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Advisory Council Meeting
November 21, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Bonnie Holding, Information and Education Director
Tom Schaeffer, Regional Wildlife Biologist - Jonesboro
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries Division Director
Tim Place, Lieutenant, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Don Dudley (Chair)
Jeff Lewis (Vice-Chair) - by phone
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Fern & Sylvia Bosse, Norway
Jim Fleming, Kennebec Valley Fur Takers
John Glowa, South China
Deidre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Association
Chris Bartlett, Eastport Deer Committee
David Oakes, Canton
Jason Prillo, Winthrop
Tammy Turcotte, Brunswick
Eden Turcotte, Brunswick
Dave Christen, Rangeley
I. Call to Order
Council Chair Don Dudley called the meeting to order.
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. Wheaton.
Vote: Unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Eastport Deer Reduction Special Hunt
Commissioner Woodcock stated the Eastport hunt had been addressed with the Council and his consideration of the rule came down to one element. It was different than the seasons discussed previously in that the public health issue did not take center stage as much as it did in Islesboro. We had some concern with the length of the hunt as it was proposed as a three year hunt. The Commissioner stated after reviewing all of the comments, he would be making a change to the proposal that it be a one year hunt, not a three year hunt. The one year would give an opportunity to have some type of control of the mechanism and evaluate it and make a decision if the season would continue.
Mrs. Oldham stated she was glad the proposal had been modified. Before she knew about the change to one year, she had made a good faith effort to put aside her dislike of special hunts and look at the problem with an open mind. She wanted to re-examine the problem and the reasonable assumption they could make about it. Did Eastport really have a deer problem? There was the evidence in support, they heard from city officials, legislators, the regional biologist, public comment, news articles and Mr. Wheaton who went there and observed. There was no biologic data (pellet counts) that they could measure success but they heard estimates from the biologist anywhere from 20 to 50 deer per square mile in that municipality. The public safety factor with the car/deer collisions and the social carrying capacity looked to be exceeded. If the deer density was as much as they had been led to believe she thought that was a reasonable assumption that it exceeded the 10 deer per square mile threshold for Lyme disease. Even though it was not currently a problem, it would be. The conclusion she came to, the City of Eastport did have a deer problem and was in need of a solution.
Mrs. Oldham discussed what had caused the deer problem. In their documentation, 11 years ago there was a rearrangement of the WMDs which eliminated the doe harvest during regular archery season when no antlerless permits were issued. The Department had a role in creating the problem and should be part of the solution. The other problem was there were limited areas to hunt in Eastport. There was private land that had been posted and municipal land that was closed to regular hunting and would somehow be opened for the special hunt. There were reportedly a fair number of residents in Eastport that were feeding deer. She thought all those things had contributed to the problem. Would 30 permits of mostly resident hunters solve the problem? She believed the answer was no. An additional 30 permits did not cover the natural reproductive increase in the deer population. A one or three year hunt would not fix the problem. This was her 10th year on the Advisory Council representing different areas of the state. There had not been a single success of a special resident only hunt. If a tool did not work, you either fixed the tool or threw it out. The special hunts had never achieved objective.
Mrs. Oldham stated she had an alternative proposal. There was pressure to do something for the current year so the one year hunt was achieved. Secondly, it was her understanding that the Commissioner had the authority to ban deer feeding when there was a public safety issue. This was one of the main reasons for bringing the proposal forward, car/deer collisions. That could be done immediately; if they banned deer feeding within city limits of Eastport that would disperse the deer and would make them more harvestable. She also thought a portion of the special hunt harvest should be donated to Hunters for the Hungry. If the one year special hunt was granted she thought during the course of the next year, Eastport city officials and residents had to continue to work on the problem. They needed to approach their local legislators for an exemption to the current law so antlerless harvest was allowed during regular archery and possibly creating a sunset law that would create an expanded archery season for Eastport. They also needed to create a plan to utilize municipal land during regular archery seasons. She would strongly encourage that they involve the IFW landowner relations manager to talk to some of the private landowners and see if they would be willing to work with their neighbors in Eastport to achieve deer reduction.
Mr. Wheaton stated after being there and seeing it, Mrs. Oldham stated Eastport closed off some of their land. Eastport did not have a lot of land. Where Mr. Wheaton lived there were miles and miles but no deer. He did not blame Eastport for the management, he blamed IFW for not allowing antlerless deer to be taken. It should have been allowed all along and it would have eliminated the problem. It was stated at the last meeting that they were "everybody's" deer. The deer could be tranquilized and transported across the bridge, why was that not being discussed? If they could have some for seed in Washington County, with the rod and gun clubs there they could do it and it wouldn't cost the Department anything and people would be glad to move some of those deer. As far as feeding the deer, let the people feed them. They may die from a car but they wouldn't suffer day after day getting nothing to eat.
Mrs. Oldham stated the argument against not feeding the deer was that it congregated them. The deer would disperse and leave Eastport if there was no food for them. They could leave Eastport it was not as isolated as other islands they had talked about.
Mr. Thurston stated he agreed with Mrs. Oldham that the special hunt would not fix the problem. He felt they needed to make it an expanded archery zone so there was more hunting. The deer could come and go as they pleased. He had seen deer swim before from islands in the ocean. He thought feeding did present a challenge for the dispersement of the deer. 30 permits would not solve the problem. It was an archery hunt and he was not sure how successful they would be.
Mr. Farrington asked how it had gotten to this point. There were biologists in the area, couldn't they make recommendations to the Department to split the zone or allow people to take antlerless deer in Eastport. As far as the 30 permits for one year, it would not work. Listening to Mrs. Oldham there was history to say the special hunt would not work. How feasible was it to move deer? They could move more deer by tranquilizing them then they would by giving out 30 permits. If the deer were as thin as Mr. Wheaton stated who would want to eat them?
Mr. Thurston stated when you had too much of a population, would we transfer unhealthy deer (ticks) to an area that possibly had healthy deer. Was that a consideration?
Mr. Dudley asked to hear from biologist Tom Schaeffer. They had questions on recruitment, 30 deer was the amount picked to harvest what was the recruitment rate, they did not know because they didn't have the population. 20 to 50 per square mile was more than they would be taking out. If there were doe permits allowed in WMD 27 then the archers on the island could technically shoot does. What was the possibility of getting that changed?
Tom Schaeffer stated they had debated that recommendation for the last couple of years. The winter of 2014-15 was a very severe winter and Eastport was hit as hard as any on the east coast. We managed deer in accordance with the management system and the system recommended that we would not expand hunting opportunities in a WMD after a severe winter. WMD 27 remained bucks only. We did not manage deer on a town by town basis, we had to manage at a district level. We maintained the course after the severe winter and looked at resulting data the next fall and found the buck kill index stayed pretty flat and declined a little in the WMD. It was a struggle to manage deer where you had localized problems when the WMD data was telling you the population was in decline or stable. The number of 30 permits was very conservative. Eastport was aware of that and there were discussions with the deer committee. There were people concerned in Eastport about archery as an effective tool for deer hunting. They were concerned about trespassing, etc. The number 30 came up as a consensus number by the deer committee for the first year to gain public confidence in the process that the deer committee could be effective in devising a plan with the Department and if it was successful in years two and three they would look at expanding the proposed number of permits. The Department did explore the possibilities of introducing a token number of permits into all of WMD 27. Because of our management system, because of that buck kill index we had to tow the line for another year. We were hopeful given winter severity this year that next year we would be able to recommend some permits for WMD 27. In WMD 27 he had at least 4 other areas that were beginning to complain about deer numbers. We had local areas with deer numbers beginning to increase and cause social problems. We had suggestions that they wanted public hearings to discuss our recommendations should we introduce permits. It would be controversial because WMD 27 remained below our target objective.
Mr. Wheaton stated we had a problem and had to address the problem now. His recommendation would be to have the hunt and knock the number down somewhat and watch it carefully. Now was not the time to move deer. But, next summer if there was still a problem we should look forward and represent some of the other people and put the deer to sleep and move them. He did not think there would be any more cost.
Mr. Gundersen asked Mr. Schaeffer if we knew how many deer were taken there during the regular archery season.
Mr. Schaeffer stated no, not yet for this year.
Mr. Gundersen asked if he thought it was feasible to move deer from Eastport.
Mr. Schaeffer stated that was an option that deer committees had always explored. Generally the Department was negative on trying to pursue that. It was very costly. We were using controlled substances to tranquilize deer so the Department had to be a participant, it took the attendance of a vet and Department staff to administer drugs. There was a high mortality experienced in whitetail deer, they were a very high strung animal and when you tried to immobilize them and move them there was a phenomenon called capture myopathy where there was a high mortality rate in handling the animals. There was also evidence that deer moved into strange territory also exacerbated the problem of survival. It was a very labor intensive approach. He was not aware of any private contractors that were qualified.
Mr. Scribner stated given the time constraints and it being a December hunt could they overcome any logistical hurdles between now and then to have a successful hunt.
Mr. Schaeffer stated the city played a major role. We were talking about landowners and property rights. The city had the responsibility of contacting landowners and on the Department's side of things, once they sent us the names of those being awarded a permit we had to vet them and make sure they did not have a history of fish and wildlife violations. We would then draw up the permits. We could move forward from the Department's standpoint.
Chris Bartlett stated they had been very active in gaining landowner permission for hunters to be part of the special hunt if it were to move forward. They had also been very active in spreading word of the possibility of the special hunt so that potential applicants were aware. They were confident from a city administrator's perspective that they could process the applications and get them to the Department in a timely manner. They felt they could be successful if the hunt were to move forward.
Mr. Fortier stated as far as deer feeding, he thought it was appropriate. In his area when he saw people feeding deer, number one, it not be near a roadway because that presented a hazard. When the snow was deep some deer feeding was done and the deer stayed in those areas. When you stopped feeding the deer they started dispersing. They found with the cutting of the woods and lack of feed in certain areas the deer moved into the farming areas. He did visit Eastport and the deer needed to be addressed, but he did not think they would meet their objective. He liked the idea of the one year hunt and come back with a report. He would like to see some kind of report for what was being done as far as the tick population. People may not know they had a tick problem until it was too late. If we did not try to do something now it would get worse. He was in favor of getting the hunt underway. Regarding moving deer, he did not know how they would move them and the deer survive going into an area where they did not know where the feed was.
Mr. Lewis stated with Eastport compared to Islesboro and some of the other special hunts, the amount of land to hunt just wasn't there and it was a problem that was created by changing the season to bucks only and not being able to have the expanded hunt there. He was a warden there for some time and there was not an issue then. He agreed that one year was good. He didn't know what the overall population was on the island but it wouldn't be anything close to what Islesboro was, there just wasn't the land to sustain that.
Mr. Dudley stated it was a complex problem. We spoke about all the deer that were on the small island and pretty heavily populated so he understood there was going to be a real problem. As far as the ticks he agreed with Mr. Fortier, probably there was more of a tick problem there than they realized. He agreed they had to do something to try and alleviate the problem.
Commissioner Woodcock stated deer feeding was a complicated matter. It created scenarios for deer that were appropriate if done appropriately. It could contribute to the opposite effect if not done appropriately. The tranquilizing of the animal and moving it, he thought there was a social part too. WMD 27 also had some agricultural entities and there may not be many deer in some of those areas where the agriculture was taking place. If deer were moved into an area where agriculture took place and they contributed to the concerns of the agricultural community, you may be addressing a social issue you didn't have previously. Discussions about moving deer had been ongoing, it had not been something the Department was interested in at this time. Expanded opportunities, could we make changes to the season? There was a firearms ordinance in Eastport so it restricted the methods used to hunt. Could they refocus on WMD 27 and analyze it again after the winter and hunting season; we would do that. Reporting on the tick population, that had a lot to do with local health care as well as biologic care from the Department. This was an opportunity for the Department and Eastport to arrive at a place to help with the problem ongoing. He would rekindle the concept of the special hunt for one year and the reexamination after.
Mrs. Oldham stated for clarification, there was no baiting during the special hunt.
Commissioner Woodcock stated that was correct.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to adopt the proposal as amended with a one year hunt, and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
2. Shooting Ranges
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated there were no changes to the proposal. These were rules for the two Department shooting ranges in Fryeburg and Augusta. Both ranges were scheduled for major reconstruction and the rules would be for both of them. There was some last minute consideration in terms of steel core ammunition and determined that steel core ammunition was primarily prohibited at most ranges. It was not readily available at gun shops and the concern was that inexpensive (Wolf) ammunition that a lot of people shot with would be allowed. We were standing with the language to prohibit the use of steel core ammunition at the ranges.
Mrs. Oldham asked what the amount of the grant was.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated $700,000 for each range.
Mr. Connolly stated we were putting out an RFP for the design and then could get an estimate on construction to put out for bid.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we were cautious in the timing of our range improvements because we wanted others to have their opportunities.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
B. Step 2
There were no items under Step 2.
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated he wanted to touch briefly on the subject of tagging game. We were looking at people still bringing an animal into a station. It was complicated in looking at what systems were available and going through the state process for procurement. We were looking at coming up with a system where we could get data in quicker.
Ms. Camuso stated what we would like to see was the hunter going to the tagging station and they would have a scanner or reader so it would automatically fill in the hunting information so the person did not have to enter it. The system would need to be able to communicate with our licensing system as well. We were looking at what other states had done and companies they had used. Most likely we would need to do a test with a small group of stations and in order to be effective the station would need to have either cell or wireless to upload the data. We would anticipate it taking about 5 years before all stations could be brought on board and functioning. We were referring to it as direct data entry because we did not want people to think we were switching to an electronic tagging system which was very different. In discussions with others that had electronic tagging, compliance went down to 40-60%. We felt we needed the data from all the animals and was not willing to risk that level of compliance.
Jason Prillo stated he would like to propose for the Chapter 7 technical committee that they add two new people. One person directly involved in the exotics trade and also an additional scientist, Ian Bricknell from the University of Maine Orono.
Chris Bartlett stated he would like to thank the Department and Council for approving Eastport's request. It would allow them to move forward in starting to remove does from the island and to continue to improve landowner relations and public perception so they could increase areas for hunters in future years. He thought they would learn a lot from the hunt. They would be diligent in reporting back on what they learned in their successes.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next two meetings were scheduled for January 25, 2017 and February 22, 2017 at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.