Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
June 14, 2012 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Augusta, ME

Attending:       Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
                        Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
                        Jim Connolly, Wildlife Division Director
                        John Pratte, Wildlife Section Supervisor
                        Keel Kemper, Regional Wildlife Biologist
                        Doug Rafferty, Director of Information and Education
                        Caroline Hailey, Public Relations Representative
                        Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
                       
                        COUNCIL MEMBERS
                        Cathy DeMerchant, Chair
                        Dick Thurston, Vice-Chair
                        Mike Witte
                        Jeff Lewis
                        Lila Ware
                        Bos Savage
                        Wade Kelly
                        Lance Wheaton
                        Steve Philbrick
                       
                        GUESTS
                        Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Assoc.
                        Gary Corson, New Sharon
                        Fern Bosse, Norway
                        Sylvia Bosse, Norway
                        Gerry Lavigne, SAM
                       
                       
I.  Call to Order

Cathy DeMerchant, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II.  Introductions

Introductions were made.

III.  Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and seconded by Mr. Lewis to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting.

Vote:  unanimous – minutes accepted.
IV.  Rulemaking

Mrs. DeMerchant stated they would be working through the issues at Step 1 and moving backwards.  Commissioner Woodcock would be late to the meeting and wished to be present for the items at Step 3.

C.  Step 1

1.  2012 – 13 Beaver Seasons/Closures

Mr. Connolly stated this was the standard closure process that we had each year where landowners were entitled under State law to ask the Commissioner to have their property closed to beaver trapping.  The lists were being compiled and would come forward in August.  Staff did work with landowners to try and impress upon them the idea that trapping was a worthwhile practice and was helpful in maintaining the population. 

There were no further questions or comments.

2.  2012 – 13 Migratory Bird Season

Mr. Connolly stated the Council had been provided with a preliminary set of seasons based on information received from the USFWS.  There would be a public hearing in August, the day before the Advisory Council meeting.  There would be discussion regarding the addition of the Coastal Zone.  The USFWS had given us the opportunity to change zones this year for the first time in quite awhile; in order to do that we had to survey waterfowl hunters.  The Bird Group in Bangor sent postcards out and contacted hunters and held two public informational meetings to get feedback on what people liked and what they would like to see change.  That information was used to design the proposal.  The other requirement with the USFWS is after implementing the zone change we would need to do a follow up survey. 

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Philbrick asked Mr. Witte about some concerns from last year regarding dates and how they overlapped.  Did he see that same concern in this proposal?

Mr. Witte stated he did not have an issue with it last year.

Mr. Connolly stated adding of the zone was an effort to improve opportunity by focusing the zones in relation to ice in in different areas.  One of the reasons we didn’t move the existing zone line was because hunters jumped between the two zones and hunted early in one then went to another one later.  We did have feedback from the public that we shouldn’t move that line.  Instead we just added the Coastal Zone line to pick up additional time there.  We weren’t eliminating the overlap, but doing the best we could to balance all the different geographic interests as well as species interest in hunting.

3.  Furbearer Regulations/Seasons

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated this item was in a holding pattern at Step 1 again.  The Commissioner had been in discussions with John DePue from the Bangor office looking at potential season date changes on a couple of species.  John had not been able to gather all the data yet to speak to it, so we were holding it at Step 1.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Witte asked if that data was the result of the trapper information card sent in by trappers?

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated she thought it was.

4.  Islesboro Deer Reduction

Mr. Kemper stated this had been discussed at the last two meetings and he would be happy to answer any questions the Council might have.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte stated he had received a couple calls from Islesboro residents asking if there was any opposition from the Department.  He told them the Department was willing to work with them and he thought they had done a tremendous job putting the information together.

Mr. Kemper stated he met with Deputy Commissioner Erskine and John Boland and they had provided some input for drafting the language. 

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated this would be at Step 2 in August.  It had taken some time to get the rule worked out.  One of the concerns she wanted to address was the appearance that we were letting Islesboro conduct a hunt.  It needed to stay within the Department’s jurisdiction.  We changed the rule to indicate that the Department would be permitting Islesboro.  We did not want to issue permits to every single hunter that would be participating.  Mr. Kemper felt it would be a bigger hunt than some of our typical special hunts like we had on Drakes and Wells Sanctuary in Southern Maine. 

Mr. Kemper stated we were going to require the Town to provide a list of the hunters.  That list would then be provided to the Maine Warden Service prior to the hunt.

Mr. Lewis asked if the deer would still have to be tagged.

Mr. Kemper stated yes.  The deer would be tagged and all biological data would be collected as in a regular hunt.

Mr. Philbrick stated relative to the proposal, he did not see anything regarding hunter qualification and training.

Mr. Kemper stated they had to be a licensed hunter, which meant they would have already attended a safety course.  The Town wanted to conduct a refresher course.  They were very concerned about having an incident on the Island.  There were a couple of safety instructors on the island and they were going to hold a refresher course and ability to demonstrate proficiency on the range to qualify. 

Mr. Philbrick stated we should follow the same standard that we did for the controlled moose hunt in Northern Maine.  If we were going to have control we had to set a standard.

Mr. Lewis stated this was just the people of Islesboro.  For the moose hunt there were people coming from all over. 

Mr. Philbrick stated the point he was making was that we imposed a set of standards for depredation hunts already.  If we needed to modify those standards to make it compliant on Islesboro, that was fine with him.

Mr. Kelly asked if we knew how many people would be allowed to participate on the island.

Mr. Kemper stated anyone who was on the island and was an Islesboro resident, we anticipated that number would be between 85 and 100 people.

Mr. Kelly also referred to the depredation hunt for moose in Aroostook County and the course hunters had to take before participating.  After that hunt, the people that managed the hunt got together for a debriefing.  Would they be doing something similar after this hunt?

Mr. Kemper stated he did not think we would tell them where they could or couldn’t hunt because it was ½ township.  They had to have landowner permission.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Deer Reduction Committee would be managing that part with the training course.  We would be in touch with them.

Mr. Kelly asked if the firearms laws such as being a certain distance from a dwelling would be required.

Mr. Kemper stated all other hunting laws would apply.

Mr. Witte asked about rifle vs. shotguns.  Would it be appropriate to restrict it to shotguns?

Mr. Kemper stated it was restricted to shotguns.  Shotguns, bows and crossbows for those over 70. 

Mr. Kelly asked about muzzleloaders.

Mr. Kemper stated muzzleloaders were not included.  This was not a recreational hunt, but a depredation hunt.

Mr. Savage asked if the refresher course was mandatory if you had a hunting license.

Mr. Kemper stated the Town of Islesboro had decided that in order to qualify you had to have a hunting license, legal written permission, be a property owner or own a taxable property on Islesboro and participate in the refresher course.

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if we were anticipating any enforcement issues with people from off the island coming on.

Mr. Kemper stated it was an island community and Islesboro was hunted very heavily and there may be some of those issues that would happen.  That was why we had asked for a list of names and involved Warden Service.  The Constable on the island was on top of it, but it could be an issue.  Everyone knew everybody on the island so hunters that weren’t supposed to be there would probably be found out pretty quick.

There were no further questions or comments.

B.  Step 2

1.  Open WMD 18 to Fall Turkey hunt

Mr. Connolly stated this was just adding WMD 18. The population had gotten to the point where we could include it.  The two comments we had received were positive.

            A.  Step 3

1.  Wolf hybrid rules

Mr. Connolly stated the comment period ended on June 8th and we did get a request for a higher cage height and we did modify that based on some standards that were found from the Zoo Association.  Only that one comment was received.  The proposal was pretty comprehensive in relation to the specifics of wolf hybrids.  There were other general standards in terms of the care of animals that were kept in captivity that were in Chapter 7 that applied to all animals.  We did not have specifics on water, sunlight, etc. in the rule.  Those standards were generic for the entire suite of species that we had that were captive. 

A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as amended.

Mr. Witte discussed confinement of the animals and the restrictions to the confinement.  They would continue with the existing regulations put out by Department of Animal Welfare on the confinement as they would do with a domestic kennel?

Mr. Connolly stated there was a dual licensing component.  There were animals that were licensed as canids through Agriculture that could continue on as they were currently.  They did not have to be confined; they had to be under the owner’s control the same as any pet.  They would continue this way until the animal died.  That exemption was granted by the Legislature and the Department had no authority to change that.  The Department was given specific directions to develop wolf hybrid standards under our Wildlife Possession permits and do more in terms of confining the wolf hybrids and protecting the public.  That is not the directive the Department of Agriculture was under.  There was a difference in how we were structured and how our regulation was put in place.  It was much more restrictive, we had more of a burden on the owner to be responsible and be in control of their animals but we were also directed to recognize the fact that Agriculture had another set of rules and as long as people continued to license their wolf hybrid as a pet through the town and pay the fee they would have more latitude than those licensed with IF&W.

Mr. Witte stated he had a situation in his area, and that was a questionable situation as far as the confinement and the condition of the animals.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated those were currently kept under Agriculture permitting.

Mr. Connolly stated by the end of the year those would come over to IF&W and we had in Chapter 7, Inspections.  There were other things in Chapter 7 that were very specific and oriented towards exotic wildlife where we’re looking to protect the interests of the public but also institute a health standard for the animals.  Kennels would change.  The kennels that were licensed by Agriculture at the end of 2012, those animals had to be licensed by IF&W.

Mr. Witte stated he thought he was all set with who had responsibility.  Ultimately the responsibility still fell with the Animal Control Officer.  He questioned refuge or shelter permits for wolf hybrids.  Would IF&W be issuing that same type of license?

Mr. Connolly stated the permit that we issued was for importation, possession, propagation or exhibition, but related to a specific animal.  It was not a blanket facility permit.  The direction was very specific from the Legislature for wolf hybrids that we would not be issuing propagation or exhibition permits.

Mr. Thurston asked if it was Warden Service’s responsibility to police whether or not they had the permits.

Mr. Connolly stated the Warden Service could enforce it.  Animal Welfare agents had the right to as well.  There were wolf hybrid kennels that were authorized for Agriculture to permit and there were two facilities in Maine.  Those specific kennel licenses were the ones that would be expiring at the end of 2012 and when they applied, they would apply as an owner for the number of pets that they had.  Individuals licensing wolf hybrids as pets would continue.

Mr. Thurston asked about penalties involved if a wolf hybrid got loose.

Mr. Connolly stated that was addressed in Title 7.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine referred to the rulemaking proposal.  There was a section on disposition of wolf hybrids at large.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated the rule had been moved and seconded and asked for a vote.

Vote:  unanimous – proposal accepted as amended

 

 

2.  WMD 24 Expanded Archery Zone Revision

Mr. Connolly stated the comment period ended June 1, and there were no comments.

A motion was made by Mr. Savage and that was seconded by Mr. Philbrick to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed

3.  Youth Day Any-Deer Permits

Commissioner Woodcock stated the original proposal for allowing youth to hunt antlerless deer on youth day was being moved forward.  We held a couple of Council meetings in various parts of the state and had the opportunity to hear from the general public on this.

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Kelly to accept the proposal as presented.

Mr. Savage stated he wanted to be clear that as written, the proposal would allow youth to take does in districts that had no doe permits.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated that was correct, so they would either need to vote in favor of that or vote in opposition.

Vote:  2 in favor (Mr. Philbrick and Mr. Kelly); 7 opposed – motion defeated

Further Council Member Comments

Mr. Kelly stated he appreciated everyone’s comments.  He thought we should all be able to recognize now that there was a big division between areas in the state.  What he would like to see the Council do was try to figure out a way to make it work in areas that it could.  They did not have any biological information that said it had or hadn’t worked.  He thought Mr. Philbrick’s idea of in those areas make it so from the age of 10 to 15 you had the opportunity once to take a doe.  He thought there were other ideas we should be entertaining, not just walk away.  The state was so large it shouldn’t have a blanket law.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she did not disagree with Mr. Kelly.  They had a year now to work on making a change.

Mr. Witte stated he felt they still had an obligation to their constituents.  He looked at the number of people and the fact that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s consensus was to stay the course.

Mr. Wheaton stated things had changed since he was a kid.  We were talking about youth being able to take a doe in an area where no one else could kill a doe.  Why did it have to be a doe?  It used to be a big buck and the hunt was key.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he had watched this debate and it was an issue that came from the heart.  What he really wanted to comment on was the nature of their discourse.  He wanted to compliment all of them because he knew how passionately they disagreed with each other, and how passionately some people disagreed with him.  What did matter was that they did it in a civil manner.  He thought they all ought to be complimented on the civil tone in which this was done. 

Mr. Philbrick stated there was a point that had disturbed him through the process.  His time with the Council was limited as his term was up, but his disappointment was not in the vote.  His disappointment was there had been some thinking outside the box that had been disregarded by IF&W.  It was brought to the public and the Council in a timely manner and it was disregarded.  To him that was an injustice to their jobs on the Council.  It was their job to advise, and if the advice they brought to the table was disregarded, they were less likely to think outside the box.

V.  Other Business

There were no items under Other Business.

VI.  Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Thurston requested that some clarification be done in the fishing regulations booklet.  It needed to be made clear where the line was between fresh and saltwater on rivers.  There was also confusion regarding the regulation on the Fish River and the throughfare.

Mrs. Ware requested the Department look into a shorter duration, less expensive nonresident hunting license.

VII.  Public Comments & Questions

Gerry Lavigne – I appreciate the opportunity to say a few things and kind of would like to move the discussion forward for deer because there is some room to improve on the way data is collected and interpreted.  When the youth day thing first came up and I was a deer biologist I was a strong advocate for the youth day thing.  In fact, I lobbied for making it a second deer limit beyond what it ultimately turned out to be.  I feel it is important to provide youth an opportunity for an outstanding experience that will help them for life on hunting.  When the population collapsed and the deer herd was in peril in about ½ the state, I was appreciative that the Department took steps to try to reduce the mortality from all the possible causes that were impinging on the herd.  That includes with the Game Plan on deer for example, everything from the way we hunt deer to the way we drive our vehicles, deer feeding, predator control; all of these are important.  In the SAM position statement we put out last winter, I offered the possibility that when a positive doe quota does emerge from the Wildlife Division, that youth hunters be given that first quota and not allocate it to archers or rifle hunters.  That brings up the question at the heart of some of this, there’s disagreement that the deer herd in Aroostook or Washington County is or is not in as dire a condition as the biologist’s data would indicate.  The Wildlife Division does manage on a district by district basis and they consider specific quotas for entire districts.  A district can be 900 or 1,000 square miles.  We also have to recognize since the deer herd collapsed deer populations are not uniform within these districts.  How do you manage under that circumstance?  I maintain that the best solution to this is to find a way to reduce overall mortality by going after all the major causes.  When that deer herd comes back its going to be obvious to everybody and the quotas will emerge again as being positive and not having to be bucks only.  Another element to this is the fact that in order to have sound biological recommendations to the Council biologists need adequate funding and staffing to understand what’s really going on out there.  I do have a question on plans for predator control.  Has the Department come up with new or revised plans for implementing their control effort this coming fall and winter?

Commissioner Woodcock – Those plans are somewhat in place.  Last year we identified deer yards all over the state and we targeted the major yards in more rural areas.  Those other yards are still in play.  We’re going to expand into those yards as much as possible.  Last year’s calculation was complicated.  We sent predator control people into deer yards and we had no snow in a lot of those deer yards.  It skewed the calculation the first year we tried it.  We’re trying to calculate given the expansion and given the monies we have available now how much effort we could have for the longest term.  September 1, 2012 we should have assignments.

VIII.  Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. in Bristol.

IX.  Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Philbrick to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.