Advisory Council Meeting
May 6, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director of Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Nate Webb, Special Projects Coordinator
Keel Kemper, Regional Wildlife Biologist
Kris Barboza, Game Warden Sergeant
Rick LaFlamme, Game Warden Corporal, Landowner Relations
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis (Chair)
Fern & Sylvia Bosse
James Cote, MTA
Troy Wallace, Phippsburg
Ed Smith, Islesboro
Gilbert Rivera, Islesboro
Dick Cole, Winthrop
Don Kleiner, MPGA
Gary Corson, New Sharon
I. Call to Order
Council Chair Jeff Lewis 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. Dudley.
Vote: unanimous – minutes approved.
III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to nominate Mr. Lewis to remain as Council Chair and that was seconded by Ms. Starbird.
There were no further nominations for Council Chair.
Vote: unanimous – Mr. Lewis reelected as Council Chair
A motion was made by Mr. Dudley to nominate Mr. Wheaton to remain as Council Vice-Chair. Mr. Wheaton stated he did not think it was fair to the Council as he was away a few months during the winter. The motion was not seconded.
A motion was made by Mr. Wheaton to nominate Mr. Dudley as Council Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham.
There were no further nominations for Council Vice-Chair.
Vote: unanimous – Mr. Dudley elected as Council Vice-Chair.
A. Step 3
1. Moose Permits WMD 9
Commissioner Woodcock stated the Council approved all the WMD moose permit numbers except for WMD 9, which was held aside because there was considerable concern expressed in the Greenville area for our original proposal of an increase up to 150 permits including cows. A public hearing was held in Greenville that was well attended and many comments were received during the open comment period. It was overwhelmingly the opinion of those who contacted us and spoke at the public hearing that they would not be in favor of increasing the permits to 150, and particularly their concern for cows being harvested in that zone. He was very comfortable in making the recommendation that we move back to last year’s permit total of 75 bulls and no cows in WMD 9. In an ongoing fashion we would examine the issues surrounding the viewing areas that we had in the state; Rangeley, Greenville and take a look at possibilities for management of those areas. He felt it was important for the record to show that the biologists recommend a certain number. If the social process decided that the people want something a little different, he wanted the biologists to be able to reflect that there was a discussion about a different figure originally and that may meld eventually.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to accept the permit numbers for WMD 9 as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Gundersen.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated she knew there was a playbook for wildlife management districts, but she thought what was apparent was that those management parameters were based on a healthy moose herd. She was not sure there was a plan B for when the herd may be not healthy. It was ironic we were doing this great moose research at a time when we may have an unhealthy moose population. Was there a plan B when the herd was not healthy?
Commissioner Woodcock stated he was not certain it was 100% true that the management was for a “healthy herd” because he thought as part of the assessment, ie: the 5-year tick study we were undertaking was a determination of the health of the herd. The proposals became part of that process. He did not necessarily think there needed to be a plan B because we had a plan A influx and it stayed influx as we assessed the herd.
Ms. Camuso stated the management system allowed for a lot of different variables and rapid response and changes. Our plan would be if there was a significant change in the public goals for moose or in the health of the herd we had the mechanisms in place to adjust for those.
Mr. Fortier asked if the biologists would be doing more intense studies in WMD 9 for a more accurate number of the moose population. He could understand the viewing part. Greenville was not like the county, the moose were spread out and used to being hunted. Any wildlife that got used to being hunted became more cautious in being around the public. How was the Department going to look at WMDs 8 and 9, the Greenville area?
Commissioner Woodcock stated the process that we undertook was also examined closely. Not just the species but the process we used. One thing we found about some of the areas in the state was that there were concentrations of species more so than other areas. When talking about a viewing area there were dynamics to the understanding of viewing. We were undertaking as much of a complete examination as we could. We tried to be as conservative about numbers as we could. He heard time and again that we did this (moose lottery) for money. He had never made one decision in the Department that was based upon how much revenue we took in that had a direct correlation to a species. We managed the moose for the most viable herd we could have.
Mr. Farrington stated having attended the public hearing, one of the things that was obvious was that they didn’t understand how the moose population survey and process worked. He thought there should be some education explaining how the biologists did what they were doing.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the educational piece of any dilemma was important. The more education the more diminished the dilemma became. Sometimes that was challenging when it came to science. We were going to try to do a better job of that.
B. Step 2
1. Phippsburg Expanded Archery Hunt Petition
Commissioner Woodcock stated we had a public hearing that was well attended, there were about 100 people there. Comments were top heavy towards not changing what they had there now and not taking away their opportunity. It appeared that we would not be tinkering around with taking away their possibilities and leave it at the current status down there.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated she was on the Council when the area was expanded and one of the reasons to put that in the expanded archery was Lyme disease. If you looked at the Maine CDC reports that still was one of the high areas with reported Lyme disease cases. That had not changed so she saw no reason to take it out of expanded archery.
Mr. Fortier asked how many deer per square mile were in the area.
Mr. Kantar stated between 20-40. In the case of preventing tick borne diseases the literature indicated it should be around 10.
Mr. Gundersen stated he received comments from people that indicated they did not feel that area was supposed to be in that expanded zone from the start.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated back when it was put in place, the intent of the expanded archery from the very beginning with the Legislature was that it was to occur in areas where there was a firearms discharge ordinance that prevented a higher degree of hunting. That was not the case apparently in Phippsburg. There was no firearms discharge ordinance there. There had been a call for why did the archery groups get to go there and hunt when it didn’t really fit the mold. It may have been a concern, the Commissioner was authorized to do special deer hunts. Maybe this fit the bill enough for that special hunt that we put it in expanded archery.
Mrs. Oldham stated she had a clear recollection of that. She had gone to the Maine CDC and gotten all the Lyme disease data, that was the issue at that time and whether it should qualify for special hunts.
Mr. Dudley asked what was the goal in that area for deer per square mile.
Ms. Camuso stated probably between 15 and 18. When they went through the management review they would look at that. The goals were set quite awhile ago and we had more current literature to suggest that was probably a little high considering the vector borne diseases and the number of people that lived in that area.
Commissioner Woodcock stated that in the comments many people said the situation was fine, the deer were available, hunting was going great and then there were some that felt there weren’t many deer at all and there had been a significant decrease because of a certain group. The conclusion we were drawing was that we shouldn’t be changing it right now.
Troy Wallace stated he hunted the season when it opened up in 1997 and they were allowed 1 extra doe. They were still harvesting the same amount of deer in the town as they did looking at harvest numbers from 2000 on. The permits seemed to be the biggest issue with everybody, the unlimited permits. He did not know how to make Phippsburg happy with the permit system without limiting opportunity south of them. In his opinion he did not think there was a real deer problem in Phippsburg, it was very healthy. They were shooting some nice bucks there. South of them, Wells, etc. there were issues. There was an issue across the river from them in Georgetown in zone 25. He had not been without an any-deer permit in 20 years in zone 24. Bonuses were handed out. Should we look at that, he thought that was where the majority of deer were being shot in the town. He did not want to take anybody’s opportunity away, but he thought it was overlapping.
Ms. Camuso asked if he wanted us to reduce the number of antlerless permits allowed during expanded archery.
Troy Wallace stated he did not think anyone was opposed to that.
Ms. Camuso stated that people could exercise the right to not use those permits. We did look at the number of animals harvested by hunter and there were very few people that were harvesting more than 2 or 3 deer. On occasion there were people that harvested 4 deer.
Troy Wallace stated most people in town would be happy with reducing the permits somehow. He did not know how to go about that and not take opportunity away from areas that actually needed more permits.
Mr. Farrington asked if the Commissioner had the authority to limit the number of permits per person.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the special season authority that we had gave the Commissioner the ability to set gear restrictions, bag limits, etc.
Troy Wallace stated regarding the firearms issue, he knew when it was started it was supposed to be in areas with firearms ordinances. He contacted 20 towns and 19 allowed firearms and expanded. That was an issue all through zone 24, there were still a lot of areas that allowed both.
Mr. Connolly stated WMD 24 was set up differently right from the start. There was recognition that there was some firearms hunting there, but the challenge was the access and the ability to apply pressure across it. There was a conscious decision when that zone was put into the expanded archery that it was different than the other areas of the state where expanded archery would be applied. There were plenty of deer there, there was no need to limit the number of expanded archery deer that were being taken. That was not the problem with WMD 24. It was more if you had permission to get on the property to take the deer or were the deer moving onto a property that had limited access during the season.
C. Step 1
1. Any-deer permits 2015
Ms. Camuso stated for this year we were recommending at total of 20,770 any-deer permits statewide. It was a decrease of 23% from last year. We had a pretty severe winter in most districts. We did not have all the winter severity data analyzed yet, but many of the WMDs had close to the 11th harshest winter season on record since 1950. We were still recommending a pretty significant doe harvest in WMDs 15-17, 20-26 and 29. Those were kind of the core deer habitat in the state. We were also recommending some moderate to light doe permits inWMDs 3, 6, 14 and 18. Those WMDs were at or exceeding social carrying capacity and we were having some nuisance issues with deer getting into gardens, etc. WMD 3 was a new district offering permits, but the biologists in the area felt pretty strongly that they were at or above social carrying capacity and the winter in WMD 3 was not nearly as severe as it was in other districts. Although there was a good amount of snow, it was so cold the snow was light and fluffy and deer walked through it without any real issues.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Commissioner Woodcock stated many variables went into this. The downeast/coastal zones in particular 27 & 28, we had some feedback that there were some people who were quite displeased that there weren’t some permits being issued because the deer were getting into some blueberry growers in some of those areas. On the other side of the town line we had some displeasure expressed because there weren’t any deer. There were zones in their entirety that had disparate populations. It was not unusual to have people in the same zone be commenting they had deer, and they didn’t have deer. That particular area, however, did have some commercial applications and depredation permits were available for those people who were having problems with creatures consuming commercial crops, farm crops, etc.
Mr. Lewis asked about the winter kill percentage in his area.
Ms. Camuso stated in WMD 27 it was estimated to be at 12.7%. On average she thought the winter mortality statewide was anticipated to be about 16%.
Mr. Lewis stated the coyote numbers were down. Where they had a problem was vehicle mortality. He had 6 trucks on the road, and 7 deer were killed in 2 nights.
Ms. Camuso stated during the past winter December and January were moderate which was why our overall estimate for winter mortality wasn’t as bad as it was in 2008 and 2009. It was cold but there wasn’t much snow until really February. That probably moderated some of the mortality issues associated with this past winter.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the DOT had been very generous in certain areas of the state when it came to traffic signage and deer crossings, particularly in the 95 corridor. Signage was psychologically pertinent for about 2 weeks. That was the study that historically had been appropriate. After 2 weeks you would revert back to what you would normally do in that area. From his personal experience, there hadn’t been a whole lot of success with signage diminishing in any great degree creatures getting hit on the road. The only control he felt we had was the new law that allowed us to put some pressure on people who were feeding deer that created a scenario where they had to cross the road to get to the feeding place.
Ms. Camuso stated it was important to remember that the amount of permits that we gave out was not what we actually anticipated to be harvested. In each WMD we applied an expansion factor so if we wanted 100 does to be harvested we would multiply that by 10 and give 1,000 permits. In some areas where we were decreasing the number of permits by 2,000 we were actually only anticipating a reduction in harvest by a much smaller percentage than that. Most of southern Maine had between a 7 and 10% expansion factor.
Mr. Farrington asked if there was a percentage of harvest on deer like we did moose for the number of permits given out.
Ms. Camuso stated we knew the total harvest, but some people bought a big game license and did not harvest deer. The approximate success rate was not as refined as for moose because of the permit system.
2. Trapping Season
Mr. Connolly stated we were working on changes in the trapping regulations to make some permanent adjustments in the regulations going forward to protect lynx. We received our incidental take permit from the USFWS and within a month we had two lynx that were taken in legally set conibear leaning pole sets in northern Maine. We immediately implemented an emergency rule enacted to protect lynx the way we were required to by the permit and we were successful in that. The 90-day emergency rule expired so we engaged in dialogue with the Maine Trappers Association and USFWS to come up with some recommendations going forward to implement some permanent changes in the rules that would protect lynx. The trappers were very concerned about the resource and asked questions regarding what their impact was. One of the things for review were exclusion devices. We had killer type traps we wanted to continue using. Prior to this the leaning pole set was felt to be an adequate way to have a killer type trap or body gripping trap and have it accessible to the animal but protected from access by lynx by the leaning pole set. Those were the kinds of sets that actually allowed a lynx to access the trap and be killed.
Mr. Connolly stated we were looking at expanding the use of exclusion devices to protect lynx from accessing traps and looking at exclusion devices statewide for traps that were 160’s, 220’s; body gripper traps. We would still allow some of the 110’s and 120’s when they were set in blind sets which was the exception that had always been in place in the lynx WMDs as long as they were blind sets or overhanging banks or set partially covered by water. There would be that exception for those body gripping or killer type traps. Everything else in an upland setting would have to be in an exclusion device and would be statewide.
Ms. Camuso stated she felt it was important to mention that it was the trappers that brought forward the statewide recommendation.
Mr. Connolly stated the trappers really looked at that and recognized from their perspective as trappers that was a sacrifice, but they felt that was the right thing to do to protect lynx and protect the ability to trap going forward. They did recommend going statewide on exclusion devices with that exception for the 110’s and 120’s, traps that had a jaw spread of 5” or less if they were blind sets, overhanging banks or partially covered by water they could continue to be set in those manners without exclusion devices. Beaver traps were larger but were allowed because they were underwater and protected from access to lynx. The other issue was foothold traps. The catch rate for lynx had increased the last couple of years. We were arguing with the USFWS on how best to show that it was an increase in lynx population. But, because we were catching more there was the higher probability that something could happen to those lynx. The injuries we had had been in foothold traps.
Mr. Connolly stated we talked to trappers about what could we do that was reasonable to help protect lynx if they were caught in a foothold trap. We agreed they would go to 3 swivels in the set and also that the trap chain be center mounted on the base of the trap so it created a better position for the trap to be on the foot of the animal and that it would then be able to move and provide that ability so as the animal moved in the catch circle it would have less of an impact on the animal itself. The other thing we looked at was a clear catch circle for a staked trap. The one injury we had in a staked trap for lynx had been when the chain fetched up on something in the circle and the animal continued to jerk on it. They talked about drag sets. When you had a drag set if the animal was near a road it could move away from the road and out of line of sight. We had a few lynx killed over the years by bird hunters. There was the possibility of injury to lynx on drags. That discussion was still ongoing with the trappers.
Mr. Connolly stated they were having discussions about the openings in the exclusion devices trying to find the best fit in terms of allowing access by fisher and marten, because the traps typically when they were land sets they were set to catch fisher and marten. We were trying to have as minimal an impact on fisher and marten trapping as we could. The use of Hancock traps (suitcase type) that we had for ADC agents, there was a ban on live trap use in the lynx WMDs and the focus around that was Hancock traps. We were going to be providing some guidance to ADC trappers. The MTA brought up that we were looking at them and trappers in the lynx zones, what about the ADC officers and predator management people and other trappers in another part of the state, what impact did they have on the lynx population and their ability to trap. We were going to be giving clear instructions to ADC trappers and if they were using a Hancock trap that it be set in a way that it’s not accessible to lynx. They should be set so they would face out into the water and a beaver would swim over the front of the trap and then get caught and held in the trap so it could be moved. They were not a trap that would typically be used by a beaver trapper, they would use a drowning set. We wanted to limit the use of the Hancock traps by ADC trappers under the authority of either a warden or a biologist and be set in such a way to not impact the lynx.
Mr. Connolly stated we had met with the USFWS and they were very interested in the recommendations we had brought forth. We had more work to do before finalizing the proposal.
3. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Fish waters 2016
Mr. Brown stated we had solicited recommendations from regional staff that would go into the 2016 rulemaking package for fisheries. We had received those and they were undergoing review. There would be some additions to the state heritage fish waters and some additional focus on some of the border waters to further consolidate or modify the rules to make them more consistent among the regulations. There would also be some new kids fishing waters added to the Midcoast area.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington asked if the heritage waters were what Dana DeGraaf had submitted to the Legislature in his report.
Mr. Brown stated we had a list of state heritage fish waters and as part of the rulemaking package anytime we had a new water go on or off the list it had to be part of the rulemaking package in a separate part.
Mr. Dudley asked when they would receive the packet.
Mr. Brown stated they were still doing some internal review. He was not sure if the packet would be available in the next month.
Mrs. Oldham stated she felt they would need to see the packet before it was presented at Step 2 because that was their last opportunity for discussion.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we would have our usual road show of hearings around the state to accommodate as many people as possible.
Mr. Wheaton stated when it came to tournaments, keep focused on the purse. In tournaments the idea was to win the money, not to save the fish.
There were no further questions or comments.
V. Other Business
Ed Smith from Islesboro stated Gil Rivera was with him and they had come to ask for another 3-year special hunt on Islesboro. He felt they had made some great progress and even though they tried to look to the Islesboro population and have them say what they would like to do to solve their problem instead of telling them what to do. They had been able to reduce the number of tick borne diseases rather dramatically from 2013 to 2014. They had a deer count done by Stantec and they hadn’t factored in the deer kill so they probably wouldn’t have that for another week or so. The preliminary count was not down, it was up slightly with a 4.6 deer per square mile variation in their level of confidence. Everybody that lived on the island had some experience with deer. Accidents were down, the number of deer that people saw either in the woods or by airplane were down. There was a perception that the deer count had gone down. They would like to finalize their plan because they thought they were making progress. They would like to have the 3 years and change it so they would increase their kill. Mr. Smith distributed a count of the November kill over the last 15 years. In summary, 1/3 of all the deer that were taken during expanded archery season were taken in November. They counted on that as part of their deer kill to reduce the population. The number of deer taken during expanded archery the last 4 years had gone down, which would indicate there were fewer deer.
Mr. Smith stated they had a couple of severe winters with this November being the worst snowfall on record. That did effect people in the woods trying to kill a deer. They would like to do 3 things. 1) Be able to increase the number of people participating in the hunt by including all of the landowners on Islesboro. That would be roughly 300 people. One hunter took 15 deer that year. 2) To increase kill start the hunt in November and go until the end of January. 3) Rejuvinate or increase the safety program. They had been highly successful in protecting people from getting hurt. They had a committee that worked hard just on that one topic. It was a refresher course that took 2 hours and they would qualify all of the hunters.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was a preliminary presentation. More information would be forthcoming and an official Q and A.
Mrs. Oldham asked Mr. Smith if he still considered Lyme disease on the island the reason for the request for the special hunt.
Mr. Smith stated yes.
Mrs. Oldham stated looking at the literature Mr. Smith passed out, they anticipated a 50% increase in the number of hunters but they were really only talking about 20 hunters.
Mr. Smith said probably a 20% increase in hunters, yes.
Mrs. Oldham stated she had heard this request for special hunts for a long time. When you did the same thing over and over again and expected a different result, that was foolish. There was a cure for the problem on Islesboro and they rejected it. To think that another 3 years was going to take care of the problem, and in terms of Lyme disease incidents once the person was already infected it didn’t count as a new case of Lyme disease. It was a public health problem and doing the same thing over and over was not being successful. She felt it would be irresponsible for the Department to continue the public health risk that was going on there when there was a cure.
Mr. Smith asked if Mrs. Oldham had seen the reduction in the number of cases.
Mrs. Oldham stated once someone was already infected, it didn’t count anymore as a new case.
Mr. Fortier stated they were requesting to start the hunt in November, why would they not try to start sooner like in October when that was when the hunters were gearing up; starting the hunt earlier trying to get to that number faster of square deer per mile. Also the literature said they were going to do some subsidizing in the butchering of deer. How would that dressing out of deer and butchering take place? Were they looking to have the deer taken off the island to be butchered?
Mr. Smith stated they had a refrigerated truck that was set up in the early part of the season. They took the deer to Winthrop and they did all the processing. The hunters would pick their deer up.
Mr. Rivera stated the hunters would dress out the deer and then take it to the truck.
Mr. Fortier stated the tick problem was a serious problem. He had not seen the numbers being reduced fast enough to take care of the problem. The problem was going to exist until they got the level of deer down as fast as possible. If they were looking at increasing hunters by just those few people on the island and not bringing in experienced people and more active people the problem would continue to exist. He would hope a good plan would come forward to really address the problem.
Commissioner Woodcock stated there was a political scenario in the proposal also. What they were presenting was not necessarily what they would prefer as a reduction method. The Town had had 3 meetings so far in an attempt to accept methodology that was presented to them to reduce the deer herd on Islesboro. The Town had not accepted the methodology that some people would prefer. The committee was bringing forth what they were able to.
Mr. Connolly stated in statute there was a requirement that if we changed the seasons on the off-shore islands where hunting had been restricted the Town had to accept those changes before going forward. The Department could not impose them on the Town. There had to be an interaction where the citizens of the island educate their fellow townspeople and agree to accept a change that had to be initiated by the Department but seconded by them. It was a challenge in an island community with different perspectives on how many deer were enough and what the impacts were.
Mr. Farrington asked why there was opposition from the Town.
Mr. Smith stated it was a matter of historically 100 years ago where summer people who owned all the property told the island people what to do. That was part of it. It was the summer people saying they had the money to pay to have it done. That was unacceptable to people that lived on the island. It had more to do with history, not a lot to do with rationale.
Mr. Kemper responded to the suggestion that they start earlier in October. Islesboro had a very strong and robust expanded archery season that counted for the majority of the deer harvest. This year in expanded archery they harvested 123 deer and the special hunt harvested 39 or 40. Their hesitance to go to October was probably because of the existing expanded archery season.
Mr. Gundersen stated in spite of what they were up against out on the island they were working very hard to try to get through the problem. He thought the deer reduction committee on Islesboro had worked very hard and kept close track of everything they had done. He thought part of the problem that they’d had was that with extending the season they had gotten into some really bad weather on the far end of it which had restricted them being able to get deer. By backing it up they would be better off and might have more success.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he concurred. The committee, people had resigned from it because of the frustration in the voting process of the community. We were trying to do what we could under statute and it was ongoing. If the Town didn’t accept it there was not much we could do directly unless there was a change in statute.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
There were no public comments.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The date and location of the next meeting would be Saturday, June 13th at 10:00 a.m. at the Bethel Fire Station.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.