Advisory Council Meeting
April 1, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor 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
Tim Place, Lieutenant, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis (Chair)
Don Dudley (Vice-Chair)
Don Kleiner, MPGA
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
Julie Miner, DEW Animal Kingdom
Danny Beret, Unity
Robert Dubeau, ME Herp Society
Jeremy Bullock, ME Herp Society
Rob Christian, ME Herp Society
Liam Hughes, Director of Animal Welfare, ACF
Jason Olmstead, Easy Aquariums, Gorham
John Glowa, ME Wolf Coalition
Derek Small, Wildlife Encounters
I. Call to Order
Council Vice-Chair Don Dudley called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Gundersen.
Vote: unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Leashed Dog Tracking
Lt. Place stated there were two changes made to the proposal from the original version. The first one was the permit entitled a person to use a leashed tracking dog from December 31 of the second complete year following the year of issue. The second was the permittee must submit a written request for permit renewal.
Mr. Fortier asked about the change to a 2-year permit.
Mrs. Theriault stated it was to make it more consistent with other permits we were issuing.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
2. Taxidermy Rules
Lt. Place stated there were no changes to the rule from the original proposal.
Mr. Fortier stated most of the rule appeared to be housekeeping.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there was some discussion that the taxidermists wouldn’t be grandfathered for their license so they would have to move forward in the appropriate fashion for whichever class they wanted. Some concern was expressed for those people who were only involved in the skull mounts. They didn’t have to do a written test for that, just a presentation. The current regime was to come to Augusta and the concern was that meant everybody around the State would have to come to Augusta just for one skull. What we were going to attempt to do was accommodate that in the regions. There were very few people that needed this particular classification.
Mr. Farrington stated another part of the rule was for more quality assurance.
Commissioner Woodcock stated yes. The taxidermy board and others wanted to elevate the standards of taxidermy in Maine and make sure that was verifiable.
Mr. Fortier stated one of the comments he heard from people involved with taxidermy was that you had to wait a long time for the finished product. He thought the new rule would help address that.
Commissioner Woodcock stated quality taxidermy did take awhile. For some that ended up in a scenario where they were paying money and it had been 2 or 3 years or the person went out of business, this would make certain the taxidermist had records of the transactions so the person would not lose track of their mount.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
3. 2016-17 Migratory Bird Seasons
Mr. Connolly stated the only change to the proposal was regarding the brant season. Winter surveys that were done indicated the brant were doing better than they thought and recommended increased opportunity.
Mr. Farrington asked about what comments were received at the public hearing.
Mr. Dudley stated there was one in opposition and everything else was either in favor or neither for nor against.
Commissioner Woodcock stated generally speaking the waterfowl community was very accepting of the proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
4. 2016 Spring/Fall Turkey Seasons
Mr. Connolly stated there were no changes to the proposal from what was originally presented.
Mr. Scribner stated he would like to address a couple of statements that were made at the last meeting. As recorded in the minutes it was stated that on our surveys that had come back from Mark Duda, pretty much everybody would like to see fewer turkeys. It was also stated it was pretty uniform across the state if you were a hunter, farmer or bird watcher, you would like to see fewer turkeys. To put it in the proper context, he was an avid turkey hunter and a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, thus a strong proponent of a robust turkey population. He had not read the 500 page survey report so before responding he wanted to make sure that at the Council meeting he was representing the residents of his counties accurately. His interpretation of the survey report was that it actually said that the majority of all groups surveyed would like to see the turkey populations stay the same. Only 27% of the general population, 29% of landowners and 31% of hunters wanted to see the population decreased. The survey report did site the fact that more respondents wanted to see a decrease in turkeys than they did with deer moose or bear, but if we focused on that comparison we failed to recognize the clear majority of our residents were satisfied with the turkey population numbers.
Mr. Scribner stated he also had been monitoring the turkey discussion forum set up in support of the big game management plan and found that the input registered there also were far from one sided in nature. He thought the Department should be applauded for providing the various public input avenues in the big game planning process and that after making this significant investment, he thought it would be a serious mistake if the findings were ignored or misinterpreted. He definitely was in favor of adopting the rulemaking proposal. He was somewhat skeptical of the November season, but he understood where that came from. He was afraid that we may see some reports of turkeys being shot at 100 – 150 yards with .06’s and .270’s or by blaze orange hunters in tree stands. He wanted to make those comments in the context of moving forward. We had done a lot of liberalizing of the turkey season and he thought we should look at the biological data as we proposed future seasons.
Mr. Fortier stated turkeys were not a problem in his area right now. He understood why they were not brought from southern Maine up into northern Maine. The season was not a problem and looked like they were going to have an early spring so getting on the land would be easier. If the hunt stayed as good this year, maybe next year they could look at doing the hunt a little differently. There was no opposition at any of their local meetings; Mr. Fortier concurred with the proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
B. Step 2
1. 2016 Moose permit allocations/Nov. season to Oct.
Mr. Fortier stated they had received the emails that people wanted to see the moose numbers increase. He would concur with the biologists. He thought the numbers were right in being cautious. He would like to be cautious now where we had finally gotten some collaring done on the moose and we were going to get accurate data on where they were traveling.
Mr. Dudley stated he thought some of the questions from the emails that he read were perhaps questions of what percentage of the moose did we want to harvest. He thought at some point and time the 4% figure was out there.
Mr. Wheaton stated in WMD 11, last year they saw a lot of tick increase and dead moose on the ground. With the warm winter we just had he would like to see some data on tick populations and what it had done to our moose herd before we bypassed the biologist’s request. He would like to stay with the biologists request because he knew from on the ground in WMD 11 the moose population was down.
Mr. Thurston stated he had received calls as well very adamant that didn’t like the permit allocations and the reduction in permit allocations. One of the former members of the Council sent an email about the economics, and he didn’t think it was about that, he thought it was about a healthy herd and he had concerns as well. The ticks in southern Maine were ferocious and he we would feel more impact. He would like more opportunity to hunt moose also, but he wanted to hunt moose and he felt they should be cautious. He did get out in the woods and walked and did back country snowmobiling and had friends that were horn hunters and they weren’t finding the amount that they usually did.
Mr. Farrington asked Mr. Connolly if they had any idea what the population was.
Mr. Connolly stated he could not give a moose population number.
Mr. Dudley asked if he could give any information regarding the collared moose.
Mr. Connolly stated there were some updates they were following through. He would suggest an update on the study at the next meeting would be most appropriate.
Mr. Farrington asked if 4% was a figure they used for harvest.
Mr. Webb stated that was about the rate that we had been harvesting in most WMDs. It was pretty straightforward based on reproductive rates and other causes of mortality and that left a surplus that was available for harvest. The indications were if we had exceeded 4 or 5 percent of our harvest rate that could lead to a population decline in WMDs where we didn’t want that to occur. That had been roughly the figure used in most WMDs and it varied a little depending on what the reproductive rates were.
Mr. Connolly stated the study was intended to firm up the numbers. It was all relative to where you were. He thought this was probably a perfect text book wildlife issue about how polarized people became because they took a number and applied a formula. There were a lot of nuances; we wanted to have the study and use that information. Some of the discussion needed to take place as we went forward into the future. They were good thoughts, but there was some information behind it that needed to be firmed up before we could start looking at it in those respects. It was not as simple as giving them a number and then they could go to a WMD and expect a certain number of permits. He was not sure how the figure of 4% went out to the public and what context it was used. It was all premised on what was there to begin with, how the 4% would be applied.
Mr. Scribner stated in the past, back when we thought we had 20,000 – 30,000 moose at one point in time we were harvesting close to 10%. At that point in time it was stated that was a sustainable rate. He had seen the 4% figure that Lee Kantar had mentioned. In Vermont they were putting out 160 permits on a population of 2,050 moose, about 8% rate; something to consider with how we compared to other states. He believed being in a conservative spot at this point in time while we were doing our collaring studies and improving our population census with the aerial surveys was the right place to be, but also needed to keep in context with what the history had been in terms of a sustainable percentage but also what other regional biologists in other states were recommending. In the survey results it was stated the most important aspect for residents was that the health of the typical moose and the herd was the most important consideration in managing the moose herd. He felt moose hunters and moose watchers weren’t that far apart in their end goal. They both wanted a robust healthy good population of moose. The 24% reduction in moose permits that the media had been talking about, he thought there may be some work that needed to be done regarding what that reduction in permits was based on. The media releases continually focused on the statement that state biologists said that permits should be cut by 24% to meet public demand to view the animals in the wild. If in fact the reduction in permits was based on the public’s demand to view animals and not biologically based they had a different discussion. If that was in error he thought we should correct it.
Mr. Dudley stated he thought it was erroneously reported. A reporter was at the last meeting and that was not what he took from the meeting, but that was the way she printed it. Another thing we had to keep in mind was that we were in the process of the new 15 year management plan.
Mr. Scribner stated Judy Camuso’s presentation at the last meeting seemed to be very biologically sound based on bull/cow ratio’s, etc. He did not hear any talk about the Department doing this to satisfy those that simply wanted to view moose. If that was the case why would we be reducing permits in WMDs 1-4?
Mr. Fortier stated that he hunted WMDs 1-4 and there were more people viewing moose in Mr. Farrington’s area than in Aroostook County.
Mr. Wheaton stated we should slide by this spring and wait to see what the warm winter did in association with ticks and tick load on the moose before we crashed the population by raising the permit numbers.
Mr. Thurston stated more data gave better decision making ability. He asked if we were still doing the ovary harvest this year and what was the success rate of collection.
Mr. Webb stated the percentage of the cows that were harvested that we actually got ovaries from was not as high as we would like.
Mr. Thurston asked how we could facilitate and stress the importance.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we were continuing to work on messaging.
Mr. Webb stated it was a challenge in finding the ovaries if it was something you hadn’t done before. One thing we had talked about was doing more direct outreach to the permit holders that drew cow permits.
Mr. Fortier stated another part of the proposal was changing the season from November to October. In talking with other people and clubs, the majority were in favor of moving the hunt out of the deer season.
Mr. Gundersen stated the numbers were down in his area. He used to see moose running together, droppings and tracks all over and antler rubs. Car/moose accidents were common on Rt. 1 and side streets and that had not happened for awhile. They were just not seeing the moose, there had to be less there quite a bit from what it was.
2. Youth bear hunt
Mr. Connolly stated there was a legislative directive to create a youth bear hunt and we were positioning the day appropriately.
Mr. Dudley stated this would be moving it to the Saturday prior to the season like the other youth seasons.
C. Step 1
1. Shooting Ranges
Mr. Connolly stated the Department had two shooting ranges on its Wildlife Management Areas (Summerhaven and Brownfield). The one in Brownfield /Fryeburg area was done with the assistance of the local club. We were moving forward with some grants to improve both properties and address some safety issues and make them more efficient and effective in offering an opportunity for people to use them. In order to do that, we needed to establish some structure. The ranges had been open, they had not been restricted in terms of the folks that had access to them. As a result they were advertised as open ranges regionally so we had people using them in any way they felt was appropriate. In some cases that had been counterproductive towards the safety of the individuals that might be in the area or the structure as well. In looking at ranges and range operation we recognized the fact that we needed to structure them better and put infrastructure in place that would help guide people on their use of the ranges that it was consistently used in a safe manner. We would be looking at limiting some of the ammunition in terms of exploding ammo; looking at establishing firing lines and target stands. It would be pretty much what you would see in any range you would currently use if you were part of a club. We were looking at the Rangeley ranges as a model. They would not be completely open, there would be hours of operation, some guidance on what could be done there but the goal was to allow people to use the range whether they were hunters or just shooting sports enthusiasts.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington asked who had the liability issue if someone got hurt there, was it the club, the people running the range or the state.
Mr. Connolly stated we were not charging a fee, and currently the state was protected. The individual who acted inappropriately would be the one responsible. What we hoped to do was provide more guidance.
Mr. Thurston stated he thought the rules were a good thing, especially in a firearm venue and he applauded the state in keeping those open.
Mr. Fortier asked if we had solicited any clubs. There were 3 ranges in his area and they had a host of rules.
Mr. Connolly stated we had been involved with the NRA and also the USFWS federal aid program looking at what had been done elsewhere. We had been offering grants to clubs to improve their ranges. We were aware of what the rules were. The majority of people using the ranges had been using them safely but there were some things in terms of the structure and the protocols in place that helped ensure that was more consistent if someone was less knowledgeable.
Mr. Gundersen stated he was in the Lincoln County rifle club and there were 410 members and everybody had the combination to the gate. In order to become a member you had to take their safety orientation. There was not someone there watching all the time so he relied upon the signage.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we had Pitman Roberston funding to put into the grants for clubs around the state. Shooting sports were expanding around the country and women were the largest portion of that expansion. We had a couple of ranges and he made it clear he did not want to take the grant money first to change our ranges before the public had an opportunity. We were going to use some of the grant money to improve the two ranges in Fryeburg and Summerhaven to make them better facilities. We had unsupervised ranges, we just had to make sure they were adequately signed and have some supervision from people who were certified. He was excited about the possibilities.
V. Other Business
1. Endangered & Threatened Species, new language LD 1636
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated this was a preview of things to come. LD 1636 was a substantial rewrite of a portion of the Maine Endangered Species Act. It was prompted with the listing of 3 myotis bats in Maine. The bill created the opportunity for the Department to enter into a broad activity incidental take plan where we could identify groups of people that were involved in an activity and be able to communicate with them and create an incidental take plan essentially for any endangered species. An example was the Barrows goldeneye, we currently had an incidental take plan for waterfowl hunters. Basically if you incidentally took a Barrows goldeneye it had to be reported to the Department. Going through statutory language we tried to strengthen our ability to do that for other groups. We could identify someone as a group and create an incidental take plan with guidelines for best practices for not taking an endangered species. Homeowners for example on bats, essentially it’s illegal to take one of the listed bats if it was in your home. Under this new process we would be reaching out to homeowners under incidental take. The other piece was rulemaking for a broad exemption for not taking an endangered species. This resulted from concern from the forest products industry on primarily the northern long eared bat because they roosted in tree cavities. Essentially we would be setting up protective guidelines in rule that said if you stayed away from the cave dwellings of the bats and the roosts and maternity trees that the cutting of trees in general was not a real issue with the recovery of northern long eared bats. We would be working with the industry to create the draft rule, the legislative piece had an emergency preamble so would be effective immediately when signed.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington stated the legislation if signed, it would go into effect immediately, but we didn’t have the rules for the forestry people that were out cutting trees.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we could not adopt the rules until the bill was signed. Once the bill was enacted into law then it was in effect and we would have to go through rulemaking.
Mr. Wheaton stated in a lot of northern towns there were a lot of old buildings and years ago those were full of brown nosed bats. If a person bought one of the old houses and wanted to tear it down and build a new home, what kind of problems would they have.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated for any dwelling type situations there were going to be best practices for dealing with all bats essentially.
2. Wildlife in Captivity
Mr. Connolly stated we had managed to engage public debate in a way that was probably unprecedented except for a few issues in the time he had been with the Department. He distributed some comments that had been received. In wildlife in captivity the Department, when Andrea Erskine was the Deputy Commissioner, was being asked to make some judgements on animals and possession permits and she felt that we really should get direction from the Legislature. The Commissioner’s authority in rulemaking derived from statute. The Legislature also gave us some direction in terms of what they expected, they didn’t want things everywhere but they did want some accommodation to some folks that presented themselves at the hearings in terms of their ability to have animals as well. We needed to be concerned about native wildlife, public safety and also looking at what was reasonable for people to have while addressing all of those issues.
Mr. Connolly stated we had developed a proposal. We had received an avalanche of emails related to a particular exhibited facility that was properly licensed and was in compliance with the regulations. He had received over 400 emails from folks that wanted that particular place shut down. The emails had come from all over the country and in addition we had received phone calls. At the same time we were developing the rulemaking proposal in accordance with the legislative direction. The rulemaking process was meant to engage the public and give them a chance for review. As part of that we submitted some proposals for review and that had engaged a whole response from people. We had received some good feedback from the public. When we looked at all of that we were really not in a place to present a rule to the Council. There was a draft proposal in the packet that was what was floated out to receive feedback.
Mr. Connolly stated we were going to be looking at the feedback we received and see how we could incorporate that. Part of the concern was that we did not establish lists. In the rule we stated we would use a technical committee to evaluate and put forward lists. The only list in the rule was a small list of the proposed prohibited species. New animals coming into the state that weren’t in accordance with that list wouldn’t be allowed. If certain species were already present in the state and the person was legally licensed they would be allowed to keep those. We currently had an unrestricted species list on our website and there was no proposal to eliminate that. We had received concern from the public by not having the category 2 and 3 list available that there was something going on and they would like to see that.
Mr. Connolly stated there were two extreme positions we were dealing with. Some felt nothing should be allowed, and some felt they had a constitutional right to have any animal as long as they could control it in their home and if it got out it would die and not persist in the wild. There were also people in between that were advocating for a more balanced approach. We had a tentative agenda in terms of the proposal for rulemaking. We were committed to holding a public hearing which the Department was not required to do given the interest in the topic.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there had been some pretty intense discussion and he thanked staff for their work on the proposal. He pulled the proposal back from Step 1 because he was not comfortable with the definitions and the listings and discussions. It was a very complicated topic and we were hoping for something reasonable. He was hopeful it did not become a statutory provision. In closing he would state that he spent 3 years in the Army and a year in Vietnam and he knew vulgar. He had received some really vulgar comments about the issue, so vulgar he would not show them but to a very limited audience. He was not appreciative of that and wanted everyone to appreciate that. Civil discussion was what he was about and that was how you ended up with a good product. He had saved one in particular to show the Governor so he could appreciate the tenor of the discussion. We would be holding a public hearing and he was looking forward to what everyone had to say, but he promised it would not be vulgar very long if someone tried that.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Don Kleiner discussed the upcoming Maine Professional Guides Banquet.
Jason Prillo stated he and the Herpetology Society had some questions on the Wildlife in Captivity rulemaking proposal. He apologized to the Commissioner if any of their members had sent any horrific emails. They did have a lot of people that were exceptionally concerned with how the rule could go. He was also included as he supplied a lot of zoos with caging and the rule would directly affect how he could operate his business. The first thing listed was venomous animals, which was pretty much what he did, venomous caging. Also, 90% of the reptiles that most of them kept or preferred to keep they technically could not have. There were things on the unrestricted list currently that were extraordinarily rare, but they could not have sister species that came from the exact same environment. There were other things to take into account such as environmental factors. Maine was a difficult environment for most people to survive and most of the population of the U.S. did not want to live here because it was so cold during the winter. They had concerns that temperatures during the winter actually negated some of the concerns with animals getting loose. Those that could potentially get loose such as European snakes and lizards, they had approached IFW stating that those should be regulated because they could exist here. They were concerned that what was currently on the Category 1 list, most of that was stuff they agreed should be on a permit basis. They adopted the idea from Florida and New Hampshire that it needed to be heavily regulated and what training should be received. Florida had some of the most restrictive laws because they had an open environment and most things could survive in Florida. In relation to species 2 through 6, those were already on a non-transport list. That was a federal fine and jail time. Same for 8 and 11, so if you were not sponsored by a zoo there was no way you could get it. Moving down to red-eared sliders, look at where they were naturally from, they could survive in Maine and nobody should own them, they were terrible pets. Moving down to crocodilians, again, you needed to be federally regulated to own those for most species. They agreed they should be heavily regulated, but they also disagreed with the fact they were going to be regulated to the point that only zoological institutions could have them or universities or research facilities. Part of their concern was looking at Category 1 we were pretty much moving everyone into a very specific group that they were just not capable. In some cases that was applicable, but in most cases it was not because most people did not want those species listed. Rat snakes from South America would never survive here, but they were a readily available snake in every other state, but with Maine’s current system and this proposed system it would be heavily regulated here but you could own it in every other state in the U.S.
Jason Prillo stated going to Category 2, it seemed it would be easier to buy a firearm in Maine. One concern was you’d have to have more education to be able to own most of the species that could fit that category than you would to work in a zoo or laboratory that worked with non-human primates. Putting things in such broad sections, it pretty much puts the concern that if the board decided it was allowed to in those categories how was the public supposed to respond. Most of the stuff in the hobby didn’t fit. The other concern was the insurance policies. He didn’t have that high a policy on his business. As it stood, Category 2 and 3 were so broad and open that it negated the whole idea of having dialogue. 90% of the reptiles that most people wanted to have in captivity didn’t fit the lists. He would like to see these become an open ended 2 or 3 tier system instead of having it as 4. You had the ones that were outright ESA, Lacey Act or CITES 1 listed. The ones that needed a definitive permit system and then the ones that were pretty much open ended. It would take a lot of the burden off of IFW and the game wardens to be able to identify everything.
Jason Olmstead – In the ornamental aquatic industry Maine had a limited list of aquatic fish in the fresh water world that they were allowed to have. He felt that before we made changes to make it more restrictive on certain things that we should reevaluate the list that was already in place and develop some sort of committee that could look at the environmental impacts that animals could do to the state. There were certain fish that were allowed that you could buy in PetCo that would get 5 feet long that would winter over in Sebago Lake and decimate the landlocked salmon population there. He was an advocate of looking at the list and taking animals that were currently allowed and taking them off the list. Things that did not make any sense that people did not need to have. By taking an animal like an African cichlid (a very popular fish) they were only allowed to have 25% to 30% of the African cichlid that were out there. As discoveries were made and names changed, fish that they used to be allowed to have had become illegal because they were not on the unrestricted list. He had customers that wanted a certain animal and they were going to find it and get it. Without the proper education people ended up bringing the animals here and they get 3-4 feet long and they need a place to get rid of it. They were stewards of these animals, they came from the wild most of the time and it was their responsibility to keep them and let them live the life they should have had. By not having an open discussion with the public about why certain species weren’t allowed in Maine, it confused them. He just wanted the public to be educated as to why they could not have a certain animal. There were a lot of people that took risks to get, for example, little fish that had no chance of surviving come October in Maine. He thought there needed to be more discussion on the unrestricted species list and see what made sense.
Jason Prillo stated they had a member, Phil Roy, who took animals from the Department that were unwanted or confiscated. About a year ago, he applied for a permit for a lizard species that we denied because the proper scientific name was not used. There were 6 species that were all identical, same environment, etc. just different species names from the island chains, all of them could be interchanged and very few people would be able to identify them. Why would 3 of those species be illegal, but 3 of them were legal? Those were some of the things they wanted to try and resolve.
Robert Dubeau stated he had provided comment already. He had been keeping reptiles for about 12 years. He had been the President of the Maine Hepetological Society for about 8 years. In 2009 he was presenting the unrestricted list to the Commissioner. When they were working then they were asked about permits for different species, it was too expensive. He asked Mark Stadler how much it would cost and he seemed confused and didn’t know. Eventually they came up with an answer of $20. After the list was submitted and reviewed it was bumped up to $50 making it a little more difficult to submit more animals. My comments specifically were Class 1, it really scared him when regulations said once something was in place it could never be reviewed again. Once the animal was listed as Class 1 it could not be reviewed again no matter what changed with the system. The Class 2 and Class 3, with the experience he had he could not get an animal that was Class 2 listed. He did not have the qualifications and the connections to zoos or other research organizations as an individual. Depending what was put on that, he couldn’t have it even though he had animals in his care that were more difficult to care for than those. Class 3 he would still have trouble getting the two organizations because he did not work with zoos. The Society had been working with IFW since 2008, some of the members worked in the mid-90’s on the original unrestricted list. The list that was Class 1 animals they supplied the commission and said those animals should not be kept by the general public, should be allowed to have a permit for and what happened they got put in Class 1 where no one could ever get a permit for them and if you had them you could not get more. He felt they had kind of been ignored and gotten some push back. For at least 6 months he hadn’t heard anything from the commission or had anybody he knew be questioned about the rulemaking. He would talk to anybody anytime about the lists so long as they were truly being heard. When there were animals they submitted and said they should be permitted and get put on a list that say no one will ever be allowed to own them, it showed noncooperation.
Jeremy Bullock stated Jim mentioned they would be willing to work within any capacity they could and that was true, he would like to encourage that; have discussion so that they could mitigate or put to rest the very valid concerns about public safety and Maine’s flora and fauna being put at risk. He thought with some open dialogue they could get very close.
Rob Christian stated the reason the task force was put together was to try and make the laws more clear for the Warden Service and IFW and the public as well. The way it was set up currently in unrestricted list and those were allowed to be owned. Then everything that was not included on that list was illegal, you couldn’t own it but you could apply for a permit and it was up to IFW to issue a permit. The reason the task force was brought together was to streamline and make it easier for game wardens to enforce and easier for the public to understand. Looking at this system, there was a white list of species that were allowed and everything else was illegal. Going to a 3-tiered system where warden service and IFW would be expected to identify species in tier 1, 2 and 3 and the unrestricted. He saw that as counterproductive. Looking at surrounding states like NH and MA they had a list of species that were considered dangerous or could be considered dangerous or invasive and that was easy. He felt that was easier to work with, you could have a color print out of the species that were considered dangerous or invasive and keep it with you so warden service could view and know you weren’t supposed to have that as opposed to going to a tiered system. One of the members of the Maine Herp Society got calls fairly regularly to identify species. What he personally would like to see, it made more sense to work with a restricted list than an unrestricted list. Sister species, there was a bunch of stuff that was closely related, same general care and with the current unrestricted list you could have one species but another just as commonly kept and bred in the U.S. you could not have. Recently there was a situation involving someone that had an illegal animal and they also had several other legal animals; 3 animals which were of legal species were euthanized because they weren’t specifically identified on the unrestricted list. With some of the changes in classification of species a lot of species that were commonly kept were technically illegal because of the genus change. No big cats or bears were listed on the tier 1list. One of the things that came up in the moose and bear regulations was that they relied heavily upon biologist information. He would urge that we look into having the biologists look into the possibility of invasiveness for the animals. 99% of the reptiles that were kept and bred in the trade were not a threat to Maine wildlife. He could understand venomous snakes being a threat to the public. He did not think there should be a completely open system, there should be some sort of regulations for the animals that were more difficult to take care of than the average person could do. He would like to work with the Department on the lists. The Herp Society offered to give training.
Derek Small with Wildlife Encounters stated he was from Rochester, NH and Wildlife Encounters was an educational firm. He thought in the room he was the number one importer of wildlife, 138 times in 2015 he crossed the border for educational programs in Maine schools and communities, probably totaling about 1,000 animals and educating about 35,000 people advocating for supporting local Maine economy by visiting state parks, becoming active outdoors, and supporting local food and farmers markets. They were basically a science based organization and worked not only with native species that were non-releasable but with non-native species. They were seeing on a global basis a massive decline in wildlife populations. Everything we did impacted beyond the borders of Maine. As an educator he felt it was important to let people know the consequences of their actions. His preferred method was to work with non-releasable wildlife. In the proposal there was still a discrepancy when it came to the agency supporting education. He would like to call attention to the fact that when considering what had been done by the dedicated team at IFW that it was an area that may need focus beyond just the Category 1, 2, and 3 lists. Did they require accreditations and were there special exceptions for people like himself who crossed the border on a regular basis, the animals left within 24 hours, nothing ever released, and the methods they did made a lasting impact on the youth of Maine and the community and hopefully have a greater appreciation for wildlife, flora and fauna locally and globally.
Liam Hughes stated he was the Director of Animal Welfare. He was on the opposite side of the coin, he didn’t feel owning of wild or exotic animals should be permitted. He understood their passion and there were only a handful of people in Maine that could possibly do what they did and they were sitting in the room. He represented the animal shelters and the animal control officers and they were not prepared for dealing with the majority of the animals. They had Derek come every couple of years to do training and it was still not enough. If the animals were exposed to the public, first responders had to deal with them and they were not properly trained to deal with them. He thought some of the proposals were a good step but they needed tweaking. He was Jim Connolly’s counterpart at Dept. of Agriculture and he had the same amount of angry phone calls and emails. Going forward, he thought the technical committee was an excellent idea and maybe it should be broadened to include reviewing of the restricted species or unrestricted list on a regular basis. He thought there should be more added for safety protocols for first responders for certain animals if they were to be permitted that there be a written safety protocol. Work with first responders, animal control, police and fire departments and make sure they’re well trained. The other thing that might concern the committee was about exceptions and conditions for therapy animals. He was on the task force for the integrity of service animals and they would point to federal laws mentioning anything about primates or anything else, it was basically dogs and specially trained miniature horses. Adding the language confused an already confused system when it came to service animals. It was a bad idea and we would get push back on it. Removing anything having to do with help or therapy monkeys would save a lot of headaches in the future. We would be working against federal guidelines with certain aspects we would be asking someone to prove their disability which was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. When it came to people claiming their service iguana or their service tiger was a service animal then we’d be allowed to permit it. The Maine Human Rights Commission would back up the fact that they were not service animals, they were not defined in federal law. The Maine Human Rights can ask certain questions that we could not. If someone claimed an animal was a service animal we could only ask two questions; 1) Is this animal required because of a disability? Yes or no. 2) What function has this animal been trained to do.
It would be hard to determine what the animal was really used for. There were so many claiming dogs and cats and birds as service animals when really they were not. It was already a confusing topic and the proposal would only confuse it further.
John Glowa stated he founded Maine Wolf Coalition in 1994. The organization was the only organization in Maine dedicated to wolf recovery in Maine and they supported recovery through research, education and protection. He wanted to comment on the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan. He was speaking as president of the Wolf Coalition. They were concerned that the plan completely ignored the Gray Wolf. In July of 2015 they submitted a detailed email to the Department and they received no response to the email. There were over 100 groups included in the process and as the only wolf organization in Maine they weren’t invited to participate. In the report it stated, “IF&W concluded that there is no current evidence of a population of wolves in Maine and that the establishment of a viable wolf population is unlikely.” Mr. Glowa stated that absence of evidence was not evidence of absence. The fact was they knew of at least 8 wolves that had been documented south of the St. Lawrence River since 1993. Data was everything was one of the comments heard during the Council meeting and the statement from IFW was not based on science it was based on politics. He asked that the email given to Mr. Scribner be made part of the official record of the meeting and also asked the Advisory Council to consider including the Gray wolf in the Wildlife Action Plan. He would also ask the Council to review the public record. Another issue was the statement that 142 coyotes had been shot in Aroostook County. He would note that all coyotes in Maine were in fact wolf/coyote hybrids. He would also question whether or not any of those 142 animals were in fact wolves. There was no evidence that coyotes in Maine negatively impacted the deer herd. There was mounting evidence that killing coyotes actually promoted the population by upsetting coyote families and upsetting coyote territories and made them reproduce in greater numbers.
John Glowa stated now as a private citizen, at the last meeting he mentioned the issue of the use of lead ammunition in Maine and eagles getting sick and dying. He visited Avian Haven a few weeks ago and observed 3 sick eagles that were suspected of being ill from lead poisoning. Not only were eagles getting sick and dying from the lead ammunition but humans were being poisoned by lead as well. This was an issue that would soon be leaving the realm of IFW and going to the CDC and DHHS because it was a growing public health concern. What would happen if the public knew they were being poisoned by lead ammunition? He felt it would be a public relations disaster if the public was in fact being poisoned by consuming lead from animals that were provided to them through the Hunters for the Hungry program. He read a statement from a recent article, Health Risks from Lead-Based Ammunition in the Environment, A consensus statement of scientists, March 22, 2013 from the University of California, Sante Cruz – “We the undersigned with scientific expertise in lead and environmental health, endorse the overwhelming scientific evidence on the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health. In light of this evidence, we support the reduction and eventual elimination of lead released to the environment through the discharge of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health. 1) Lead is one of the most well-studied of all anthropogenic toxins and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that demonstrates: a) Lead is toxic to multiple physiological systems in vertebrate organisms…there is no level of lead exposure to children known to be without deleterious effects. Exposure in childhood even slightly elevated levels of lead produce lasting neurological deficits in intelligence and behavior. Lead is also known to be toxic across different vertebrate organisms, including mammalian and avian species. 2) Lead-based ammunition is likely the greatest, largely unregulated source of lead knowingly discharged into the environment in the United States. 3) The discharge of lead-based ammunition and accumulation of spent lead-based ammunition in the environment poses significant health risks to humans and wildlife. Lead based ammunition is a significant source of lead exposure in humans that ingest wild game and hunters consuming meat shot with lead-based ammunition have been shown to have lead pellets/fragments in their gastrointestinal tract.
Based on overwhelming evidence for the toxic effects of lead in humans and wildlife, even at very low exposure levels, convincing data that the discharge of lead-based ammunition into the environment poses significant risks of lead exposure to humans and wildlife, and the availability of non-lead alternative products for hunting we support reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition.”
Mr. Glowa stated he wanted to bring this to the Department’s attention and to the Council’s attention.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for May 4, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta. The June meeting was scheduled for June 11, 2016 to coincide with the Moose Lottery Drawing and would be held at Kittery Trading Post.
A motion was made by Mr. Farrington and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.