Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
December 12 , 2018 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (upstairs conference room)
284 State Street, Augusta

Attending:

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, WRAS Supervisor
Kelsey Sullivan, Wildlife Biologist
Jen Vashon, Wildlife Biologist
Steve Allarie, Warden Service Corporal
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Don Dudley (Chair)
Jeff Lewis
Jerry Scribner
Sheri Oldham
Brian Smith - by phone
Gunnar Gundersen
Matt Thurston
Dick Fortier
Larry Farrington

Guests:

Gary Corson, New Sharon
Fern and Sylvia Bosse, Norway
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
James Cote, MTA
Don Kleinerm, MPGA
Bob Parker, MPGA

I. Call to Order

Don Dudley, 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. Gundersen to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner

Vote: unanimous - minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. Chapter 4 Rules repeal and replace

Mrs. Theriault stated a brief overview was given at the last meeting on the general changes throughout. This would break the rule into three chapters, Chapter 4 would remain as the falconry rules, Chapter 16 for Hunting and Chapter 17 for Trapping. We tried to be consistent with a table of contents, scope of the rules, charts for season dates, etc. A complete review of WMD boundaries was done. A list of edits was distributed to the Council with substantive changes highlighted. For Chapter 16 sections with substantive changes included labeling of moose; requirement of ovary submission; deer either sex permits; antlerless deer for a portion of a WMD; the emergency rule change pertaining to CWD; all moose hunting WMDs the hunting would end hour after sunset; tagging stations and standards for agents and requirement for credit check before approval.

Mrs. Theriault stated the changes for Chapter 17 – Trapping, there was a lot of variation and the requirement for reporting if a species was caught out of season and we tried to make that consistent; beaver trapping language was made consistent with ITP language to make it October through April; incidental catch during the beaver season the rule only allowed for the keep of otter and mink was added; in following the AFWA best management practices for muskrat and included a minimum jaw spread for a foothold trap used on a cover float muskrat set of 3 11/16”. The 1 ” foothold set was removed because the manufacturers had a variety of names for foothold traps that were typically used for muskrat sets, the minimum/maximum size allowed the agency to set measurable parameters for the trap size.

Mrs. Oldham stated 3 11/16' was a strange size, was that a standard trap size?

Mr. Webb stated it was about the size of a 1 ”. There was sort of a standard size but it diverged over time. There was a different numbering system based on the manufacturer so rather than use a numbering system which was not really standard we were proposing to go with just a set size.

Mr. Thurston stated we just wanted to ensure that it was the right size trap to effectively do what it needed to.

Mrs. Theriault stated under fur bearing animals there used to be an exemption for taxidermists that they did not need to tag raw skins if they were imported. We could not locate a statutory reference that allowed them to be exempt. We had received a few public comments on the proposal regarding trapping. When it stated “no person may set, place or tend any killer type trap unless set completely underwater except” the word “except” was removed and replaced with “set completely underwater at all times.” There was concern with the interpretation and enforcement of that, so there was discussion of removing the language, “at all times” from the proposal. The other comment pertaining to Chapter 16 – Hunting was on transportation of live cervids.

Mr. Connolly stated deer were regulated in two places in state government. IFW had sole jurisdiction over whitetailed deer and no one was allowed to keep them as pets. The Department of Agriculture regulated deer farms and shooting preserves. By agreement between agriculture and IFW the four species allowed to be used in those facilities for cervids were elk, red deer, sika deer and fallow deer. Agriculture had regulations in terms of health when they came into the state. Through an MOU with the Commissioner’s called for in statute, those four species were the limit of what could be brought into the state for agricultural purposes, but also there was a health standard that was enforced. If any animal was brought into the state to be put into a facility they had to come from a state that was CWD free, and from a certified herd. A certified herd related to the USDA standards. Currently, no one was importing live deer into Maine for shooting preserves. Most of the deer farms in Maine were very small. There was an exemption in statute for live animals to be brought in for same day slaughter in southern Maine. That was ongoing related to a particular business.

Mr. Connolly stated on the captive wildlife side, we put all cervids in as a Category 1 exhibitors only species to prevent people having deer as pets. There were some deer in Maine that were pets and kept to be exhibited i.e. reindeer. When we redid the captive wildlife rule, we made health as a condition for the Commissioner to deny the right to import. If you were importing for deer farms you had to have permission from agriculture, if you were going to import into Maine any exotic wildlife you had to have permission from the Commissioner of IFW, get an importation permit and produce a health certificate. We were currently not allowing anyone to bring deer in for exhibitors permits for Maine. We were concerned about the enforcement of the herd certification program nationwide. There had been some serious lapses, the majority of new cases of CWD in terms of facilities or states in the last year had come from certified facilities and noncompliance. The state vet was very committed to a program of testing and following up. They tested every animal that died in a captive deer facility in Maine. From an IFW standpoint, we were monitoring deer across the state. We were sampling in towns where there were deer farms and sampling wild deer adjacent to that. The idea of a total ban on moving live deer across the country was being discussed. There were some states that were prohibiting any wild deer from being brought into their state. Most everyone was looking at a ban on the movement of carcasses. Ours had been strengthened in the proposed rule.

Mr. Lewis stated there had to be something done to educate people on CWD within the country to get people to comply with laws for transporting carcasses.

Mr. Connolly stated there was no current test that could be done on a live animal. There was no vaccination and there was no cure once the animal contracted CWD. Many animals exhibited no symptoms while they were capable of transmitting the disease. That had been the concern in terms of any movement of a live animal, it created that risk and potential for a problem. At the border we messaged to the sporting camps that dealt with Anticosti Island that we had the ban in place and to notify hunters coming to Maine to respect that ban. Anyone that came to the border with a whole deer was given the chance to take it back into Canada and have it cut up before they brought it across the border. In a number of other states CWD was in the wild deer herd and it was moving through the mechanism of contact. Feeding was a problem. When you congregated deer any disease was an issue. Some of our radio collared deer were venturing in the summertime into Canada and CWD was present in Quebec.

Mr. Thurston asked at what point would the Department say you could no longer feed deer in Maine. How could we limit our exposure to this challenge? Urine based lures were being discussed as well.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the messaging that went out surrounding the Quebec scenario with CWD had to do with what the future held for IFW and deer. In that messaging we cited that feeding was a concern and urine based lures were discussed as well. It was out there that we were considering banning feeding. The dormancy of the prions was an interesting fact.

Mr. Webb stated it was more than 10 years.

Mr. Connolly stated that states that had CWD spent millions of dollars to try and address it. One of the impacts was that it also affected hunting participation and the tourist dollars that accompanied that.

Mr. Farrington stated there was no way to test the animals while they were alive.

Mr. Connolly stated there was no test currently. You could do surgery and pull the nodes but you would have to sedate the animal. There was no easily applied blood test.

Mr. Fortier asked how well the Canadians were looking at the disease on their border? He had seen deer crossing the frozen St. John River because coyotes were chasing them.

Mr. Connolly stated we were looking at how we could sample deer along the border. Probably the best way to do that would be to look at road kills. The International border was not a border to wildlife and we had deer, lynx, etc. that moved back and forth across the border. Part of our telemetry study had shown movement as much as 84 miles.

Mr. Webb stated the rough average distance in the north for a collared deer between winter and summer was about 20 miles. Sometimes they moved over 50 miles. Typically, those deer were associated with feeding operations. That was a risk we were concerned about with them coming from Quebec where CWD was present and may not be present in the wild yet. We did not know the answer to that, and then coming into Maine where there was a significant concentration of deer at a feeding site.

Mr. Connolly stated Quebec was taking it serious in that they created a line around the area where they documented the infection and were looking to eliminate deer. They were doing a testing program and minimizing the movement of carcasses of any deer that were taken out of that area. They had allowed whitetailed deer to be held in captivity and he thought they were looking at that as well as a liability.

Mr. Fortier asked if temperature or climate played any part.

Mr. Connolly stated probably not. Looking at the states that had CWD in the provinces a lot of them had been in very cold areas. It was more an infected animal coming in contact with a non-infected animal.

2. Animal Damage Control rules

Mrs. Theriault stated this was the first time we’d had a rule on the animal damage control program. We wanted to have a testing process and be able to have minimum experience requirements and some training. We had a committee that met on it monthly. We were establishing an application process, operating standards and eligibility requirements which would include a background check. They had to show minimum experience and we would provide training to them in the form of training materials they would have to read and sign off on. Much of that would be available online. We broke the certification into classifications of Home and Garden, All Other, Bats and Hazing with Dogs.

Mrs. Oldham stated in the specifications, the calls she received as an Advisory Council member were nuisance wildlife complaints. Including the Advisory Council in the process we needed to have a central ADC number for people to be referred to rather than referring them to a warden.

Mr. Connolly stated the state police dispatch had the numbers for the ADC agents and could make a referral directly. We would be strengthening the reporting by ADC agents so we would know what they were doing and then we could track the problems and sorts of situations they were addressing.

C. Step 1.

1. Commercial Whitewater Rafting Rules

Corporal Allarie stated the rule was initiated by the commercial industry themselves. He met with them on three separate occasions as well as dialogue through most of the summer and a fall meeting to come up with the proposed rule. They were having difficulty meeting their allocation system that was currently under state law. Their review process was coming due and they wanted the Department’s help to have a better system in place where they could maintain their allocations. Currently we had 36 Kennebec allocations for sale and had not been able to sell them for over 6 years. Under section 14.03 which dealt with CPR and First Aid, we would be allowing online courses. In 2008 language was removed due to the fact that the online courses were not good enough and we had no way to confirm who had actually taken the test. Now the online courses were much better and the outfitters would like to have that option.

Mrs. Oldham stated there were more and better courses available, but there were still bad ones out there. Were we going to specify the best ones that were available?

Corporal Allarie stated if the website met the standards we proposed, they would be able to use it and we could address any questionable courses if they arose. Under section 14.05 it talked about minimum specifications for size capacity. They were allowed to use a craft 13 feet in length on any rapidly flowing river except the West Branch. If they wrote to the Commissioner to ask permission to do so they could if the conditions warranted. The water had been consistent on the West Branch and he had an outfitter ask to offer the trips for 13 ft. rafts. The outfitter took the liability and there were very few accidents on the West Branch. In section 14.07 the proposal would simplify the 5-year allocation review period. We had to review their performance every 5 years and it was based on an industry average. The industry average on the Kennebec River for a 5 year period for them using their allocations was around 64%. The proposal would hopefully give more stability to the industry. The goal was 80% for many years, the outfitters needed to meet 80% of their allocations in a given year to maintain 100% or we would take allocations back after a 5-year review. Currently we could not sell them if we took them back. The industry average was 64% so he felt reducing it by 10% to 70% for a minimum standard would work. If their average was 70% they could keep 100% of their allocations.

Corporal Allarie stated we needed to maintain an order of launch for commercial outfitters. It was based on seniority. The trend we were seeing was more non-commercial rafters than commercial activity on a given day. The rule was last revised in 2011 and we felt we could refer to the website and update when necessary rather than go through the rulemaking process to make a change to the order of launch and the outfitters were in favor of that. Any violations would still be listed in rule.

Mr. Farrington asked if the order of launch had a particular timing based on the water release from the dams?

Corporal Allarie stated it was based on 1,000 commercial passengers on a Saturday for the months of July and August. The water came up at 9:50a.m. and the first-time slot (Northern Outdoors) was expected to be there ready to go. On a Saturday in July or August it would be backed up. They only had a 3-hour window of water flow. The industry had declined significantly and the Department was trying to help any way we could.

2. Wild Turkey Spring and Fall seasons

Mr. Sullivan stated the proposal was to change the spring season in WMDs 1-6 up north. For four years we had a split A and B season and based on your birth year (even or odd) to spread out the hunting pressure and the number of people on the landscape at any given time. It alternated by year who would hunt the first and third weeks of the season and then everyone would hunt the fifth week. To start out the season the turkey numbers were not as high in the north and it was a new hunt on the landscape and there was concern about negative landowner implications. It was springtime and there was concern with hunters going on soft ground. The intent was to spread the pressure out by half the number of people hunting in any given week. There had been no indication of issues with landowners over the last four years. The turkey numbers were stable there. There were not many open fields in WMDs 1-6 so we did not expect expansion beyond what we were seeing. We had relatively low spring harvest in those WMDs. The lowest harvest in WMD 1 was 4. The highest harvest was WMD 6 with 37 birds in the spring. Looking at statewide trends for turkey harvest it fluctuated with high and low years all within the bounds of sustainable numbers. Looking at the harvest numbers for WMDs 5 and 6 their harvest trends matched the statewide trends. We had not seen a crash in turkey numbers since having the spring hunt. We were proposing to eliminate the A/B season so that all spring turkey hunters in WMDs 1-6 could hunt the 5 weeks. Mr. Sullivan stated the second part of the proposal was to increase in WMD 26 to a two-bird limit in the fall season.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham asked about a fall turkey season in WMD 7?

Mr. Sullivan stated there was not one being proposed. We had high productivity that year so there had been interest in becoming more liberal in a lot of places. We were addressing that and working on a more science based process to allocate harvest across the WMDs.

Mr. Scribner stated in terms of the finalization of bag limits and season lengths, it seemed to him that turkeys, as well as deer, until we knew each year what the mortality was during the winter it was hard to peg a reasonable biological basis for the season and bag limits. From a timing perspective, did we have built into any proposed season the ability to modify based on winter mortality.

Mr. Sullivan stated we were monitoring female survival with the research project and also winter conditions. The study would give us more science based information to incorporate into the new management system.

Mr. Thurston stated the mast crops were significantly less than they had been, what effect would that have on the birds through the winter?

Mr. Sullivan stated he suspected we would see a significant effect on birds because of the lack of mast crops. They would gravitate towards dairy farms and feeders. Production was based on an insect diet because of high proteins.

3. Bear Trapping rules

Mr. Connolly stated we had the emergency rule we put in place for bear trapping to address a concern we had about the liability of bear traps for lynx. We never had any documented mortality of lynx in a bear trap but there was a concern when a new trapping mechanism was presented to us for review and made us aware of a technique and potential liability we felt we needed to be addressed so we used the emergency rule to address it temporarily. The emergency rule would expire 90 days from the effective date. It gave us a chance to review the issue. We found there were some concerns with the way some of the devices were structured. We were completing some testing and would be putting forth some guidance. It appeared some of the characteristics for the “critter done” device were effective and precluding capture of certain animals in a way that would be harmful. There were some best management practices and there was a positive benefit when implementing those. In terms of the weight on top of the trap was significant. A lynx would not move a 35-pound weight on top of the trap. The bear trappers had recommended that, but it was not required. That was part of our concern having practices in place that we knew would be used consistently so that we would have a predictable response in terms of what the exposure was to lynx to bear to other animals. If it was not in rule, even though the manufacturer assured they were suggesting that, there was no mechanism to ensure that it happened consistently. There were some principles we needed to consider such as the weight on the trap which would select what size animal or what species would be capable of moving that to get at the device; the opening of the device to limit an animals entry into that device and the positioning of the bait. Was the bait accessible to the animals mouth or was it something it had to reach in with a paw to get at. These were all things we were looking at. Bear trapping rules had been designed to catch the bear by the foot. We were looking at reinforcing those procedures to make sure that was what happened and if there was a chance for any other animal to get caught that it would be by the foot as well. We had stops in place now on the cable to limit how narrow it would close (cub stops). A small animal could pull their foot out of the device. We may recommend a slight adjustment in those as well.

V. Other Business

1. Black Bear Management Plan

Biologist Jenn Vashon gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Black Bear Management Plan (available upon request to Becky.Orff@maine.gov)

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Fortier stated in his area they had conflicts with bears because of sprawl. People were moving in and putting up housing developments in the middle of the wildlife habitat. In the spring the bears were out looking for food. They would go to garages, garbage areas, etc. He thought if we had a better plan when a live trap was set to remove the bear from the conflicted areas it would help. It was a money issue at times and where to move the bears to relocate them.

Mrs. Vashon stated in the new ADC policy they were addressing some of those issues. It had generally been our policy that we did not move black bears. There were situations where we do move them such as human safety threat or causing significant damage. However, moving a black bear is not always effective as they often hone in and return to those areas. They are also at greater risk of dying when moved (hit by vehicles, shot causing damage, etc.). What is often the most effective, is working with the individuals and community to identify what the attractant was and work with them to remove or secure the attractants.

Mrs. Oldham stated one of the objectives in the new plan was to increase hunter participation. She felt we needed to increase successful hunter participation. Bear hunting was not easy and the idea of increasing the bag limit to two by either method, we now had the ability to instantaneously know harvest. Would it not be reasonable to entertain that a successful bear hunter that harvested two bears could apply for a third? We knew what the harvest was and the objective, therefore whatever WMD we were looking at trying to keep under carrying capacity, let them have a third one.

Mrs. Vashon stated when we looked at the plan we recognized it would be hard to increase participation right away but we needed to increase harvest. There was some concern from groups that there would be too many that would take advantage of the two-bear limit and we would overharvest. We would probably move forward with caution.

Mr. Scribner stated in terms of a spring season, he assumed that would be a legislative change. If we were not meeting our harvest objectives that would be one of the easiest ways to get there.

Mrs. Vashon stated it would be legislative. It was a contentious issue.

Mr. Thurston stated with the direct data entry, when could the public see the data.

Mr. Webb stated it had been a big project. Our focus had been to get the system up and working and getting the data into the system. Our plan was to make the information more available to the public on our website in near real time. We were still fixing errors with preliminary numbers and things that hunters were reporting to us when they received confirmation emails. It would take time once seasons closed to release official numbers. We were planning to make the information more available after the seasons.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments and Questions

Katie Hansberry stated she wanted to say thank you for all the conversation that came about from the comment they submitted on CWD. She also wanted to comment that she appreciated being part of the black bear subcommittee. It was a productive process and even though she was not on board with many of the things that came out in the plan, she did appreciate having the opportunity and to submit comments that were on record. She also wanted to point out that the survey Mrs. Vashon mentioned in her presentation that went out to the general public about whether or not they supported legal hunting, it didn’t get into the specific practices. She felt it was important not to read into that whether or not people answering were specifically responding about whether or not they supported specific practices as opposed to supporting bear hunting generally. Even though it did say legal bear hunting, she did not think that necessarily got through to people that was what was trying to be captured.

Bob Parker stated he had some comments on the new tagging system. It was very good and very much needed. He did see there were some problems with it and some things we could do to make it better.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next Advisory Council meeting was tentatively scheduled for January 16, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

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