Advisory Council Meeting
October 7, 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
Nate Webb, Special Projects Coordinator
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)
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Fern & Sylvia Bosse, Norway
Connie Gulagas, Cape Elizabeth
Jerry Wright, Cape Elizabeth
James Cote, MTA
Jim Fleming, Kennebec Valley Fur Takers
John Glowa, South China
Jeff Reardon, TU
Karen Coker, WildWatch ME, Cape Elizabeth
Elaine Selekas, WildWatch Me
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
Deidre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Association
Chris Bartlett, Eastport Deer Committee
A.J. Higgins, ME Public Radio
Richard Hessline, Brownfield
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. Lewis.
Vote: Unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Furbearer Seasons/Beaver Closures 2016/17
Commissioner Woodcock stated the Department was established to promote the use of wildlife and to use hunting and trapping as the preferred management tools. Therefore, the Department provided the public the opportunity to sustainably harvest some wildlife species. Similar to other fish and wildlife agencies across North America, the Department used population indices within an adaptive management framework to adjust hunting and trapping seasons for furbearers and other wildlife. Adaptive management was a widely accepted scientific approach to adjusting hunting and trapping regulations for wildlife and did not cause wildlife to become threatened or endangered. The Department had a long history of successfully managing furbearers. When appropriate we established bag limits, adjusted allowable practices or shortened hunting or trapping seasons to ensure that harvest did not exceed management goals. In the past, this included shortening the hunting season for bobcats, establishing bag limits for fisher and martin and restricting trapping near beaver lodges and dams. Hunting and trapping were established in statute as appropriate tools to manage wildlife populations.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we had many comments during the process. Many of the comments were directly related to opposition to trapping and hunting in general. Those were statutory provisions and were not in the rulemaking process for the Department. Discussions related to the validity of those management tools were not pertinent to the rulemaking process although they were accepted as part of the process. The Council was presented all of the comments and hopefully had a chance to read them all.
Mr. Connolly stated the comments had been summarized. There were 55 comments that were just opposed to trapping in general as a tool. That wasn't what the rule was about. Trapping, hunting and fishing were established in statute and we were authorized to use those in our wildlife management techniques. There were 26 comments that there was no data or insufficient data to support the proposed changes. Most wildlife in North America, both harvested and unharvested, were tracked using indices. When a species was harvested, harvest data was often used to develop the indices. The population of bobcats in Maine was tracked using an index that incorporated harvest as it related to trapping effort to track the trends in bobcat populations. The Department was always interested in collecting more detailed information. The index currently in use had successfully regulated the harvest of the species for decades. The data used to direct the beaver harvest was also based on adaptive management. Historically the species was managed through population based indices because the population was recovering from a low population and interest in harvest was high. By the mid 1980's the beaver population was fully recovered. As populations continued to grow, the Department's managements adapted to include considerations for increasing property damage complaints. By requiring mandatory reporting of harvested beaver we ensured that harvest was at sustainable levels and was at or below levels identified in the beaver management plan. After that, the primary objective was addressed. We adjusted beaver regulations to help minimize beaver/human conflicts.
Mr. Connolly stated he had mentioned to the Advisory Council, when we were working with the public with regards to wildlife we were always working to find ways to recognize that wildlife were a part of the environment and to find ways to work with them to accept that. We worked with landowners to deal with water levels when roads were being impacted. Beaver normally would dam up near a culvert and flood roadways or low lying areas. We looked to try and maintain that wetland and the water level at an appropriate level. Beaver by their nature spread out on the landscape up and down a flowage and established colonies and began to impact water levels and the habitat of the area. This could start causing property damage and we used trapping as a tool to address those issues.
Mr. Connolly stated there were 13 comments that furbearer management decisions should not be based on fur prices, that the proposed hunting and trapping season extensions were intended to allow trappers to harvest more animals in order to increase the amount of revenue generated from fur sales. That was what people were claiming but that was not true. We did not manage any species based on the return of revenue to the Department. The seasons were set based on the characteristics of the animals that we were working with and the tools we had to address the issues. The Department did not recommend changes to hunting or trapping seasons based on economic factors. In fact, the Department regularly restricted opportunities for harvest when doing so was in the best interest of the species. For example, in recent years we reduced moose permits and closed the turkey hunting season in portions of northern Maine despite reductions in revenue these changes caused. However, trapping effort was strongly correlated to fur prices. Fur prices were used as an index for trapper effort. Fur prices were currently low which had resulted in a decline of trapper effort and lower harvest levels for some species. For some species like beaver, this required an adjustment to season lengths in order to maintain harvest levels to meet management objectives.
Mr. Connolly stated there was a comment about inappropriate seasons because there were no bag limits for bobcat and beaver. Bag limits were a management tool that was utilized to prevent over harvesting of certain species and/or distribute the harvest of a species equally amongst individual license holders. Bag limits were often employed when a species had high harvest pressure, low reproductive rates or was highly susceptible to harvest. With beaver and bobcat, the Department monitored the harvest and our data identified the harvest rates were low, populations were healthy and both species did not exhibit low reproductive rates. Therefore, bag limits were not currently needed for the management of the species.
Mr. Connolly stated there were also 15 comments regarding extending the bobcat season and that it would result in an increase in the incidental take of lynx. We did not have any records of bobcat hunters accidentally killing a lynx in Maine. Hunters were required by law to identify their target before shooting and the Department provided extensive information to hunters and trappers to ensure that they could distinguish between bobcat and lynx. Bobcat hunters tended to avoid the areas where lynx were abundant and the most common method for hunting bobcat, tracking hounds, allowed hunters to determine the species before pursuing the animal. Accidentally killing a lynx during the bobcat season would be a violation of both federal and state law and would be investigated by appropriate authorities.
Mr. Connolly stated another comment was that beavers were important for maintaining wetlands so efforts should be focused on maintaining beaver on the landscape. Normally, we would work with the landowner and where appropriate manage the water level through a beaver deceiver, which was a piping system with fencing that allowed the water level to be maintained without flooding it. Sometimes that was not appropriate. The Department agreed that beaver were an important wildlife species with many positive benefits for wetland management and habitats for other wildlife. The Department collaborated extensively with private landowners to maintain beaver flowages in many areas across the state and closed areas to beaver trapping upon request from landowners. However, most quality beaver habitat in the state was already occupied which resulted in many situations where beavers colonized areas with a high potential for damaging human property. Beaver trapping regulations and season dates were designed to maintain healthy beaver populations while allowing the sustainable harvest and use of beavers where appropriate. Regulated trapping seasons also gave trappers the opportunity to remove beavers that had colonized in inappropriate habitats that would otherwise need to be killed by an ADC agent at the landowners expense and at the time of the year when pelts had little value. Sometimes there was a suggestion that we should trap and transfer beaver somewhere else. There were instances where landowners were interested in having beaver on their property and we were able to do that. Normally, the issue was that there were problems elsewhere on a watershed and beaver would tend to migrate up and down the system and find areas where there were constrictions and use those to their advantage. That was typically a road where you were going to get a plugged culvert and another problem. In some instances we had landowners that had enough land to want beaver and we worked with them to but normally trapping and transferring beaver to another spot wasn't workable.
Mr. Connolly stated there were some comments that bobcat season was inappropriate and their numbers were still recovering from decline. Bobcats were widely distributed in Maine and across the northeast; they could be found in all 16 counties. There was no evidence that bobcat populations in Maine had undergone recent declines. Our monitoring program indicated that the population was slowly increasing. Comments that bobcats had slow reproductive rates and should not be hunted; bobcats typically bred at one year of age and produced litters of 2 to 4 kittens every year. Bobcat reproductive rates were similar to or higher than those of some larger rodents. We also received 57 comments in support of the rule saying they had seen an increase in bobcats or beaver, and lack of snow at the early part of the season in terms of bobcat hunting.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Commissioner Woodcock stated that normally at Step 3 there would not be a discussion but because the process closed the previous day, their opportunity to review and discuss had been minimal. The Council should have the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Connolly.
Mr. Lewis asked if we had heard anything from the Feds on beaver and Atlantic salmon. In his area they were having a tremendous problem. He did not know how it would help save the endangered Atlantic salmon when everything was plugged up.
Mr. Connolly stated they had not expressed any concerns. In the past, with regards to brook trout, they were able to negotiate beaver dams and weren't hindered by the presence of beaver in the streams.
Mr. Fortier stated in Aroostook County when beaver became abundant it became costly to landowners and loggers. Parts of land where the beaver were they had never been there before. They were flooding homes and local businesses in the area. The beaver were removed, but to him that was an indicator that beaver were plentiful.
Mr. Wheaton stated they tried to set the laws for the good of the animal and the people. Mother nature had more control than they did. In southern Maine the brooks were low this year and not much water flowing and he noticed that beaver had left the brooks and were going to the lakes to build their beaver house on the side of the lake. As fall came, they may be falling trees into the lake from people's property and making a feed bed and living on the side of the lake and not the brook.
Mr. Dudley stated he contacted Irving which was the largest landowner in his area and for the last three years his cost for beaver control was $36,000 to $50,000 per year. They had replaced 50 to 75 culverts at a cost of $1250 each. That would be $62,000 to $93,000 depending on the amount. He couldn't give an estimate for damage to standing timber or planted areas. Each acre lost would be approximately $1,000 to $1250 per acre. APHIS in the last three years, in 2013 they had 588 sites they had to remove beaver; 2014, 380; 2015, 424. Each site averaged a cost of about $165. Someone, be it towns or individuals had to pay for the removal. The beaver were very plentiful in the north and were a problem in some areas.
Mr. Gundersen stated he was hearing complaints from people about bobcats being around. More people had chickens and ducks and the bobcats were around and getting into their domestic animals.
Mr. Farrington referred to the indices Mr. Connolly spoke about, obviously the number of furs tagged would be one of them. What were some other indices used.
Mr. Webb stated where appropriate, we used indices derived from fur harvest numbers but certainly for other species where we felt like more information was required (Canada lynx was a good example) we did extensive research studies like track counts and those types of surveys. For bobcat, the index we used was not the total number of bobcat harvested per year, it was a measure of success rate by bobcat trappers. That worked for bobcat and that approach was used by many other states because it corrected for trapper effort and the number of trappers out on the landscape. In the annual report they could see that there was fluctuation in the harvest of many species from year to year based on weather conditions, fur prices and a host of things that impacted trapper behavior. Where we could, and bobcat was a good example, we corrected for those changes in effort and looked at success rates.
Mr. Farrington stated the trappers he spoke with had said they were not going to waste their time and set a beaver trap for $3.50. If the cost of fur was down, obviously that would affect the number of beaver being trapped. You could not go down a dirt road in Piscataquis County and find a brook that did not have at least one beaver dam on it.
A motion was made by Mr. Lewis to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier.
Vote: Unanimous – motion passed
2. Nonresident landowners/ME resident only day
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated the proposal had not changed. There was a question if access by permission only was acceptable for keeping the land open to hunting and the answer was yes. There was only one public comment which was to expand it to all nonresidents. The landowner form was included in the packet and was available on the Department's website.
Mr. Farrington stated it was his understanding the landowner would fill out the form and carry it with them.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated that was correct. There was no transaction with the Department. That was a concern of the Legislature and the one public comment received was concerned with the paperwork.
Mr. Farrington stated at the last meeting he asked about trusts and corporations. With trusts, a lot of the land was owned by members of the trust, how did we know they weren't all doing the same thing.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated if you were the landowner of record, then you were eligible. It was discussed with the Legislature and it was one landowner. It did not include family members. If there was a question it would be asked by the person applying or an investigation by the warden service. It was not expected to be an issue.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton.
Vote: Unanimous – motion passed
3. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Fish Waters 2017
Mr. Brautigam stated we had proposed some changes to the original fishing regulations packet. The changes were in response to public comment, additional consultation with staff, as well as the Dept. of Marine Resources (DMR). The first category dealt with efforts to reformat the law book and change general law trout bag limits in Franklin and Oxford Counties from 2 trout to 5 trout. Public comments expressed concern with the process and whether or not we retained sufficient numbers of 2 trout bag limits on waters within those two counties. He asked staff that managed waters in those two counties to go back and review their lists of waters where we had decided to retain 2 trout bag limits and based on that initial review there were 4 waters that we proposed to add as additional 2 trout waters; Bald Mountain Pond, Alder Twp, Boundary Pond, Beattie Twp, Crowell Pond, New Sharon and Hailey Pond, Rangelely. In addition to those waters we also received comments regarding specific waters to determine whether or not 2 trout bag limits were appropriate. After staff review, there were 2 waters we proposed to change; Long Pond, TWP D & E and Rump Pond. We were proposing to go forward with a 2 trout bag limit.
Mr. Brautigam stated the second category of change reflected Department efforts to work with DMR to conserve adult Atlantic salmon. In the current fishing law book we adopted a regulation in Washington and Hancock counties that established a 25" maximum length limit on trout and salmon. This was to conserve any Atlantic salmon that might be caught. With the new law book format we eliminated all counties so as a result those waters afforded protection under S-33 regulation in Hancock and Washington County needed to be listed in the law book individually along with the S-33 regulation. Public comment expressed concern we might have missed some waters when developing the list, there was a request to add Beddington Pond in Beddington to the 2017 law book with an S-33 and we were proposing to do that. We asked DMR to review the list also and they responded that the list was acceptable.
Mr. Brautigam stated that additional public comment was received requesting that the Department also consider other waters outside Washington and Hancock County to add additional S-33 regulations. Because that was not part of the original regulation packet we could not entertain those additional waters outside Washington and Hancock County. We had identified waters and would add those during the next rulemaking process.
Mr. Wheaton stated on East Grand they had many salmon over 25", there was no way Atlantic salmon could get up there. Was it going to be illegal to take a salmon over 25"?
Mr. Brautigam stated we did have some waters that were exceptions to the listing. He was not sure if East Grand was one of them. If it was open that was how it would remain, we did not create a new exception there.
Mrs. Oldham stated she wanted to add thanks for the further review of recommendations in Region D. Going forward, the same process by which waters were evaluated from region to region would help the Council deal with some of the changes proposed in the future.
Mr. Lewis stated a lot of the calls he received was regarding the law book, and people were happy from what he'd seen. It was a great start.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to adopt the proposal as amended, and that was seconded by Mr. Lewis.
Vote: Unanimous – motion passed
B. Step 2
1. Shooting Ranges
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we held two public hearings, one in Brownfield and one in Hallowell. Prior to the hearing we had an informational session on the rebuilding of our Department owned ranges. There was a lot of interest, especially in Brownfield where we had over 60 people attend the informational session and most stayed for the public hearing. Fryeburg Fish and Game had been operating the range on our property and they were very excited to see it expanded with the new construction. Some of the comments made, they were commenting on temporary rules that were in place there. Some of the items they commented on were not in the proposed rules. In summary, those that spoke in favor of the project had some qualifiers to it. One was speaking to automatic weapons, it was split with those that wanted automatic weapons and those that did not want them to be used at the new range or as part of the new rule. There were some comments on rapid fire, but you could rapid fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Noise of rapid fire was an issue. The new construction of the range would be state of the art. The noise reduction related to the new construction he thought would be significant.
Mr. Webb stated we had a range architect we were working with and the NRA and he was saying we could see reductions from the property line from 130-140 decibels down to 60-70 decibels, the sound of human speech.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated peoples comments on use of automatic weapons may not be such a concern if the noise level was that significantly reduced. Steel core ammunition was a prohibition in the proposed rule and there were a number of comments about wanting to allow steel core ammunition. Steel core ammunition was an actual steel petition core to the projectile itself, although there was steel jacketed ammunition. A lot was related to cost and shooting. Steel core ammunition did a lot of damage to the range, it was prohibited at a lot of ranges. Alot of firearms dealers in Maine did not sell steel core ammunition, but they did sell steel jacketed ammunition. The Department was still sorting the information out.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated at the Hallowell public hearing we only had 6 people in attendance. This was regarding the Summerhaven Range and an informational program was held prior to the hearing. Comments made were that they wanted steel core ammunition, they didn't want exploding targets and they asked for perhaps a limitation on steel targets. Noise was also a concern. The presentation prior to the hearing did a lot to alleviate their concerns about noise.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Thurston stated what he noticed at the other ranges was just a lack of structure was the issue. Now with fixing them up it would create that structure and would be a win win for everybody.
Mrs. Oldham discussed the grant program that had allowed for improvement of the shooting ranges. In terms of the Rangeley Region Guides and the Rangeley Skeet and Trap Association, their membership had doubled to 967 members. Rangeley Skeet and Trap was going to close before they developed a reciprocal relationship with Rangeley Region Guides. They had minimal equipment and a rustic sporting clays course and now they had handicap accessible skeet and trap range, sporting clay range had a remotely operated thrower and a venue to teach. In addition, they shot biodegradable targets and next year they would be a lead free shotgun range.
Mr. Gundersen stated at the club in his area there were 430 members and they were voting in 2 to 5 members every month. The main reason they wanted to join was that it was getting harder and harder to find a safe place to shoot. He did try to discourage rapid fire at the range due to safety issues with guns jamming, etc.
Mr. Fortier stated they had done a lot with the NRA and getting grants from them. It had enhanced their ranges. There was an increase in women using the range, they were using it as a sport. When the grant program first began with IFW it was very cumbersome. With the new process it was better and there were three areas they were going to concentrate on, noise, lead remediation and keep consolidated to one area. There was not a lot in the area for ranges.
There were no further questions or comments.
C. Step 1
1. Eastport Deer Reduction Special Hunt
Commissioner Woodcock stated we were involved in the process with the City of Eastport. This started in the formation of the deer committee. The committee worked with the regional biologist Tom Schaeffer to be able to accommodate the needs of both sides. The City of Eastport was concerned about certain factors such as residential property damage, vehicle collisions, deer behavior (becoming tame) and Lyme disease. Lyme disease had been increasing in the Eastern part of the state but hasn't really surfaced in Eastport. Eastport had a no discharge of firearms ordinance in place for a long time due to safety consideration in the area. As a result archery hunting was the only means available. For the last 11 years Eastport had been bucks only which resulted in an increase in the population. The Committee examined different types of control mechanisms and discussed sharp shooters, trap and transfer, neutering, contraception, etc. Eastport did not have the funds available to be able to utilize a sharp shooter so was coming to the Department for consideration. They were proposing a hunt for antlerless deer. Land available for hunting was less than 50% of the total acreage due to the concentration of residents. The special hunt was being proposed for 2 consecutive weeks during December over a 3-year period of time. Hunting would be archery only from a fixed ground blind or elevated stand. The locations had to be preapproved; everything was controlled. They were requesting 30 permits with 22 permits for residents/property owners. Property owners that had sufficient land would be entitled to 1 of the 22 permits per household. In addition, all other property owners, residents would be in a lottery. Eight permits, would be issued to non-Eastport residents. Department regulations would apply during the special hunt. A tagging station would be established in Eastport and staff would be trained on tooth extraction for our purposes and research. The assessment of the hunt, the overall objective was to reduce the deer related damage in Eastport, track the number and age, track the vehicle accidents, track complaints of damage, assess landowner satisfaction and general public perception. The proposal was created in response to the voters of the Eastport area. The Eastport City Council encouraged the Department to move forward with the proposal.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier asked how many deer had to be taken from the Eastport area to be effective. Would 30 permits per year do the job and put them at their goal?
Commissioner Woodcock stated probably not.
Chris Bartlett stated they had discussed that point and it was a compromise between the concerns of the citizens that did not want to see the deer disappear and the limitations of hunting land that was available. They didn't think they would be able to disperse as many hunters the first year as they would like to. They had 3.6 square miles and very limited hunting area. Their hope was to run a very smooth hunt this first year and gain public and landowner acceptance so they could have more land available that was not posted in subsequent years. They probably would not come back with a drastically different plan in years two and three, but they would hope that given their assessment metrics that they might be able to adjust the number of permits and number of hunters up if needed.
Mrs. Oldham stated the land that was proposed for the special hunt, how much of that was available during the regular archery season for deer. Was there municipal land that was closed to regular archery hunting which would be open during the special hunt?
Chris Bartlett stated currently there had been around the airport. The FAA had said that they would consider allowing them to open it for the special hunt.
Mrs. Oldham stated that was her objection to special hunts. There were a lot of situations locally that could be changed to enable the problem to be taken care of during a regular archery season. She also thought that the special hunts for residents only to try to deal with an overpopulation was not right. If there were season extensions and special hunts it should be open to everyone. There were things they were doing in Eastport that contributed to the deer problem. 30 deer per year was not going to take care of the problem. She felt they should exhaust all normal hunting activity ways to deal with the deer problem before asking for a special hunt.
Mr. Lewis stated the difference was it was bucks only.
Mrs. Oldham asked if there was a way or should there be a legislative way to take them out and let them hunt doe rather than the special hunt. She did not think it was a good way to take care of a nuisance deer problem.
Mr. Lewis stated he was a game warden there for years and it wasn't an issue, but there were doe permits then. He agreed that it should be included in the archery hunt that used to be all the coastal islands. It should be part of the expanded and have antlerless only.
Mr. Thurston stated he agreed. To try to get one of the 8 permits they would be issuing to non-Eastport residents he would do better in an expanded area and have more opportunity.
Mr. Wheaton stated he was contacted by Tom Schaeffer to go to Eastport and have a look. He did go there and met with Mr. Bartlett and toured the island. It was different than anything he had seen. Eastport did not have the space for the deer and they could not get out. If you moved too many people in to hunt they would be dressing out deer on people's lawns. Lyme was not the problem, they had too many deer. No one had been able to hunt in and around the community. The town had gone far to get pieces of land so people could set up and hunt. There was no food for the deer, the deer were skinny. He thought it was time for the Council to be humane and get the deer population under control. This was a different situation.
Mrs. Oldham asked if the municipality, because of its restrictions, aggravated the problem.
Mr. Wheaton stated if they brought in the main public, they had a situation last year where a deer was shot near where the houses were and they dragged it onto someone's lawn and started dressing it right in the middle of town. This kind of thought generated no hunting. If they could put hunters in the right places they could get by and get the population down. The deer were in bad shape and were a problem.
Mr. Fortier asked if they moved forward with the special hunt, how many residents were proficient with bow hunting that would hunt deer.
Chris Bartlett stated in 2014-2015 they had 17 bow licenses issued. The 22 permits for property owners/residents they were trying to enable the property owners. They needed their property to hunt on so they may not be bow hunters but they may have immediate family that were that they could issue the permit to. Many property owners were not residents. The nonresident percentage was likely going to be higher than 27%.
Mr. Thurston stated the idea of getting it into an antlerless expanded zone with consistency and they would have good hunters there. He thought that was the root for this as opposed to something that would create a precedent.
Mrs. Oldham stated it was the resident only thing that really bugged her. If they had a problem, they were not Eastport's deer they were the State of Maine's deer and she questioned whether Eastport residents could take care of it. The history with special hunts stunk, they never achieved their objectives.
Mr. Lewis stated they had asked the question before, what did it take to get the islands back into the expanded zone.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there would need to be a change is statute to move that around. We had some possibilities of management in WMD 27 and other options were being discussed.
Mr. Gundersen stated if they factored in success rate, they would not take 30 deer if they gave out 30 permits.
Commissioner Woodcock stated his impression of the success rate would be a little different for this particular hunt than it would be for the standard success rate that we calculate. They would be hunting in an area with a high concentration.
Mr. Wheaton asked Mr. Schaeffer to describe the history and what he had seen at Eastport regarding the deer population.
Tom Schaeffer stated he was the regional wildlife biologist in Jonesboro and had been working the Downeast region since 1988. He worked with Eastport off and on because islands tended to be cyclic. Even though Eastport was a bridged island it didn't meet the definition of an off shore island. Periodically the population tended to ebb and flow. When populations went up we heard about it because of property damage, vehicle accidents and other related problems. It didn't take much of a weather event and the population would crash and things would go quiet for 4 or 5 years until the deer reproduced and increased into the problem. In the year 2000 he worked with 3 off shore island communities to restore deer hunting as a management tool. They had been legislatively closed to deer hunting. We worked very successfully with those islands in addressing social carrying capacity. We dealt with them as a social issue, the public perception was that the deer population exceeded what the human population was able to tolerate. They had a high rate of vehicle accidents, the native flora was gone, so we worked with those towns over 4 years. We did not have any population estimates; we were dealing with a social issue on a social level using management techniques to reduce those populations. We were successful after all 3 of those island communities had hunting restored as a management tool to go forward after we did 1 to 4 years of deer reduction efforts. We used recreational tools to address a social nuisance issue with the number of deer.
Tom Schaeffer stated what he heard so far the issues involving what was different, the one thing he could agree with was that in fact the municipal property not being available to hunting was an issue. There were some reasons for that, primarily FAA requirements for allowing hunting in close proximity to a runway. The only reason they were willing to allow the use for the special hunt was because it was a very controlled effort where we preidentified stand locations and determine direction of shooting a bow. They did not have the target numbers but based on population estimates they could come up with some figures for what the target goal should be. Eastport's problem was clearly the result of 11 years of bucks only hunting. There was no meaningful way to control the population without removing antlerless deer. The preference would be not to use archery but because of safety considerations and the residential core of Eastport, it was the only tool that was reasonably available.
Tom Schaeffer stated as to the reason for 11 years of bucks only, it was becoming a problem Downeast. He now had 4 different areas in WMD 27 that had local populations that were beginning to increase and cause these kinds of problems. In a district that had been over 25 years of bucks only where there were certain protections provided, whether its because they live in close proximity to houses like in Eastport. As the Commissioner mentioned, we were looking closely at WMD 27 and the management recommendations moving forward. WMD 27 still remained below the target objective so we were still being conservative under the management system. He was hopeful given a mild to moderate winter that maybe we could start to introduce permits into WMD 27 with the hope that archery hunters would go where the deer were and provide some local relief. Eastport would like to get started because waiting yet another year with bucks only harvest was not going to help with the situation. The proposal was to start conservatively this year and in the next two years advance or increase the number of antlerless permits if all went well. Archery had never been shown, that he was aware of, to be able to effectively reduce a population within a local area just because of the challenges associated with archery. However, if we allowed the full archery season in the future to be able to take does there and add the special number of permits to go forward hopefully between the two they could affect a change.
Mr. Farrington stated they couldn't change the zone and didn't have the authority to put an expanded archery season in this year, what other option was there to assist the area with the problem right now.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there were not many right now. They were talking about some solutions in the future.
Mrs. Oldham stated it seemed the more reasonable solution was at least a year away, and if one were to grant a special hunt it should be for one year until we really addressed what needed to be done there. She would not go with the 3 year route under the current proposal.
There were no further comments or questions.
V. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Katie Hansberry stated she was the Maine State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. She wished to comment on the proposal for extending the bobcat and beaver seasons. She was participating on the bear subcommittee so she did see the work that went into things and she appreciated the comments that were provided by Mr. Mosby at the public hearing and by Mr. Connolly at the Council meeting. However, she did find that things were concerning because even though the statements that were provided at the public hearing on behalf of the Deapartment and what was presented by Mr. Connolly they were getting general statements about the information on which the proposed rule was made. Throughout the process there was no actual data provided about number of nuisance complaints with either species. Was there actually in increase? There were no actual figures provided about the number of those species that were addressed through animal damage control services. There were no actual figures provided about population estimates for either species. At the last Council meeting she believed one of the Council members asked whether or not the most recent seasons harvest information was available and it was not. That information also was not used in developing the proposed rule. With all of those unknowns and also the Department's acknowledgement that more information about the species needed to be gathered she found it very concerning that the rule was passed.
Gary Corson stated he couldn't remember seeing a fishing regulations packet that large that was dealt with the way this one had been. The public had input, the Department looked at that input and revisited some of the proposals. It was done in a great way and he hoped to see more of that in the future.
Karen Coker stated she was coleader of a new organization of wildlife advocates. She was at the public hearing but since the hearing she had spoken with several highly respected wildlife ecologists including one with many decades of research experience whose council the Department had sought. He and the other experts confirmed that hunting or trapping season extensions should not be proposed or endorsed when there was no comprehensive monitoring or management plan in place. The Department did not have current plans for either bobcats or beavers. The management plans for the species were 30 years old. The methods we were using included pelt counting, trapper success rates and anecdotal and observational evidence. Those alone were not by themselves considered adequate to determine the number of the animals or their future prospects. Wildlife management decisions should rest on strong reliable data that was derived from a rigorous study process otherwise it was impossible to know what additional hunting or trapping pressure might have on a species. Anecdotal and observational evidence was especially unreliable. In the Department's 2002 assessment of snowshoe hare the author stated, "the use of general impressions to estimate population size led to large errors and should not be attempted in the future." They were pleased to learn the Department was now working with the University of Maine to pursue monitoring methods that relied on living animals. She stated the Department admitted in our recent research report that it was needed to better form management decisions. Providing more opportunity for hunters and trappers was the justification we used in the rule change proposal. She held to the view it was not a responsible justification for season extension proposals. She would also like to challenge the Department's claim that bobcats in Maine were reproducing successfully. To know whether that was the case we must not only know how many kittens were being born, we must also have kitten mortality and survival data. We did not have that. The hunting season extension that was passed would occur during the deep winter months when the natural mortality was at its highest level especially for kittens. The Department passing a hunting season extension at that time was not responsible or scientifically defensible.
Elaine Selekas stated she was coleader along with Karen Coker of WildWatch ME. She was very deeply disappointed in the passing of the rule extensions for bobcat and beaver. She agreed with colleagues that IFW failed to provide one centile of justification to extend the already long seasons that employed sadistic and unnatural methods. She was pleased to hear some of the Council members talk about humane concerns about deer and clean kills, an ethical and high mark for hunters to attain. She was not talking about trophy hunting, which was what bobcat killing was or trapping beavers. The Department was giving a bad name to sustenance hunters who ascribed to clean kill. She believed, based on her experience of IFW professionals, that there were many who did strive to honor the statutory obligation to ensure our wildlife's best interests did come first. She felt the Department had aver gated its responsibility and as a system was fundamentally flawed. Like other agencies that more Americans are increasingly challenging in our government, IFW blunted democratic values by serving special interests, in this case, trophy hunters and trappers instead of our wildlife, ecosystem and the majority of Maine citizens who absolutely abhored these methods. Many of IFW's experts often promoted colonialist anti-nature thinking and disregard sentient animals as nuisances or resources to be harvested like corn. She felt it was time that new experts come about; there were people who were growing in a movement to challenge this. They wanted new experts to listen to and respect Maine citizens, professionals with broader visions and new tools that affirmed life instead of death. Maybe some IFW staff who did not feel they were heard would now have the guts to turn away from the dated wholesale killing of wildlife. We had made a mess of our planet; we had killed off in Maine all the predators, the wolves, the cougars who would be taking care of these deer and eliminate the deer problem and take care of a lot of the Lyme disease. She hoped IFW paid increasing attention, respected and recognized the growing movement of Maine voices who demanded change. They wanted a modern approach of compassionate conservation, innovation and coexistence with nature who was the best manager of wildlife in cooperation with habitat preservation. In conclusion, we needed inclusive practices and more humane management to bring about a new economy and entrepreneurship with nonlethal wildlife management that aligned with the values of most Mainers. She challenged IFW to invest funding to add to mental health studies of individuals who committed sadistic acts against animals such as filming trapped, suffering animals before they died; laughing while beating or strangling a trapped animal, or going into an emotional frenzy while hounding small animals. As long as IFW remained infiltrated by trophy hunters and trappers who dictated the self-serving wildlife policy as an oligarchy the roar of Maine voices would continue to grow louder.
Richard Hessline stated he had long advocated and worked with some members of the Department in the work of trying to mitigate beaver conflict issues. He had worked and studied with the premiere beaver conflict resolution experts in the region from MA and VT and studied a lot of information about the values of beaver. He heard some things at the meeting about the concerns about beaver with salmon and trout. His understanding was the most up to date information was they benefitted both. Part of the greatest value from beaver also relied on the habitat they created. The habitat was valuable to a wide array of species and plants. Part of the value was that beaver needed to migrate and create new cycles of water management levels. The problems that were coming about due to conflict issues couldn't be avoided unless we planned for them and tried to engineer structures and infrastructure so they could withstand them. There were structures and water level control devices that could be employed to eliminate and efficiently deal with some of those problems. The claim that the beaver habitat was saturated and therefore the increased trapping removals, he did agree with some of the other statements that there had not been any documentation that was scientifically valid to establish either the amount of the available habitat that was out there or that the ecological and species help of beaver were occurring within those habitats; nor, whether the actual distribution of beaver throughout those habitats was being realized. There was no data indicating whether trapping pressure was actually pushing beaver into potential conflict areas. He would like to see better data and more responsible outlook on the values of beaver and trying to accommodate that better in the future.
Don Kleiner stated he wanted to thank everyone for the important role they played in the North American conservation model. There was a time when beavers were nearly endangered, we were now to the point through the success of that model, we were sort of overrun with them. Unlike the preceding speakers, he did talk to land managers and he did not hear anyone saying we needed more beavers. The current system of wildlife conservation was working, it was very successful, there were a number of species that had benefitted over the long term including cottontail rabbit and other endangered species. He thought we were doing a fabulous job.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
Council members would be notified at a later date of the next meeting.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:45 a.m.