Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
March 20, 2014 @ 10:00 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Attending: Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Lee Kantar, Moose Biologist
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Dana DeGraaf, Coldwater Fisheries Biologist
Tim Place, Game Warden Lieutenant
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis, Council Chair
Don Kleiner, MPGA
Scott Keniston, MFRC
Fern and Sylvia Bosse
I. Call to Order
Jeff Lewis, Council Chair called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.
Vote: unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Falconry Regulations – take of N. Passage Peregrine falcons
Ms. Camuso stated we were proposing to eliminate the two year waiting period for those falconers that qualified to apply for a passage peregrine permit. There was one minor change to the original proposal to indicate first time applicants would receive priority. No public comments were received.
A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. Wildlife Violators Compact
Lt. Place stated we were still moving forward with the process and he would answer any questions the Council may have.
Mr. Lewis asked if it would affect people who had bonus points when putting in for any of the draws. It was a little more prevalent in other states.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated if someone’s license was revoked and they were unable to apply in accordance with the law then potentially they’d lose their bonus points.
Mr. Lewis stated then they could not just buy a bonus point.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated she thought they had to be eligible to purchase a license in order to apply and obtain bonus points, but she would double check that.
Mr. Fortier stated if you were a violator he thought that should be automatic that as a penalty you would also lose your points.
There were no further questions.
2. Moose Permit Allocations
Mr. Connolly stated that Mr. Kantar was there to answer any questions they may have. He stated that an online petition had been started regarding permits for WMDs 4, 8 and 9 and people from Brazil, etc. had added signatures to the online petition.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there was a new mechanism available to people, an online petitioning site where you could create a petition. You simply had to log in to register your participation and they would forward that to the agency contact person. People from all over the world had access to this site. Any time we had a petition that was a form petition such as that, it was regarded as one comment. It was simply a push button petition service. If you counted the push buttons as one each, you would have to be very cautious about counting any group that had a representative write to you on behalf of the 10,000 members of a particular group. It could create a difficult situation. We were cautious to be sure they were counted in an appropriate fashion.
Mr. Lewis asked Mr. Kantar, he had been through that Moosehead area where they were petitioning shooting cow moose, it seemed like most of the people had an issue with taking cow moose after they had been bred.
Commissioner Woodcock clarified that the online petition was for no cows to be harvested in WMDs 4, 8 and 9.
Mr. Kantar discussed the timing issue. A cow, whether it was harvested prior to the breeding season or after the breeding season, was still a harvested cow. The bigger issue would be during September you had bulls breeding cows and that was the timing of the hunt. It didn’t have an impact on whether that moose was harvested then or later, the more important point was if you were going to harvest cows you wanted to harvest those cows as late in the season as possible so that the calf she may have with her would have the benefit of being with the mother later in the season.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he would like to have Mr. Kantar comment on, if he addressed the issue as petitioned and eliminated the cow permits in WMD 4, there were quite a few of them. The bull/cow ratio was part of the discussion and he was very scientific about keeping that ratio at an appropriate level. That was why the permits changed for bulls and cows, to make sure the ratio stayed appropriate.
Mr. Kantar stated whether it was bull/cow ratio or population size, that was driven by a management system that the Department had in place based on goals and objectives that the public desired. His only part in that equation was to do the biology, to gather the scientific data and with the Wildlife Division as a whole to make recommendations to the Council. You could look at any of the WMDs on a case by case basis, but in general to speak to WMD 4 and 1 and 2 the reason there has been that level of cow permits was because those moose populations based on estimates of abundance using a scientific aerial survey method were above the objective that was stated by the public goals and objectives so there was the ability to issue cow permits. The goals and objectives for those WMDs was to maximize hunting and viewing opportunity.
Mr. Kantar stated WMD 4, we had surveyed of the 12 WMDs, 1-11 and 19, that made up the best moose range in the state. We had surveyed 10 of those WMDs using aerial estimates. We had been doing this for 4 seasons in a row that gave us an additional perspective because our crew continued to do the flying. WMD 4 had the highest number of moose of any WMD in the state. It was above objective. WMDs 8 and 9, we flew WMD 9 this year and did an estimate of abundance. From the data collected we found we had a lot of moose in WMD 9 and was well above objective. To start that process of bringing down the population we recommended starting some level of cow permits. WMD 7 and 8 the permit recommendations there, not only were we at or above objective, and we had not flown an aerial estimate of abundance in WMD 7, but we had a lot of science behind all the other elements we used from the collection harvest data to the hunter surveys to composition counts, that taken as a whole provided the basis for making those recommendations. Also listening to the public and their input on moose sightings as well. One of the issues that had come up was the issue of parasites. Unfortunately, if you talked to the moose tick expert Dr. Bill Samuel out of Alberta and talked about a bad year of winter tick and you lost calves, one of the remedies would be to reduce your overall moose densities. When you had increased parasite loads whether it be winter tick externally or an internal parasite like a lung worm or tapeworm, there was a direct connection with having lots of animals on the ground. You would want to reduce those numbers for the health of the population going forward. In WMDs 7, 8 and 4 we coupled that with what we saw as being low productive areas where some drop in density may boost that future growth.
Mrs. Oldham stated Mr. Kantar gave a presentation to the Rangeley Regions Guides and Sportsman. During the presentation they were able to express to him their concern about what was perceived as a dramatic decrease in moose signs and sightings. The board voted and a letter was sent to the Commissioner stating they would like the elimination of the 60 cow permits. She wanted to point out that there had not been a population survey done in WMD 7 because of the topography and that was understood. One of the dangers for scientists was making assumptions, and the assumption they just heard was the flight for doing the bull/cow ratio was somehow a data point for population. It was not. It was an anecdote in regards to a scientific population assessment. She felt that was important when considering that number of cow permits. The management plan, she did not know where the 15 years came from. Was 15 years too long with habitat changes, disease, etc. Was it inappropriate to say that 15 years ago the management plan that was created for WMD 7 was still good? Was there enough habitat change or disease that now made that management plan inappropriate.
Rick Mills stated he lived in western Maine and the word there was they had way fewer moose than they ever had. Did they think that possibly in WMD 7 maybe the population had been lowered to a level through hunting and mortality that it was at a level that was easier to maintain than it was say 10 years ago? New Hampshire had been talking about a 40% reduction in their moose herd.
Mr. Kantar stated maybe people were seeing less moose, but that did not take away the fact that we had to meet the goals of the management plan. It appeared that in the 90’s we may have been at a high point for moose, and that may be coming down. Some places like WMD 4 and 1, we were still above. Permit levels were always changing. NH and ME were collaborating on a survival project.
Rick Mills stated they had seen a transition from very few moose to a peak where there were moose/vehicle collisions. The population seemed to have stabilized to a different level than it was 10 years ago. Was that acceptable and where it ought to be in WMD 7 or was it low?
Mr. Kantar stated it was where the people say it should be. Those current objectives whether its 3 to 4 moose per square mile was where we were supposed to manage it to. We were close to there. On top of that when discussing health, we had how many moose were being produced on the ground, twinning rates, parasite loads, etc. The bull/cow ratio was very important and he would not compare that data as being anecdotal to population size like people talking about what they saw on the ground. People used adult sex ratios to look at population growth over time. It was another metric and it was a scientific way and it was enumerated.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we were cognizant of NH’s moose population and Mr. Kantar was working very closely with them. Mrs. Oldham’s discussion of the management plan and was 15 years the right length of time, we were instituting the next moose update of the Wildlife Action Plan very soon. It would be part of the discussion along with other things. Mr. Kantar had a target and he managed to that target. Around the state the population was holding up quite well. We had lowered numbers in WMD 7 the last two years. The proposed number of 60 permits was a scientific number which was the same number proposed for a couple of years.
Mrs. Oldham asked what was the ovary collection for those moose.
Mr. Kantar stated it was small, but what was interesting was there were always issues with looking at information from other states and provinces and using it for Maine. Every state and provincial jurisdiction had to look at other states and we got taken to task when we were not doing things locally. We were doing things very locally and it was very scientifically legitimate to have that data in our state and look at what was seen as a separation somehow between the western part of the state and eastern Aroostook County districts where we’ve had cow harvests for more than a decade at high levels. We still got complaints about too many moose and we had higher reproductive rates after harvesting cows year after year. Another thing that was important was when you read the media about other states such as Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming, how many times had anyone read about the moose population in Quebec? The moose population there was a system like our deer system, every year you could buy a license and hunt a bull or a calf you did not have to enter a lottery. Their moose population was on the increase. In Maine we wanted to look at Quebec and NH and find out where we fit into that dynamic. Quebec was having some issues with winter tick that they’d identified north of the border in VT and NH.
Mr. Lewis asked who came up with the objective of how many moose per square mile where we were trying to manage the population to.
Mr. Kantar stated he agreed regarding the 15 year window as that was a challenge. The public working group in 1999, they had some sideboards when it came to moose and one of those was not having so many moose that you start to degrade the habitat so there was kind of a dynamic for how many moose in each WMD. It was worked through in a mathematical way looking at actual habitat quality index which was derived from US Forest Service data so it looked at the available browse out there that moose could eat and actually figures in deer numbers and looks at that relative to all the WMDs in the state. Back 15 years ago WMD 9 had the best habitat, it could support based on the scientific literature a certain number of moose and now that has switched and WMD 2 is the best habitat. That Forest Service data is updated about every 5 years and he thought they were starting a rotation where they were trying to work through things even quicker than that. We were not looking at that data from 1999 related to habitat, we were looking at the data from about 2010 on what the habitat looked like and how much that could support moose. While we had public goals and objectives how we looked at moose numbers and how we met that kind of evolved in the same way; we looked at new data and adjust as time goes on.
Commissioner Woodcock stated something we did not address this season was the actual framework of the hunt. What weeks were being hunted, there had been considerable discussion about some portions of that framework. The north Maine woods group who had been very accommodating to hunters expressed their concern fairly early about the dynamic of all of the new numbers of moose permits being given exacerbating the problem of everyone arriving for the gate to be opened at the same time. There had been concerns expressed up north about moose hunting during deer season. When we put the group together for the Wildlife Action Plan and discuss moose as part of that all of those topics would be addressed.
Mr. Connolly stated the 15 year plan was a target established for where we would like the population to be, not the actions taken to manage the moose in any particular year. Mr. Kantar had surveys and he refined those and add the radio collared moose and things to better improve our data to understand where we were at in relation to the goal. The action that we took, the harvest and what levels changed every year based on our assessment of the biological data collected. The statement that we were harvesting cows to collect ovaries was not the case. We did not take any cows in a WMD where were not trying to adjust the population. We did not harvest cows just to get ovaries. When we did harvest animals we collected biological information from them so it made sense when you had a cow you would try and get ovaries from it. We were not shooting the cow to get the ovaries. The population target was what we were using to set the strategy for where we were going and then we had a harvest that tried to help us get there either backing off or increasing it to adjust the animals.
Mr. Wheaton asked Mr. Kantar about animal counts from the air over WMDs and a basic knowledge of how many animals in that district, he also knew about how many hunters would go into that area to shoot moose, but did he also study how much posted land was there. Posted land down in the lower WMDs was a lot different than huntable land in the northern districts.
Mr. Kantar stated that was great point and had always been an issue with deer. One of the things we put forth as a recommendation that was not being seen this year but probably during the new planning process was take some of the more southerly WMDs and take some of those bull permits that had always been in October and shift some to September so that people would have a better opportunity to call in a bull. We would not increase permits in those WMDs, but the permits we had it would spread out the September/October dynamic and might help with the land access issue.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked Mr. Connolly if there was any significance to the 15 year time span for the management plans.
Mr. Connolly stated no, we could update them more often if we wanted to reassemble the group. We had good knowledge and good surveys so the number issue should be less of a problem for us. We could manage on 5 year intervals and previously we did.
Mr. Kantar stated that the document that was created for moose or deer in 2000 was not the same document today. While the public goals and objectives broadly and specifically were the same, how we measured those had changed and we were asked annually to revise that system to reflect those new metrics.
Mr. Fortier asked what factors were used to consider collision rates with vehicles.
Mr. Kantar stated the reported collisions had declined. The Department had a good relationship with DOT. It was in the management system and related to number of vehicle miles traveled. In WMDs 3, 6 and 11 we had adjusted the management plan over time to reflect the data we collected and to manage based on those types of issues.
Mr. Kantar briefed the Council on the radio collared moose data project. We had put together a proposal to look at adult female and calf survival over the next 5 to 6 years starting in WMD 8. Knowing a lot about moose mortality we wanted to look at our own reassessment and evaluation of adult female and calf mortality. We were doing this jointly with NH. We also knew the dynamic of winter tick could have an impact on calves and adults. We had been dealing with winter ticks, probably since the 1990’s. Winter ticks were there, and now had more moose to get on. If a winter was short with an easy fall and if we lost the snow early in the spring that set up a dynamic the next year for a bad winter tick year. Back in January we hired a crew from New Mexico and they net gunned 60 moose from a helicopter. They captured 30 adults and 30 calves. So far we had lost 10 of those moose, 8 calves and 2 adults. Our fall tick counts that we had been doing since 2006 on the harvested moose looked like this fall was a heavy tick year. A calf going into winter had no fat and was small, more like a deer going through a deep snow pack vs. a big cow moose or a bull. If the calf goes into winter with a huge amount of ticks on it, they’re feeding on the animal and we see that it creates a state of anemia. We necropsied every moose and not only did they have the winter tick load, but also lung parasites. Mr. Kantar noted we had seen a lot of calves going off without their mother earlier.
Mr. Kantar stated each of the 60 collared moose had a GPS collar and the collars gave two locations per day. If a moose collar was motionless for 4 hours it would send an email to Mr. Kantar notifying him of possible mortality. He could then download information on all the locations where the moose had been and where to locate the moose. Their job in the project was to respond, usually within 36 hours, so to necropsy the moose on site and collect tissues. We were working with the University of Maine Animal Health Lab to get work on the samples. Using a Smartphone saved the step of someone being out in the field every day with telemetry to take locations on 60 moose. The Wildlife Division were quickly becoming experts on moose necropsy and learning a lot. The study would be ongoing for the next 5 years.
Mrs. DeMerchant asked if any of the mortality in the collared moose were caused by predation of other animals.
Mr. Kantar stated no, and they were not even scavenged.
Mr. Gundersen stated where he was down on the coast in Lincoln County 8 or 10 years ago he saw a lot of moose. A lot of cutting had taken place and there was so much second growth, it seemed like he didn’t see as many moose anymore. The conditions and environment had changed.
Mr. Kantar stated moose dynamics and densities were keyed in on available habitat.
There were no further questions or comments.
3. Fish Regs – Pond in the River fishing petition
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated a valid petition was received, from mostly residents of the area. We held a public hearing in Rumford with 15 citizens in attendance. Generally the testimony was in opposition to the position request. We had been receiving written comments on the proposal.
Mrs. Oldham asked if the area biologist had commented on the petition proposal.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he had not been asked to yet. The comment period was still open.
Mrs. Oldham asked Mr. Mills to give some background on why the petition was started.
Rick Mills stated he gave a presentation at the public hearing. He came to the Council meeting after seeing it on the agenda and thought there might be some intense discussion about it. He realized the opposing side of the issue, with one press of a send key on a computer could generate hundreds of responses to an issue like this. He did not feel the need to do that. His reason for initiating the petition went back to 2013. He used to work for the Department as a district Game Warden and was involved in the closing of the fishery in July and August. He worked very closely with Forrest Bonney and Dave Boucher and Dave Howatt, not only on this fisheries issue but many. His family had owned a camp on the pond since 1948. He was involved in getting it closed and they put telemetry on fish. Some of the fish in July and August when the river flows were inadequate to support them in the river, migrated back down to the pond. The pond had 3 or 4 spring holes, and one hole that was 40 feet deep about 200 yards in front of their cabin. One of the gentlemen that spoke in opposition at the hearing had the survey and it was in conjunction with IFW. The fish not only came into the river they went into Umbagog, Sturtevant Pond, Magalloway River and went into NH on the Dead Diamond. The fish that went back to Pond in the River also went to Umbagog. People were able to fish there in the summer. The agency that did the survey created a map, and they mapped the locations where the fish were holding over. Their concern was the map would surface and anglers would target the hold over areas.
Rick Mills stated he was not a small mouth bass fisherman, and they all migrated over to the Rapid River to fish for 5 lb. trout and salmon. When he was asked about closing the pond, it was no big deal. It did not get fished; it acted as a travel route for fishermen going to the Rapid River. There were 3 camps there and in July and August you couldn’t fish for smallmouth. People were starting to complain and approached Mr. Mills about the regulation. He contacted Dave Howatt in Strong and the response was that the Department didn’t want to initiate the change. They were not opposed, but didn’t want to initiate it. Mr. Mills initiated the petition and got well over the number of required signatures. He encouraged the Council members to talk to Dave Boucher and Forrest Bonney. The hooking mortality that everyone was concerned about was less than 2.5%. There was no targeted fishing pressure for these species on Pond in the River. Access was limited and it was FFO, barbless hooks and catch and release. They did not intend to fish for the brook trout but it would be nice to let the kids fish for smallmouth bass in July and August. The proposal was not a threat to those fish, the real threat to any brook trout in that river drainage was the fisherman, the way they were fishing and handling the fish.
C. Step 1
1. Controlled Moose Hunt
Mr. Connolly stated the hunt started in 2009 and in 2013 we issued 50 permits and had 31 moose harvested. There were 3 categories of permits issued, guides, landowners and veterans. Permits had been adjusted through the years to address changes in terms of the locations and the numbers of permits in relation to the numbers of moose in the area. The group met to review the hunt and felt that in 2014 permits should be reduced to 25 and issued all to veterans. The veterans overall had a very high success rate and worked very well with the landowners.
Mr. Fortier stated Dave Hentosh did a great job in organizing the hunt. It was great for the veterans and helped reduce the moose in the area doing damage to broccoli fields.
Commissioner Woodcock stated Peter Ogden from Veterans Services and Dave Hentosh organized the hunt. He agreed that turning the permits over to the vets was the right thing to do. Give more of them an opportunity to hunt and they were quite successful in filling permits. For the people who owned the land and harvested broccoli, moose could destroy a lot of broccoli. He encouraged the Council to attend the organizational meeting that was held prior to the hunt.
2. Native Brook Trout waters, A & B list
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Legislature had overturned some regulations that were put in place by the Commissioner and as a result of that passed a law requiring the Department to report back to them with an updated list of B waters and a management plan for those B waters. In 2005 the Eastern brook trout and Arctic charr were designated as the State Heritage fish in Title 1. There was also a law implemented at the same time that required us to create a list of Eastern brook trout waters where stocking had never occurred. That became the A list of heritage fish waters. What became known as the B list were waters that were under consideration at the time and the Department reviewed the list, went back to the Legislature, there were records indicating that they had been stocked and that became the B list. We put the A list in place, and with that A list designation came a prohibition on stocking. The criteria established for the B list was that they hadn’t been stocked, according to reliable records, in 25 years.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated last year when the rules were overturned and the Department was asked to come back with a plan for the B list waters, we had a working group reviewing the list and the process. In working on the report back to the Legislature, it became clear it was a complicated procedure. They took a step back and came back with a good product that was acceptable to the Legislature and would be a routine technical rule. We would establish in Chapter 1, so that it was separate from the other fishing regulations, the State Heritage Fish waters.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Wheaton asked why the Legislature wanted to see the list again.
Commissioner Woodcock stated it was his bill that created the A list originally and it was major substantive. The Legislature wanted to have some control over the list. Now his approach to the list was not major substantive. The Legislature had a right at any time to do whatever they chose.
Gary Corson stated he would like to address the Council regarding the major substantive and routine technical issue. There were some at the Legislature that day that supported the Department going routine technical. Those same people were the ones years ago that didn’t really trust the Department to take care of those waters. Initially when the bill was put in, it was not about live fish as bait, it was about stocking. They thought the Department was stocking native brook trout waters prematurely without trying to do other things first to protect the integrity of the fish. What the major substantive did was put it before the Council and then back to the Legislature where they’d hold a public hearing. Mr. Corson wanted to emphasize to the Council that they were the ones taking the place of the Legislature on the issue and should not be a rubber stamp. Mr. Corson asked Commissioner Woodcock about the list. Mr. DeGraaf had presented it to the Legislature, were we going to change that list?
Commissioner Woodcock stated no, the list that went to the Legislature would be the list on the proposal.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked Mr. DeGraaf if there had been some modifications.
Mr. DeGraaf stated yes, the ones we had spelled out to the Legislature, the 14 waters where we identified that there were stocking records so A criteria was now B criteria. Because the language had been rewritten to spell out stocking on heritage fish waters hasn’t occurred for 25 years, it’s not brook trout stocking it’s just stocking. There may be 4 waters we identified where some sort of stocking had occurred in the 90’s so that would not qualify those waters to be on the heritage list until that 25 year criteria was met.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated there were also a number of waters we had tried to take back through the major substantive process in 2010 and the Legislature would not accept the major substantive rule. Those had been put in this process.
Mr. DeGraaf stated new pond surveys as well. Waters we had identified that contained brook trout.
Mr. Corson discussed the changes and asked when a final list and proposal would be available.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the law directing the Department to establish the list was part of the omnibus bill, which was an emergency bill. We were waiting for the omnibus bill to be approved.
V. Other Business
1. Review of P.L. Chapter 375 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the IFW Advisory Council
Commissioner Woodcock stated he wanted to highlight a few items from the new law. He directed the Council to page 8 of the updated handbook they had been given. There had been legislation proposed to abolish the Council, but that was overturned and in the process the statute was modified. One of the focus topics the Committee was concerned about was Council members connecting with the constituency they represented. They amended the statute to require Council members to hold meetings and become involved with stakeholder groups, etc. An annual report would be presented to the Committee to provide the Council’s activities.
VI. Councilor Reports
Council members gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Guy Randlett – I came to say something about moose but I’m not going to say it, I think that’s been covered pretty well. About the bear, I guide moose hunters. I don’t guide bear hunters, I never have but that’s going to affect anybody whether they take people out to see moose or hunt moose or deer or whatever. In another 5 years they’d have to show them a picture of a moose if this passes because those calves are going to get scoffed up like crazy I think.
Sylvia Bosse - I just want to mention as a member of Norway, Paris Fish and Game that Judy Camuso was at our meeting last night and did a wonderful job and we appreciate you making your people available. Tony Gray is one of our favorite people and he supports our club really well and does a good job for you.
Scott Kenniston – On behalf of the Maine Falconry and Raptor Conservancy we once again would like to thank you for responding to a relative very few, but that was something that we did need changed. We wanted to give everybody a fair shot at trapping what is the epitome of falconry, a wild taking Peregrine falcon and now we have the ability to respond to those people and first timers will get a lottery advantage. They won’t have to wait too many years, there are only about 13 of us that are qualified.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The Council would be notified of the next meeting date and location.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.