prior to Step 3.

Mr. DePue stated we had a number of requests to open WMDs 3 and 6 in the early 2-week season and the intention of the 2-week early season was to provide the incentive to help the landowners out so we’ve been reluctant to expand.

2.  Wild Turkey Hunting

Ms. Camuso stated we had a turkey working group that met in February and that group came up with recommendations that we proposed to our legislative committee this past spring and the legislative committee made some changes to statute primarily dealing with the fiscal part of the turkey season and then directed us to bring forward the current proposal.  They left the season dates and bag limits in the Department’s control so the proposal was to open up the whole state for a spring harvest.  Some areas in the southern part of the state would have a 2 bird limit and the northern part, WMDs 1-6 and 8 would have a 1 bearded bird limit in the spring.  Also we would have an all-day hunt in the spring, ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset statewide.  Spring would also be allowed to use crossbow and also an all-day youth hunt.  The proposed changes for the fall included quite an expansion of opportunity for folks as a committee they recognized they wanted to address some of the nuisance complaints, fall was the season to do that where they were allowed to take hens.  In the fall in the southern portions of the state where we had most of the nuisance complaints there was a 2 bird limit that was any bird.  We expanded the bag limit in the fall and also expanded the season to be the entire archery season and we expanded the allowed weapons, but it did not allow for crossbows in the fall.  Two public hearings were held, one in PI and one in Bridgton. 

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mrs. Oldham stated there were a couple of comments that this was a very expanded hunting opportunity and harvest potential, and in terms of some of the written comments folks expressed concern that it was perhaps too much too soon as other eastern states were seeing declines in their turkey population.

Ms. Camuso stated there was an unknown variable with some of the diseases that could potentially affect the turkey population.  In southern Maine we did have a plethora of turkeys and internally struggling with how to keep that population at a manageable level.  Right now we did not see the drop in turkey population to warrant a concern in the southern and central portion of the state.  The reality was that most people liked to hunt turkey in the spring.  That was the prime season.  Not many people hunted turkey in the fall which was why we liberalized it to try and get others to participate.  Turkeys reproduced well in one year.

Mrs. Ware asked if the state was still moving turkeys.

Ms. Camuso stated last year we did not trap and transfer any turkeys because of concerns with the LP virus.  The plan was to go ahead and initiate more trap and transfer programs, particularly up and into northern and eastern Maine.

Mr. Cogill stated if the fall season was the whole month, how was that going be on law enforcement as far as youth day deer hunting.  You were not allowed really to be in the woods unless you were with a kid deer hunting only.

Ms. Camuso stated she thought the timing of the season was defined to coincide with the archery season on deer so it should start that same day as the beginning day for archery season on deer.  Youth day for turkeys was in the spring.

Mr. Cogill stated he was referring to youth day deer hunting in October.

Ms. Camuso stated the last day.  That could be a potential issue. 

Mrs. Theriault stated they would have to have a turkey permit to be out hunting.  A warden would be able to verify that they had a permit.

Mr. Cogill stated if you hunted in the spring you had to have a permit in the fall.

Ms. Camuso stated the $20 permit, you could purchase whenever you wanted.  It would allow you 2 birds in the spring and 2 birds in the fall.

Mr. Fortier stated at the public hearing in Presque Isle there was a strong opposition up there to having any turkey hunt  open in the spring of 2014.  The county delegation and the wild turkey federation guys were working very hard and those turkeys were concentrated on maybe 4 or 5 lands and hadn’t had a chance to disperse.  They were getting very good feed where they were.  They brought proposals forward on how they would like to see that turkey hunt go and give them another season to grab the turkeys and disperse them.  Hunters would group to those 4 or 5 areas, and some of them would not have much experience hunting turkeys.  It could be a bad situation until people got used to hunting turkeys and how to do it properly.  They would also get an influx of Canadians coming in to hunt turkeys as they could not hunt them there.

Ms. Camuso stated we were committed to working with the turkey federation and this may not address all the issues but as we opened up the WMDs in the southern part of the state we had educational/informational sessions over different parts of the state.  A lot of people had those same concerns when we opened up the initial seasons back in southern and central Maine.

Commissioner Woodcock stated portions of the proposal were legislatively driven.  Not all of the proposal was presented by the Department.  In the end they would come up with something that was viable.

3.  Fishing Regulations 2014

Mr. Brown stated we held 5 public hearings.  In general the turnout was low.  In general there was a lot of support for our statewide proposals.  The removal of the artificial lures season for bass that ran April 1 to June 30th, there was a lot of support for that.  Technology had really changed what that law was meant to address.  We now had artificial lures that were part natural bait that were impregnated with natural scents and oils and really didn’t meet the intent of the original rule.  A lot of good comments were received on the S-9 change that would allow disadvantaged folks an opportunity to go and fish some of our youth only waters.  Changes to the regulations in the southern and eastern counties, early ice in anglers weren’t allowed to keep trout and salmon that we stock in our put and take waters in December because general law restricted them to artificial lures only and all trout and salmon had to be released alive.  There were waters, especially in the southern and eastern counties that we wanted to see some of those resources kept.  We also proposed to end the permit system for taking bait from closed waters.  We did have 2 regional issues.  In Ellsworth there were a lot of comments on lake trout slot limits and in Region G there were comments on Richardson.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Savage asked if the Department had made a decision regarding the Richardson Lake proposal.

Mr. Brown stated we had not.  We were interested in hearing the Council comments and any comments they had received.

Mr. Savage stated he had not received any calls but had seen a lot of debate, somewhat even for and against.

Mrs. Ware stated she had friends over there and generally the comments were in opposition to extending the season.

Mrs. Oldham stated the phone calls she received primarily had been members of the Friends of Richardson and the two commercial interests on the lake and they were opposed.  The reason for their opposition was, number one, the fishing was really good at Richardson right now.  They saw that as coming back, it wasn’t always that way.  They saw something that had improved during the regular fishing season and they didn’t want that messed up.  Two, there were issues with a big draw down in the lake there.  Warden Service at the public hearing expressed some concerns in terms of enforcement even though it was catch and release.  The Rangeley Region guides board did not take a position because folks were mixed.  It was interesting that certainly the more restrictive regulations on the Magalloway received no push back.  Folks appreciated the fishery and wanted to protect it.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he fished that area quite often.  There were many parts to the proposal.  One part was the amount of money that was put into stocking of Richardson Lake.  He received a list of stocking reports and it was very near the top of money spent on stocking in the state.  The reason for the proposal, he thought if we were spending that much on stocking there should be more opportunity to fish there.  It was a reasonable conclusion if public monies were going into it it ought to have public opportunity.  He recognized the draw down and the commercial concerns.  We were trying to create a balance.  He felt there would be very few people fishing Richardson Lake if we extended the season, it was not a heavily fished fishery. 

Mr. Lewis stated in talking with people he heard the same, the amount of money the Department spent it ought to be open.  Some of the comments that warden service didn’t have the resources to work it because they were too busy, that shouldn’t be the fault of the people of Maine to stop them from having an opportunity just because we couldn’t provide enforcement.

            C.  Step 1

There were no items under Step 1.

V.  Other Business

1.  Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee

Mr. Connolly stated the folks in Islesboro after the season had a meeting in the community and talked about what had occurred and there was some interest in looking at something a little different.  A representative from Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee had come to discuss what that was.

Bill Tilden stated last fall a group from Islesboro came to the Council to get a special hunt approved.  They had the hunt and it followed the end of the expanded archery season and went for 3 weeks.  The first week was fairly successful, the second week they had a foot of wet snow fall so that pretty much stopped a lot of the hunt.  By the end of the third week they took 50 deer.  Their hope was to take 100 deer.  If the conditions had been better and if their hunters had been better prepared they may have done better.  The thinking was that this year, as opposed to last year, because of the date of the expanded archery season there would only be two weeks to hunt in that period in early December.  Their hope was to expand the hunt to the end of February.  There was a town meeting and they voted to do that and was now bringing it to the Council to see if they would approve expanding the hunt.

Mr. Tilden stated their purpose was not hunting deer it was fighting Lyme disease.  On Islesboro Lyme disease was way up there.  As of July 29, 3013 they had 110 cases of Lyme on the island with 600 year round residents.  There were 46 confirmed cases of Lyme, there were another 22 cases of a tick found on somebody and they didn’t know how long it had been there but were treated the same way.  Anything the Department and Council could do to help them would be appreciated.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mrs. DeMerchant asked out of those cases how many were children.

Mr. Tilden stated he thought almost 1/3 were children.  Small kids until mid-teens were the ones that were outside.  The next group came in at late 40’s to 50’s.

Mr. Thurston asked if anyone that had a hunting license could access the island or was it resident only?

Mr. Tilden stated it was limited to resident only.

Mrs. Ware stated she applauded them for coming there to ask for help, however, she felt it was self-imposed that they didn’t achieve the success rate they wanted to because of their failure to open it up to outside hunters.  She would strongly encourage them to reconsider.

Mr. Tilden stated there had been a lot of talk about it but the general consensus at the island was not to do that.

Mrs. Oldham stated then they may have to be willing to live with Lyme disease.  They were willing to help but a resident only hunt, we allowed it, they were only 50% successful but other deer reduction hunts in other areas of the state which were opened up to other people had been far more productive.  It was a serious problem and they wanted to help but to solve the problem she thought they had to let some people come in to help that knew how to hunt and would not give up.

Mr. Fortier stated he could bring 10 professional hunters from the County and they would come prepared on how to hunt and track deer down.  That would help things on the island if they allowed outside hunters.  He was on the Outdoor Heritage Fund Board and they were looking at another island that had the same problem with Lyme and one of things they discovered was how did they take care of their trash needs on the island.  That was found to be one of the obstacles. 

Mr. Tilden stated they had a transfer station

Mr. Fortier stated one of the problems that existed on the other island, they had burn barrels and were taking care of their own garbage.  That led to the start of Lyme and tick disease because they weren’t taking care of their garbage.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we were not going to impose things on Islesboro, they had come to us.  He had read all the reports and they had worked very hard.  One thing that was still troublesome to him was he knew there had been some discussion about hiring a professional hunter to come in and do this.  That had a pretty good success rate in a lot of areas.  If the Lyme disease continued to increase the way it was, the discussion in Islesboro was going to have to change in order for them to be successful.  The Department only had a very small role, it was up to the island to decide.  He would encourage them to not only open it up to outside hunters but to consider a professional who did this for a living.  Hunting really wasn’t the reason they were there, it was to control Lyme disease.  He appreciated the concern they had and felt very badly that the Lyme disease had infested the island.  He wanted them to see if they could get an answer that would work, and he hoped that they did.  It was alarming that 1 out of 6 people had Lyme disease.

Mr. Tilden stated what they were proposing to the Department, he understood in the future they would have to go somewhere else, but all he could bring to them was what the town had sent them to do.  If they were allowed to expand the hunt that would give them more time, winter hunting was tough unless you were a professional.  There had been stretches where everything melted, the ground was open again and you could go and hunt a lot easier.  With a longer period they could do a lot more.

Mr. Fortier asked what the deer population was on Islesboro.

Mr. Tilden stated the last count was 48 deer per sq. mile.  They didn’t want to do another count until the end of their 3 year period that they voted on.  Their first count was about 78 deer per square mile.  After the year they did another count and it was down to 48.  There was an overwhelming vote of the island to go with an extended season not a sharp shooter  or open up the island to other hunters.

Mrs. Oldham encouraged them to consider other options.

2.  Sebago Lake Trout Slot Limit presentation

Biologist Francis Brautigam gave a PowerPoint presentation to the group (see file).

VI.  Councilor Reports

Council members gave reports.

VII.  Public Comments & Questions

Gary Corson stated the presentation by Mr. Brautigam was impressive and should be posted on the website.

VIII.  Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for September 19, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. at Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 284 State Street, Augusta.

IX.  Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.