Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

May 3, 2011 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Augusta
Conference Room

Attending: 

Chandler E. Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
John Boland, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist
John Pratte, Wildlife Management Section Supervisor
Edie Smith, Director, Information and Education
Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:
                       
Stephen Philbrick, Chair
Ron Usher, Vice-Chair
Jeffrey Lewis
Wade Kelly    
Mike Witte     
Alan Greenleaf
Dick Thurston
Cathy DeMerchant    
Lila Ware
Lance Wheaton

Guests:

Judy Finley
Katie Lisnik – Humane Society United States

I. Call to Order
                       
Mr. Philbrick called the meeting to order.

I-A. Swearing in of new members

Prior to introductions, new Council members Jeffery Lewis representing Hancock County, Lila Ware representing Piscataquis and Somerset Counties, Lance Wheaton representing Washington County and returning for a second term, Cathy DeMerchant representing Androscoggin, Kennebec and Sagadahoc Counties were sworn in by Charles Summers, Secretary of State.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Motion made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: 9 in favor; 1 new member abstained - minutes accepted.

IV. Rule Making

A. Step 3

There were no items at Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. 2011 Controlled Moose Hunt

Mrs. Ritchie stated the Department held a controlled moose hunt in 9 towns in Aroostook County in 2009 and 2010.  This was not a recreational hunt but a very targeted, focused hunt in that part of the state because of concerns for high instance of vehicle/moose collisions and depredation of broccoli fields.  There were a couple of big farmers we were working with that were receiving a lot of depredation by moose in their broccoli fields.  The permits we were allocating during our recreational moose season, despite the fact there were many moose being taken out of that area, it wasn’t enough to address the concerns of the landowners.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the hunt had worked well.  In 2009 and 2010, 100 permits were allocated.  Typically there was a 70% - 80 % success rate.  Farmers were pleased.  Each year after the hunt warden service, biological staff and the landowners would meet to review the season.  That information was used for guidance in making recommendations for future seasons. 

Mrs. Ritchie discussed the proposal for 2011.  There were no changes from Step 1.  No public comments had been received. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Ware asked if reallocation to antlerless only would result in a different harvest in terms of male/female moose.

Mrs. Ritchie stated it could.  It may be more difficult for guides to find sports, but she didn’t think that would be the case.  The motivation behind the hunt was to reduce the moose population in those areas.  It could be more beneficial this way with the harvest of cows instead of holding out for trophy bulls.

Mr. Kelly asked about the issue that came up last year with the fields.  Was there anything in writing that would address what a legal field was going to be?

Mrs. Ritchie stated that was going to be addressed at the training sessions with both landowners and guides.

Mr. Kelly asked if there was a reason for the loss of the number of permits being issued to guides.

Mrs. Ritchie stated more opportunity was being given to disabled veterans and landowners were experiencing problems as well, and we wanted to give those two user groups the additional opportunity. 

Mr. Kelly stated given the percentages, wasn’t there some concern?  The landowners only harvested 44% of their allotment last year.  Landowners were not necessarily hunting in the predation area, they could be hunting in the corridor area like their own wood lots and stuff like that.

Mrs. Ritchie stated landowners could hunt on their own land so if they owned land that was both field and woodland, technically they could hunt woodland as well.  Although the major emphasis on the controlled moose hunt was to get the moose out of the broccoli and cauliflower fields, it was also secondary to address moose/vehicle collisions along some major highways.  When the harvest results were in we would reevaluate.

Mr. Witte discussed the feelings of some guides he had heard from.  They felt they were being short changed because we had cut them back to 30% of the permits and it was cows only.  He had some concerns.

Commissioner Woodcock stated when the decision was made, it was made in conjunction with other facets of moose hunting in general.  He felt that people would be very pleased with the moose permits that were going to be issued.  With that in mind the reduction in the guide’s permits may be offset considerably by the numbers we were going to propose for recreational moose permits in those areas.

Mrs. Ware stated there were 100 permits issued last year, how many moose were harvested?

Mr. Kelly stated the landowners harvested 44% of their allocation and the guides harvested 82% of their allocation.  Based on the guides percent, to reach the Department’s goals wouldn’t they want to use the most successful user group?  If next year the landowners harvest 44% again, we may want to look at this again.

Mrs. Ritchie stated if between the recreational hunt and the controlled hunt we were not achieving our objectives then we could look at permit allocations in both hunts.

Mr. Wheaton asked if the state had done anything about a “want – waste” law?  This would be related to moose and just taking the head and antlers and leaving the rest.

Mrs. Ritchie stated that did not seem to be a concern or issue in Maine.

2. 2011 Any-deer permits

Mrs. Ritchie stated the Department had management goals and objectives for all of our major game species and our threatened and endangered species  and other species as well that were established by public involvement.  Public working groups representing a variety of interests meet and review material on a particular species and develop goals and objectives which are then brought before the Advisory Council for consideration and endorsement.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had management goals and objectives for all of our 29 Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) in Maine.  Each year following the hunting season we collected harvest information, biological information, weather information from 26 winter severity stations, collect snow depth information, etc. that was fed into a population model.  Then, biologists would get together in late March to review all the information and make recommendations for the number of antlerless deer permits to be issued in all 29 WMDs.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the proposal before the Council was the Department’s recommendations for 2011 which would total 26,390 permits.  It was about a 45% reduction in permits from 2010.  We had 17 WMDs primarily in the northern, downeast parts of Maine, some that were bucks only and had been bucks only for many years.  This was part of the area where we were trying to increase the deer herd.  Most of the permit reductions occurred in the central and southern parts of the state.  In 1999 a public working group gave us a recommendation that they wanted us to manage for between 15 and 20 deer per square mile there.  They wanted us to manage for hunting but to keep that in a balance with concerns for depredation impacts caused by deer as well as concerns for lyme disease. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated during the winter Lee Kantar had the opportunity, with some additional funds, to conduct helicopter surveys for a more intensive censusing of deer then we had been able to do in the past.  For some of the WMDs in southern and central Maine, we had some of the best census data we’ve had in many years.  The surveys showed the deer population may be lower than predicted, so we want to increase the deer population in the central and southern districts, thus the drastic reduction in permits because of better census data that leads us to believe we were a little bit lower than we thought we were.  We were still coming off the 2008, 2009 winters which were relatively tough on deer.  The good thing about southern and central Maine is the habitat is good and we didn’t see the predation that we did in the northern tier.  By drastically reducing permits we could rebound the herd relatively quickly unlike we had been able to do in the northern part of the state.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine distributed a packet of comments that she had received regarding the proposal.  Generally they were supportive of the reduction.  There were a couple of them that were asking questions specific to a WMD and those would be responded to.

Commissioner Woodcock stated also in the rulemaking process there was a restriction currently in place for archery hunting and for youth deer day.  After a great deal of contemplation, in the very near future, there would be a proposed change to the restriction on youth deer day.  It was a very contentious issue in some places, but he would be proposing a change to the youth deer day restriction in the near future.

C. Step 1

1. 2011 - 2012 Furbearer trapping/hunting rules

Mrs. Ritchie stated the language was still being developed for this proposal, and prior to advertising, the information would be forwarded to the Advisory Council.  The Canada lynx is an endangered and threatened species in Maine and occurs in several northern, western and downeast WMDs.  As a result of our rulemaking and a Federal court order, the result of litigation against IF&W that our trapping program was in violation of the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the lawsuit there was a consent decree that was handed down that placed restrictions on the types, size and location of killer type traps and foothold traps in areas that were known to be occupied by lynx.  This was largely WMDs 1-6 and 8-11.  In 2010 as the result of emergency rulemaking we also wanted to add WMDs 14, 18 and 19 to the area to have the same restrictions imposed by the consent decree.  The emergency rule was in effect for 90 days.  We were proposing to keep those areas, 14, 18 and 19 under the same restrictions within the consent decree with a few exceptions.

Mrs. Ritchie stated in WMDs 14, 18 and 19 we wanted to remove the consent decree restriction that specified the size of a foothold trap.  It really didn’t affect lynx.  However, it was in the consent decree so in those WMDs that were under the consent decree, it had to stay.  We did not feel it was necessary in WMDs 14, 18 and 19.  We also wanted to remove the restriction on cage traps.  Under the consent decree it prohibited the use of cage traps.  We did not feel it was warranted in WMDs 14, 18 and 19.  We also wanted to conduct a so called experiment.  In the consent decree areas if you wanted to use a conibear trap it had to be set off the ground and had to be on a pole no smaller than 4” in diameter at a 45 degree angle.  What we had been experimenting with was setting a conibear on the ground but with an exclusionary device that would prohibit lynx from going into it.  In WMDs 14, 18 and 19 if you wanted to set your conibear on the ground, you would have to use this exclusionary device.  If you didn’t want to use the device you would have to comply with the consent decree restrictions.  Mrs. Ritchie stated the device would allow a fisher and a martin to go into it, but it would not allow a lynx to get its paw in or any part of its body in.  At the Step 2 meeting, she hoped to have one on hand so the Council could see it demonstrated.  She also had footage of the device being used.
 

The device was something we would like to try on a trial basis in WMDS 14, 18, 19 and 7 and then potentially try to petition to get a relaxation in the consent decree.  WMD 7 was never included in the consent decree, however, we imposed our own conibear restrictions there and because it was not bound by the consent decree, we would also propose using the device in WMD 7.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the final two things we were proposing to do was to allow the use of wooden base rat traps for trapping weasels.  All of the recommendations were suggested by the Maine Trappers Association.  We were proposing this change not take place in WMDs that were bound by the consent decree, 1-6 and 8-11.
 

Also to consider, last year in the consent decree areas we made a mistake and allowed the use of Hancock live traps used for beaver.  We had to send a letter to trappers to notify them of the mistake and that was a prohibited trap under the consent decree.  We were proposing to strike existing law that allowed the use of Hancock traps to correct the mistake.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Witte asked about the exclusionary device.  Was it something individuals would make themselves, or was there a commercial dealer?

Mrs. Ritchie stated she thought there were people making them but it may fall on the shoulders of the trappers to make their own.  The specifications for the device would be spelled out in detail in the rule.

Mr. Pratte stated we were proposing two size versions; a lot of trappers had the wooden box for marten so if you wanted to continue using that you would just add the wire mesh and extension.

2. 2011 Expanded Archery

Mrs. Ritchie stated for the past three years we held a controlled deer hunt on Marsh Island which was near the University of Maine in Orono.  It was within the Bangor expanded archery hunting zone.  There was interest in the town to include Marsh Island within the expanded archery hunt.  We typically didn’t like to keep repeating the use of controlled hunts, we would like the town to take owness and decide whether or not they wanted to place a particular area in the expanded archery area.  The town was seeking public input and if there was favorable response within the towns of Old Town and Orono then we would be submitting a rulemaking proposal.

V. Other Business    

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the fallen officers memorial service would be held on May 19, 2011.  Darryl Gordon’s name had been added to the memorial and he would be recognized this year at the ceremony.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated Little Wilson Pond that was crossed off the agenda, she did receive a valid petition for a proposal to open the pond to ice fishing.  Rather than hold a separate public hearing it was agreed to include the request as part of the regular rulemaking proposal the biologists would be putting forward.

1. 2012 Moose Permit Drawing

Commissioner Woodcock stated the 2012 moose permit lottery drawing would be held in Rangeley.  Concerning the 2011 drawing at Cabela’s there were a significant number of names that needed to be read off, and that process may be altered.  He thought the goal should be for people to have a great time and want to come back the next year, not feel that it took too long. 

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were five people associated with the moose study group, and they had been reviewing everything to do with the moose permit system with the exception of allocations.  The group included Lt. Tom Ward, Matt Dunlap of SAM, Roger Lambert a Maine Guide from Strong, Bill Swan, Director of Licensing and Registration and John Boland, Director, Bureau of Resource Management.  The results of the study group would be presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and recommendations to the Legislature as a result of the bills that the Committee rolled into one resolve for the Department to discuss.  Commissioner Woodcock stated he was thrilled with the results the group had come up with and there would be some major changes coming if this was moved forward. 

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Kelly stated he had received a phone call regarding a new smelt law that only allowed a person to keep 5 dozen fish alive at one time.  The person was upset because he did a lot of fishing and liked to keep his fish alive and he ended up having to buy an $86 wholesalers license in order to keep the fish that he would use alive.  Mr. Kelly asked if the Department could look into that and give him some information to report back to his constituent.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

There were no public comments or questions.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, May 19, 2011 at IF&W in Augusta.  Election of officers will take place at this meeting.  The Council would be notified of the time at a later date.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Witte to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.