Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
March 29, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Augusta, Maine


Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Kelsey Sullivan, Game Bird Biologist
Bonnie Holding, Information and Education Director
Tim Place Warden Service Lieutenant
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Don Dudley (Chair)
Jeff Lewis (Vice-chair)
Dick Fortier
Gunnar Gundersen
Matt Thurston
Jerry Scribner
Larry Farrington
Sheri Oldham
Jenny Starbird

Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Association
Jim Fleming, Kennebec Valley Furtakers

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. Fortier.

Vote: Unanimous ? minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

1. Chapter 8 Rules ? Bats

Ms. Camuso stated there were no changes to the proposal. We received few comments probably because we had some working groups along the way. The only substantive comment we received was from Acadia National Park for us to provide some additional protections for rocky slopes, but we did not feel we had a good enough understanding of how bats were utilizing those areas to factor in how it related to the proposal.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.

Vote: unanimous ? motion passed

B. Step 2

1. 2017 Moose Permit Allocations

Ms. Camuso stated the comment period would end the following day. A public hearing was held and two members of the public attended.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Dudley asked about the winter mortality.

Ms. Camuso stated there had been no mortality in March. The proposal was being portrayed that we were cutting permits again. Staff had been lobbying to cut permits in those districts because of such historically low populations in that area and poor hunter satisfaction. We had met the objectives for that area.

Mr. Fortier asked if it would maintain the objective or if it would start to rise overall in all the districts.

Ms. Camuso stated there were many variables. One of the things we were looking at with New Hampshire and Vermont, we knew the tick had an impact on moose. There was more evidence to suggest that it was a density dependence issue. Higher moose populations were more likely to have more impact from winter tick. What we didn't know was at which level did we need to lower the moose population to mitigate for the impact. That would require that we purposefully lower the moose population to prevent mortality from ticks. That would be hard to communicate to the public because it was sort of counter intuitive that we were purposefully lowering the population to minimize mortality. That was one of the recommendations in the big game plan was to look at an area and try and scientifically determine what level did we see minimized impact from winter tick on moose survivorship.

Mr. Fortier stated he realized it had been a tough winter up north and he was glad to see the collaring in that zone and to see the moose were evidently surviving.

Mr. Scribner asked about the tick study in Vermont. Didn't they take action in a couple of their districts and did we have any information from that.

Ms. Camuso stated they did in the Northeast Kingdom. Compared to Maine it was a small area. It was taking quite a long time to see results. They had shown a very slight adjustment in productivity and gotten only slightly higher. The ability to see moose there had gone down which made some people less happy.

Mr. Thurston stated New Hampshire had gone down to 50 permits.

Ms. Camuso stated New Hampshire had gone down but they were proposing to start increasing their permits again in the same thought that they may need to lower the moose population to minimize mortality in the long run. We worked with New Hampshire and Vermont and shared knowledge across the region.

Mr. Farrington stated one of the public comments suggested an inoculation program for the moose.

Ms. Camuso stated people wanted to help and find a solution. You could put a collar on your dog or cat and people were optimistic that they could apply that to moose without considering how challenging it would be to inoculate or apply something like that to an entire population of wild animals. The stress associated with the encounter was not rational.

Mr. Dudley asked if any of the collared moose were inoculated.

Ms. Camuso stated that would render the tick study invalid.

Mrs. Oldham stated she reached out to some people and they seemed ok with what was being suggested in the proposal. Foresters and loggers were encouraged by what they were seeing.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we often heard about public hearing attendance or lack thereof. There was a time not long ago when public hearings were extremely viable in terms of the population of them. They didn't have access to comments via the internet and today a comment on the internet counted the same as a comment at a public hearing. He thought people were beginning to appreciate that more than they did at first. Becky transcribed the hearings and he received a copy along with the electronic comments and it really didn't have an extra bearing. Some people thought it did because of their presence, but technically it did not. He thought unless there was a hot button issue, generally we probably would not see great attendance at public hearings any longer.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. 2017-18 Migratory Waterfowl Seasons

Mr. Connolly stated the packet included a recommendation from the waterfowl council. Basically the only change we would suggest would be reverting back to the original framework for the north zone season. The comments were uniform that they were unhappy with that part of the proposal because of the ice-in in the northern zone. Extending the season in the northern part of the north zone wasn't productive for them and actually diminished opportunity. There were three changes to the proposal because they affected different parts. The increase in the black duck bag limit and the decrease in the pintail limit we did not receive any adverse comments related to that.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston asked if reverting back to the original season was detrimental to the ducks.

Mr. Sullivan stated no, there would be no population effects.

Mrs. Oldham stated Mr. Sullivan's initial comments on the season were that his first thoughts in terms of ice-in, ice-out was to try to change the parameters of the northern zone and that was shut down. What she didn't understand was did that require legislation to change the parameters of the north and south zone to accommodate the weather change that we'd seen for the last decade.

Mr. Connolly stated the zone changes were only available periodically, every 5 years. We were at an in between time. The last time we looked at a zone change it was a battle across the board. When the line was moved, the people that were further from the edge were unhappy, the people at the edge were happy because they flip flopped. Creating a change acceptable to everybody was going to be very difficult.

Mr. Sullivan stated the next change was to be in effect in 2021.

Mr. Farrington stated it was his understanding that the federal government set the number of days that we could hunt, and we decided when.

Mr. Sullivan stated we had the federal guidelines and we could set the seasons within that structure; days and bag limits.

Mr. Lewis asked about woodcock and sea ducks. The guides had stated they didn't like the later season.

Mr. Sullivan stated there was a small number of guides that preferred later. It went from 107 to 60 days, but those 60 days were really the core time for sea duck hunting. There had been a small number that would prefer the sea duck season started January 31 and counted backwards. The woodcock numbers, what it came down to was habitat loss. Long term from the 1960's we had been on a slow decline. The affect that hunting had on the population trend was negligible.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he was surprised at the lack of comments regarding the 2 black duck limit.

Mr. Sullivan stated it had been at a 1 black duck limit for 34 years. At the same time the number of black duck hunters was declining. The system in place was responsive. It was adaptable so we should be able to see the ability to respond to the seasons and population before seeing a crash.

Mr. Farrington asked about the number of federal duck permits issued in Maine.

Mr. Sullivan stated he had the number of state permits which if you hunted ducks you also needed the federal stamp and that was 12,000. In general the number was stable or slightly increasing the last few years.

There were no further questions or comments

3. Boat Navigation Rules

Commissioner Woodcock stated the process of developing the proposal had been a long one. We were trying to parallel the federal rules as much as possible and to have a basis in rule in order to be prosecuted. The rule was commonsensical but if there was an accident and someone violated a law we had to have something in place to be able to move forward in the legal system.

There were no further comments or questions.

C. Step 1

1. Fall Turkey Season - WMD 27

Ms. Camuso stated the Department was proposing to open WMD 27 to a fall turkey harvest of either sex for a 1 bird bag limit. There were 3 zones in the state currently in the fall where you could take 2 birds, 1 bird or no birds. Given the data and discussion with regional staff and warden service we believed the population could sustain a fall harvest so we were proposing to open with 1 bird.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham stated she saw in the proposal that spring harvest was one of the factors when setting a season. How big a factor was that? In some of the northern zones she thought in the last few years had just been opened to turkey hunting. There weren't a lot of turkey hunters in her area although the population of turkeys appeared to be increasing. How much did spring harvest impact, she thought we would have more birds harvested in the fall. Were there other ways to evaluate?

Mr. Sullivan stated it tended to be the opposite where spring harvest was higher in general, 6,000 in the spring vs. 2,000 in the fall. The spring harvest was one of three things we looked at; documented reproduction; observed viable population. He looked at overall the last 5 years we had seen rises and falls in spring harvest and that same trend had occurred in WMD 27 so it didn't suggest anything was different in terms of population trajectory there.

Mr. Fortier stated there had been a learning curve up north, but it was catching on.

Mrs. Oldham stated in WMD 7 there weren't a lot of turkey hunters. She thought there were some areas where the spring harvest did not reflect the number of birds that were available.

Mr. Sullivan stated that was one of the reasons they were comfortable with WMD 27, there were a lot of birds out there and they started off conservatively with a 1 bird limit.

Mr. Thurston stated we'd had a lot of effort with proposed new areas to hunt to manage to a desired level of turkeys in the state. Was there any thought to starting earlier for the spring season? There could be more opportunity in the spring, that's when it was best was early.

Mr. Sullivan stated it had been discussed. The big game planning process, one of the things that was identified was looking at nesting phenology. The mean date that hens were on the nest so we weren't affecting production. We were putting in for research to look at that between southern and central Maine.

Mr. Fortier asked if coyotes were a large predator for turkeys.

Mr. Sullivan stated coyotes took more adults than most other predators that were preying on them.

There were no further questions or comments.

V. Other Business

There were no items under Other Business.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Don Kleiner stated the annual Maine Professional Guides Association banquet was being held on April 8, 2017. The legendary Maine guide award would be presented.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for April 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mr. Gundersen to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.