Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

March, 29, 2012 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Augusta
Conference Room

Attending:       Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
                        John Boland, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
                        Jim Connolly, Wildlife Division Director
                        John Pratte, Wildlife Section Supervisor
                        Lee Kantar, Deer & Moose Biologist
                        Keel Kemper, Regional Wildlife Biologist
                        John DePue, Wildlife Biologist
                        Mark Latti, Landowner Relations and Recreational Access Coordinator
                        Gregory Sanborn, Deputy Chief Game Warden
                        Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
                       
                        COUNCIL MEMBERS
                        Steve Philbrick, Chair
                        Cathy DeMerchant, Vice-Chair
                        Mike Witte
                        Jeff Lewis
                        Lila Ware
                        Bos Savage
                        Wade Kelly
                        Lance Wheaton

GUESTS
                        Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Assoc.
                        Dave Trahan, Executive Director SAM
                        Gary Corson, New Sharon
                        Fern Bosse, Norway
                        Steve Tobin, Norway
                        Carol McCullin
                        Pete Anderson, Islesboro
                        Joshua Easter, Greene
                        Phil Roy, Waterville
                       
                       
I.  Call to Order

Steve Philbrick, 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. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting.

Vote:  unanimous – minutes accepted.

 

IV.  Rulemaking

            A.  Step 3

1.  2012 Moose Season Permits

Mr. Connolly stated the packet showed what was originally advertised and then the suggested changes that would make adjustments in the number of permits in WMDs 7 and 11. 

Mr. Kelly asked about the petition from Aroostook concerning WMDs 3 and 6 to eliminate the November hunt or move the permits into the September or October hunts.  Had their been any consideration to that.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we would be happy to hold a meeting in that area when going through the permitting process next year.  Because of the timing, it could not be included in this proposal.

A motion was made by Mr. Lewis and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed.

 

            B.  Step 2

1.  Add WMD 9 to Spring Turkey Hunt; shot sizes

Mr. Connolly stated the comment period had ended on March 16, 2012.  One comment was received related to technical information on the shot loads available.  We were looking at that to come back with a more refined description that would allow for mixed loads that were presently commercially available for use that were considered effective when turkey hunting and clarifying the shot sizes.  There were no comments regarding the WMD addition.

There were no further comments or questions.

2.  Controlled Moose Hunt

Mr. Connolly stated the comment period ended on March 23, 2012, and no comments had been received regarding the proposal.  The language embodied the changes that were proposed by those that participated in the hunt.  They went through what occurred last year and made some adjustments and expanded the area. 

There were no further comments or questions.

            C.  Step 1

1.  2012 Any-deer Permits

Mr. Connolly stated the regional biologists met with Mr. Kantar and incorporating the harvest data, winter severity data and information collected during Mr. Kantar’s flights, they looked at the situation in light of the deer management system and made recommendations for any-deer permits.  The preliminary allocations were what would be advertised.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Lewis asked if this took into account this year’s winter weather and last year’s as well.  Some of the numbers were higher in a lot of areas.

Mr. Kantar stated for the majority of the southern part of the state there was very good news.  This winter would likely turn out to be one of the most mild as we measured them.  That had a huge impact on deer.  Over winter survival of fawns was huge because it represented yearlings in the fall harvest.  In Region A, looking at the deer harvest and where we had been looking at what happened after 2008-2009, we were back where we should be in 2011 in WMDs 20, 21 and 24.  From that we obviously had the ability to issue more permits.  Moving up the coast to Region B some of the historically best WMDs like 17 and 23 took it hard in the winters of 2008-2009 so we were still working to improve things there and were keeping permit levels down.  He thought for 2012 and beyond we would be doing well and that would be seen in the harvest. 

Commissioner Woodcock stated the mildness of the past winter was also a good year for northern Maine as well. 

Mr. Savage asked if the deer yarded up during the mild winter.

Mr. Kantar stated in Mr. Savage’s area it was an in and out issue.  Where there were pockets of softwood deer would go in there alittle bit when there was a snowstorm and then they would come back out.  In Mr. Kantar’s area he did not think there was a day during the winter when they had what would be considered restrictive conditions (1 foot of snow or more). 

Mr. Philbrick asked Mr. Kantar to describe how they measured a winter.

Mr. Kantar stated they measured winter for a 20 week period from early December through mid-April.  We had 26 winter severity stations from York County to Little Black.  Staff went out once a week, usually every Tuesday to measure snow depth.  In an open hardwood stand we would have 5 snow stakes and in a closed stand where deer would yard we had 5 stakes spread out and we would take a snow depth measurement on each of those and average that together.  When viewing deer tracks we measure to see how much the deer was sinking in the snow and at the same time we had data loggers that were in the stations at the deer’s height and taking in information on the air temperature every hour on the hour 24/7 for 20 weeks.  Those 3 variables were put together and there was an equation for that to come up with the winter severity index.  Another important point about the numbers derived from those stations was we used several stations for one WMD in most parts and then looked at this winter (11-12) compared to the 15 year average.  About every 5 years we updated the 15 year average so we could bring it into the present time.  Another important point from this measure was that we were able to translate this into a rate of winter mortality on the deer.  That was done based on data that the Department collected doing dead deer surveys in the yards and relating the number of dead deer they found to the winter severity index.  There would be winter mortality every year and we looked at what kind of mortality was going to happen above and beyond what would happen on a typical year and that had a big effect on our allocations for any-deer permits.

Mr. Witte stated he did not see anything in the packet regarding youth day.  This was a controversial issue and the past few years we had said that any WMDs with zero permits, we would not allow the youth to take does.  Were we going to continue in that direction?

Commissioner Woodcock stated the Council would be making that determination at the next meeting to be held in Presque Isle.  We would propose it and it would be part of the discussion at April’s meeting.

2.  Wolf hybrid rules

Mr. Connolly stated authority on wolf hybrids was in a state of transition.  It was transitioning the authority for the possession of wolf hybrids to IF&W over time at the same time it was overseeing the phasing out of Agriculture.  There was a dual possession process currently in place until the wolf hybrids that were currently licensed as canines through local communities expired.  At that time all the licensing would fall on IF&W.  At the current time anyone who possessed a wolf hybrid that animal had to be spayed or neutered, micro chipped and licensed as a canine.  Anyone that met those criteria as of June 1, 2011 could continue to be held as a pet by the owners and continue to be licensed by them.  However, the change in the law that was sponsored by Senator Trahan had changed the situation.  Those animals could no longer be advertised and sold and when transferred the owners that received them had to be aware that they were dangerous animals.  Exceptions for them to be bred and kennels licensed under Agriculture were now gone and any of those facilities that were formally licensed under Agriculture as of the end of 2012 would come under IF&W’s permit.  There were currently 2 facilities licensed as wolf hybrid shelters, one in Bristol and one on the border of NH and ME, the Lokie facility. 

The burden for IF&W moving forward is that we were going to be responsible for assisting in the identification of wolf hybrids that are found and the statute was broad in terms of what defined a wolf hybrid.  If an animal was loose, a town could ask for assistance from IF&W in recovering the animal and we were charged with putting into place a protocol for disposing of or placing any wolf hybrid that was found that couldn’t be returned to its owner.  We would have to have a process in place and make decisions in rule about how to proceed when those circumstances occurred.  Currently, shelters that recovered a wolf hybrid had a very definite 8-day process that transferred ownership to them and if no one claimed it they could euthanize the animal. 

We were also responsible for any animals that were not currently licensed.  We would have to issue possession permits for them and set the criteria for how people would be allowed to keep those animals.  Animals that were licensed as canines had to be spayed, neutered and micro chipped.  The micro chipped or tattooed piece was in statute under Agriculture’s rules and would not change, but we would have to make the decision for possession by an IF&W permit if we would require the animals to be spayed or neutered.  Were we going to have exceptions for kennels although you could no longer sell the animals.  We also had to set standards for caging because they were considered dangerous.  We were supposed to put in place cage standards that would prevent that animal from becoming loose and potentially impacting other people’s property and human safety as well.  If the animal was licensed as a canine they did not face those same restrictions. 

Another constant in this was that there was no recognized rabies vaccine for wolf hybrids.  When discussed with the Attorney General’s office we would not put in place a requirement that they be certified with having had a rabies vaccine.  That was not required under Agriculture’s standards and it would be inappropriate for us to because the Human Service’s standard is that if a wolf hybrid bit someone that animal must be euthanized under Maine law and then tested for rabies.  Even if it had a rabies vaccine. 

The Council would be making decisions in terms of were we going to have facilities where they were allowed to be bred, even if it was for personal pleasure or were we going to require them to be spayed or neutered.  What standards would we have for people importing them into Maine?  We would have to have a clear criteria defined that would allow us to judge those cases and make decisions.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mrs. Ware asked how many were registered to date.

Mr. Connolly stated we had not received that information at this point.

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if this would be at Step 2 at the Presque Isle meeting.

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were a lot of transitions going on with Agriculture and Conservation.  The rules were

transitioning to us so we were in the midst of trying to make a decision that was appropriate for the timing.

Mr. Wheaton stated there should be fines for people that did breed them without our knowledge and if one did get out it should be a $20,000 fine.  Department staff would have to chase the animal and track it down.  If one did get loose the Department would be on the line as moose and deer would be in jeopardy.

Mr. Witte stated if there was a situation like the one that occurred in his area, now the Warden Service would be involved?

Mr. Connolly stated the Animal Damage Control Officer (ACO) had the authority to recover the animal and shelters had the right to take it in.

Mr. Witte stated he was the ACO, but usually he had to go there with the Sheriff’s Deputy because of the dimension of the problem with the neighbors chickens being killed.  He would be the primary contact, but if things developed instead of calling the sheriff’s office would he contact Warden Service?

Mr. Connolly stated the statute provided that the Department could be contacted but protocol had to be defined.

Mr. Witte asked when definitively would we be licensing the animals.

Mr. Connolly stated any adult animal that was 6 months or older on June 1, 2011 and licensed at that point and time or any animal that was a wolf hybrid and less than 6 months old that wasn’t licensed on the end of December 2011 had to be licensed through the Department.  We had to accomplish that licensing by July 1, 2012.  Previous animals were grandfathered and could continue to be licensed and come under the authority of Agriculture as pets.  The owners were allowed to maintain those animals and keep them as pets.

Mr. Savage asked how much of a commitment this was by the Department, how much added work would there be and where did it fall, Wildlife Division?

Mr. Connolly stated we would have to set fees.  Would we have the same fee rate as the normal possession permits?  The recovery piece was something not provided for in the statute in terms of funding but it was a mandate that the Department would have to respond.

Mr. Connolly stated we were receiving calls from individuals that did not fall under the current licensing standard.  We were making an effort to get a preliminary application in place so we could begin collecting information from them so when we did have the rule in place we could issue a possession permit for, that they would already be on record.  We needed to be sensitive to the fact that what we did may cause a reaction in the public.

Mr. Witte discussed people stating to veterinarians that their animal was a wolf hybrid.  How were we distinguishing this, whether or not the animal was a wolf hybrid?

Mr. Connolly stated we were authorized in statute to make that determination and conduct genetic testing if we wanted to.  We had to look at what a genetic test cost and what we were accomplishing.  The statute that Agriculture currently had in place was an owner making that determination was one of the determining factors of whether it was a wolf hybrid as well as the fact that it is actually between other animals.  Mr. Connolly stated a summary sheet would be put together to outline the issue.  Part of the challenge has been to coordinate with Agriculture and the Attorney General’s office to figure out what we were charged to do under the law.

There were no further questions or comments.

V.  Other Business

1.  Update from Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine

Dave Trahan stated he would like to give an update on what SAM was doing that was new and reach out and establish new relationships that may have been fractured in the past.  Some of the new projects they had established included trying to build stronger relationships with the sportsman’s clubs.  They had applied to Outdoor Heritage for a grant to create a statewide official network for fish and game clubs.  By doing that they could increase their effect in communities.  Small clubs were not able to take on big projects because they just didn’t have the man power.  It was his hope they could help those smaller clubs to share manpower and experience to become more effective.

Mr. Trahan stated they had created the deer management network and Gerry Lavigne was their deer biologist.  Trying to put forward policies around deer management they would like to establish three parts; hunters, habitat, and predator control.  As part of the network they reached out to Agway as a distributor of grain around deer feeding.  Through research they discovered that for distributors of grain that people fed deer, it was the fastest growing product at many of the stores.  Given that increase SAM worked with IF&W to establish an education program.  18 Agway stores received information on how to responsibly feed deer. 

On June 13th SAM was partnering with the Union at Bath Iron Works to hold a bass tournament on Messalonskee Lake.  It would be a tribute to heroes program.  They would be doing more programs in the community to promote positive aspects of hunting and fishing.

Mr. Trahan stated SAM’s membership had grown by 830 members since he had become Executive Director.  He felt we were on the cusp of losing a generation of kids and SAM would be adapting to accommodate that whether it be the broken family, the economy, etc.  They would be holding events for kids that maybe couldn’t afford to go themselves.  His local fish and game club had taken part.  They were down to 20 members and they resurrected the club by focusing on youth and family.  His commitment to IF&W was that there had been a strained relationship with the Department and SAM; they often would agree but when they disagreed that would be done respectfully.

2.  Islesboro deer reduction

Mr. Kemper stated the Council members should have received a mailing of a brief history of what was happening.  The Town of Islesboro contacted the Department and had been discussing the issue with staff for some time.  Islesboro was seeking permission to hold a special hunt for deer reduction.  Mr. Anderson represented the Islesboro Deer Reduction Committee and Carol McCullin who lived on Seven Hundred Acre Island which would also be included in the deer reduction effort.  Residents of Islesboro had to take the plan to the town and it would best to get a sense from the Advisory Council of the potential for having the hunt before they went before the Town.  Islesboro had done a good job of looking at their deer population.  They consulted for two separate deer population estimates.  The first came in around 50 deer per square mile and the second came in at about 48 deer per square mile.  It was easy to see on the landscape that there was a significant number of deer; understory issues, heavy browsing, heavy damage, property issues.  The catalyst for the special hunt was the large increase in the number of lyme disease cases on Islesboro.  What started out as a lyme disease committee morphed into a deer reduction committee.  There had been a number of drafts of the plan and their effort was to drive the deer population down to about 10 deer per square mile and maintain at that level.

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if the survey had gone out yet.

Mr. Kemper stated there was a fairly extensive survey that went out to all of the landowners on Islesboro.  The survey was geared to ask if they were in favor of the hunt, was their property open and available for hunting, would they consider it, were they in favor of bows, guns, etc.  They had a fairly good response rate to the survey.

Mr. Anderson stated they did have a large deer population and through efforts they did have an expanded archery season and the population had started to drop somewhat, but they only had records for the last two years.  Their hope was to go after the deer in a big way for a few years and take another count and see where they were at.  Hopefully they could reduce the number of lyme disease cases.

Mr. Witte asked if there was a tagging station on Islesboro.

Mr. Anderson stated yes.

Mr. Kemper stated it would be the Department’s intention to make sure we got appropriate biological data from the deer that were harvested.

Commissioner Woodcock asked who would be able to participate in the hunt.

Mr. Kemper stated the group was pretty emphatic they would like the hunt to be Islesboro residents as well as Islesboro landowners. 

Mr. Savage asked if there were enough residents and landowners to accomplish what they were trying to do.

Mr. Kemper stated in the survey they identified 80 – 85 island residents who expressed a willingness to engage in the hunt.  In addition to being a licensed hunter which would require you to complete a hunter safety course there would be an additional safety briefing they would have to attend.

Mr. Kelly asked if this would be in addition to the expanded archery hunt.

Mr. Kemper stated when the expanded archery hunt would end there, this hunt would follow.  This was proposed to be a 3 week hunt at the end of December; bows, crossbows and shotguns with details to be worked out.

Mrs. Ware stated one of the few things that made the controlled moose hunt continuing to be acceptable in Aroostook County was the number of additional permits for disabled veterans.  Having special opportunity for the hunt to serve other populations would be more tenable.

Mr. Lewis asked if a special hunt like this had been done anywhere else.

Mr. Boland stated he thought some of the hunts on the islands in Casco Bay may have been open.

Major Sanborn stated they were hand selected hunters that had an interest to the area.  Not many people lived on those islands in Casco Bay.

Commissioner Woodcock asked Major Sanborn if he was aware of any residents only hunts in a controlled situation.

Major Sanborn stated no.

Mr. Kemper stated he did not think of Islesboro as a traditional island.  Islesboro had ½ a township, almost 17 square miles. 

3.  General Wildlife Possession Permits

Mrs. DeMerchant stated this dealt with how the permit was listed on the website to make it easier to find.  She had received an e-mail from Mr. Roy and he thought it might be helpful if we listed the permit in a different fashion.  She asked Mr. Roy to speak to the matter.

Philip Roy stated he had broad experience doing stuff on the internet and it took him approximately 1 ½ hours to find the application on the website.  He started by going to the list of permits and licenses the Department had and he found it was listed as “general”.  He then went to the list of downloadable permits and looked under “g” for general and there was nothing listed.  He then looked under Wildlife and it wasn’t listed there either.  He finally located the application under “possession”.  He felt that was vague and people may not realize it was for general wildlife possession. The permit should be called the same thing in each place it was listed.

Commissioner Woodcock stated it was not a big concern, the issue was more complex than just this one permit.  Wildlife was the key word connected with the public and we were comfortable with that, it just needed a change of venue and the same title.  We needed to concern ourselves with how did the public most readily access the application.

VI.  Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII.  Public Comments & Questions

Mr. Connolly stated the residents from Islesboro came to the meeting to present their proposal because they needed to go back to their community and begin the process of implementing it with the Town.  The Department could move forward with rulemaking once the Town had approved the proposal.  Did the Council see any flaws with the proposal?  They were seeking guidance.

Mr. Philbrick stated the information they had received would not be enough for a straw vote.  He felt the idea was acceptable.

Mrs. Ware stated something that would be more appealing would be a limited duration, it should not be a forever thing.  The second thing would be to expand the hunt beyond their residency.

Mr. Kelly stated it would help if they put a clear reason on why they wanted only resident’s of the island hunting.

Mr. Witte referred to the Monhegan hunt where they went on the island and took them off.  He would not be opposed to the hunt, but did question it being limited to just the islanders.

Mr. Kantar stated he felt it was important they didn’t lose sight the difference between what they were asking for is a management tool.  The number one concern of the Town was they had a high risk for lyme disease.  There was a difference between the management tool and recreational opportunity.  Anyone from the mainland could hunt expanded archery, etc. and have opportunity.  The Town wanted control on the place where they lived to deal with the problem of too many deer which propagates deer tick and causes high levels of lyme disease.

Mr. Connolly stated the Department had talked with the community about trying to maintain the recreational hunt aspect.  This was not done as a depredation hunt with permits.  They understood long term the best way to address the issue was to open land and continue to encourage access.

Mr. Anderson stated he would speak with their committee about opening it up to veterans and youth.  For a long time on Islesboro there were no deer taken with firearms legally and people were very leary.  They were trying to do deer reduction with people that knew the land and neighbors.  They would make sure that everyone participating got written landowner permission.

Gary Corson asked about Grand Falls Flowage and livewells and 1% mortality.  What about the methods used to catch the fish?  Live fish as bait and no live fish as bait was allowed on that body of water.  That certainly would increase mortality by 1%.  What were we doing about that?  He brought it up not only for the Flowage but in general.  We had brook trout waters that were catch and release that allowed live bait.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they had discussed bait in brook trout waters.  We were addressing the future of bait fish in certain waters.

Mr. Boland stated generally with artificial lures and flies you were in the 1% - 4% mortality range.  Using live bait and other types of bait mortality was increased to 5% - 20% depending on the study.  Some of the studies conducted on hot summer days mortality could be very high. 

Mr. Wheaton commented on use of stainless steel hooks.  He felt we should go to a mild steel hook that the fish could digest.

VIII.  Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. in Presque Isle.

IX.  Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Lewis to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 p.m.