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A Plan to Increase Maine's Northern, Eastern, and Western Deer Herd (Executive Summary)
Public concern over low deer numbers in northern, eastern, and western Maine [NEWME] has been intensifying for nearly 20 years. These deer populations are below the Department’s publicly-derived, goals and objectives and are also below the desires and expectations of resident and non-resident deer hunters, guides and outfitters, business owners located in rural Maine, and those who enjoy watching deer. Low deer numbers are also having a negative impact on Maine businesses and its rural economy.
There are several inter-related factors that are suppressing deer numbers in NEWME. These include:
- winter severity;
- diminished number and quality of deer wintering areas;
- predation; and
- other mortality factors [illegal hunting, improper winter feeding, vehicle collisions, etc.].
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [MDIF&W or Department] has identified 5 elements that are necessary to rebuild the northern, eastern, and western deer herd. The elements are based upon MDIFW’s White-Tailed Deer Management System and Database, the recommendations from the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force  and the Deer Predation Working Group . Each element is critical, and there is no single strategy that will increase deer numbers. Achieving an increase will require successful implementation of the
strategies that span each of the five elements below.
Element 1: Deer Wintering Areas and Winter Severity
Maine’s severe winters influence deer survival and deer numbers. To survive our harsh winter conditions, deer move to dense conifer forests, most of which occur on private land.
- continue efforts to identify active deer wintering areas
- continue to work with landowners to manage deer wintering areas
- promote “current-use” tax programs as an incentive to manage deer habitat
- identify additional incentives to encourage greater landowner participation in DWA management
- involve landowners, stakeholders, and the legislature in the effort to identify incentives
Element 2: Deer Population Management
The Department’s White-Tailed Deer Management System and Database and the recommendations of the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force guide its deer management program.
- conduct research to
- refine our current deer population model
- better understand interactions between deer, habitat, and predation
- understand how moose management may affect our ability to increase the deer population
- work with landowners to eliminate deer mortality where winter feeding makes deer susceptible to vehicle collisions
- increase law enforcement efforts to target illegal killing of deer
- work with the legislature to increase penalties for illegal killing of deer
Element 3: Predation
White-tailed deer comprise a significant portion of coyote diets in Maine, particularly during winter and the spring pupping period. Coyote and bear predation are considered an important component of newborn fawn deaths in summer.
- increase efforts to achieve focused coyote control
- increase success in deploying coyote hunters to predation sites
- seek general funds to achieve sustained coyote control
- consider ways that annual hunting and trapping harvests could be used to stabilize the bear population
- continue to lobby the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an Incidental Take Permit for Maine’s regulated trapping program
Element 4: Deer Planning and Public Involvement
MDIF&W has employed public participation to develop management goals and objectives for many species of Maine’s wildlife, including deer. The Department has conducted species planning since the early 1970s and has refined and expanded the process with each planning update. Most recently, the 1999 Big Game Working Group set the Department’s deer population management objectives for 2000-2015.Deer are a public resource, but live on private lands. For any wildlife management effort to be successful, especially those occurring on private property [including deer wintering area management] society must determine: 1] the wildlife management result it desires, 2] the effort that it will undertake or require to achieve the
result, and 3] to achieve the result, how much of the effort / cost will be borne by the private landowner and what, if any, society will bear.
- convene a public working group in 2015 to update Maine’s deer population goals
- ensure that all stakeholder groups interested in deer participate in the process
- ensure that the goals and objectives developed by the working group are fully vetted to the broader society
- determine applicability and feasibility of integrating the marten and lynx models with forest yield models to inform landscape management in NEWME [Super Species Planning effort]
Element 5: Information and Outreach
Public understanding of the Department’s deer management plan and public support for the plan is essential for it to be successful.
- the Department will enhance it’s public outreach on two fronts:
- better informing the public about the many aspects of deer management and updating the public on progress in deer rebuilding efforts, and
- better providing information on ways concerned individuals and groups can improve deer habitat
- the Department will increase public understanding and support for it efforts to increase the deer population
If we are to succeed in increasing the NEWME deer population, the Department, legislature, landowners, sportsmen’s groups, and interested citizens must all work together to implement A Plan to Increase Maine’s Northern and Eastern Deer Herd.