Advisory Council Meeting
February 25, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director of Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Bonnie Holding, Director of Information and Education
Lieutenant Adam Gormely, Maine Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis (Chair) – by phone
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Don Kleiner, MPGA
I. Call to Order
Council member Sheri Oldham 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.
A. Step 3
1. Licensed Guide Rules
Mrs. Theriault stated we had added language in section 24.03 “or equivalent course approved by the Department” in regards to having an EMT or paramedic course when applying for a guides license. That was the only comment that was received.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the bulk of the initial proposal was the requirement for licensed guides for those guiding stand-up paddle boarders. That was the initial proposal; the amendment was an additional provision that we put in for first aid.
Council Member Comments
Mr. Fortier asked about the guides, was it their obligation to find a course or did the Department offer courses.
Lt. Gormely stated it was their obligation, the burden rested with the guide.
Mrs. Theriault stated the stand-up paddle boarders were now required to be licensed if they wanted to participate in that sport. Out on the ocean they had to have the sea kayaking classification, if they wanted to do it on inland waters they had to have their recreational classification.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we received one written comment from the Guides Association in support.
A motion was made by Ms. Starbird to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
2. Boating Regulations
Lt. Gormely stated we had received a substantive comment. Someone had gone through and made edits, most of which were formatting. Substantively there were no changes we accepted.
Mrs. Theriault stated some of the recommended changes were to define some of the terms that were used. That was not something we did as they were defined in statute. The bulk of the changes that were accepted were grammatical and formatting.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated what the Council saw at Step 2, and what was being presented at Step 3, the bulk of changes had no significant impact to the regulations themselves.
Mr. Kleiner asked about the omission of the guides piece, was that still there?
Lt. Gormely stated yes. The personal floatation for a commercial venture, was that language still there that allowed a licensed guide to be considered recreational for the exemption of carriage requirements for the Type I? It was omitted in the original proposal but had been added back in.
Mr. Dudly stated the language could be found on page 11, paragraph 4 of the handout.
Mr. Farrington stated on page 13 we talked about fire extinguishers. The minimum number of B1’s or better was discussed. If they had a multi-purpose extinguisher were they covered?
Lt. Gormely stated yes. The reason we kept the language was to try to make sure that our language was consistent with the Coast Guard. Anyone that had an extinguisher with an ABC rating was certainly better. ABC was what it actually extinguished; a B rating was designed to put out gasoline fires.
Mr. Farrington stated he thought people may try to find just a B1 extinguisher because it did not specify that was the minimum requirement. Most boat operators had multi-purpose extinguishers on their boats.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated that was the official regulation, but when we put the boating regulations summary together to hand out to the public we could modify the statement.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. Spring Turkey hunting WMDs 1-6
Ms. Camuso stated this was a proposal to have WMDs 1-6 have a split season. People with odd years of birth dates would hunt the first and third weeks and even birth dates would hunt the second and fourth and everybody would have the fifth week. This was an effort to try and reduce hunter congestion for the landowners. This was how we historically had opened WMDs for turkey hunting in the spring. There was a question about possibly shortening the turkey season up north or delaying it a week. She did talk with the turkey biologist and the regional biologist and everyone agreed from a hunting perspective that did not make sense. The phonology of the birds was such that the birds would start breeding very soon. Most of the feedback they received from people was they wanted the turkey season sooner, not later. If we delayed the season the hunting opportunities were going to be diminished. It was also consistent with the way turkeys were managed across the northeast and pretty much all the states had the same parameters for the spring season. They felt having the split season would address the congestion issue. No public comments had been received.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier asked about public comments. We weren’t getting any from landowners being upset about getting on their land early? His phone was ringing off the hook.
Ms. Orff stated the comment period had ended February 20th and she had not received any comments.
Mr. Fortier stated the areas were WMDs 1-6, it was not like it took a lot of landowners to shut down huge amounts of land. He understood the turkey hunters wanted to go, but they weren’t on their land they were on somebody else’s. The restrictions the farmers had to deal with regards crop contamination etc. Mud and ATVs were factors they had to deal with.
Ms. Camuso stated this issue had been raised consistently as we opened WMDs there’s a concern about landowner issues particularly in the spring. Depending on the year it was often mud season through most of the state. We had not experienced it to the extent Mr. Fortier was alluding to. We did not know how many people would go to Aroostook County to hunt turkey. Those traveling from the south were more likely to hunt in Central Maine. There were not that many turkeys up north.
Mr. Fortier stated he saw it that they would have new turkey hunters, people that had not hunted turkey before. He lived there and knew the farmers and they were very gracious. If people realized the agricultural restrictions they had to abide by it was huge. Some people thought because they had a hunting license it gave them the right to go on other people’s property.
Ms. Starbird stated that fell on the hunter with the landowner. They should be the ones to say they would like to hunt on the property, it shouldn’t change the turkey season itself. It fell on the hunter for landowner permission.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked Mr. Fortier if the landowners were aware of the proposal.
Mr. Fortier stated hopefully they were aware, but they were busy farming.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked about the phone calls Mr. Fortier stated he had been receiving.
Mr. Fortier stated three big landowners were calling. The Moore Farm land was a township that started behind Mr. Fortier’s house and none of it was posted.
Mrs. Oldham stated in addressing the landowner issue, they had talked about changing one week. Would that be acceptable?
Mr. Fortier stated he felt that would be much better having the week going later in the season.
Ms. Camuso asked if he felt one week would make a difference.
Mr. Fortier stated it did up north. When they started planting potatoes it was always Memorial weekend or the week before. The week before that you couldn’t get near the land.
Mrs. Oldham stated then the one week change wouldn’t affect that.
Mr. Fortier stated he thought they were talking about going to a 4 week season.
Mrs. Oldham stated that would start May 11th. Did Mr. Fortier think that one week difference would appease the big landowners?
Mr. Fortier stated it was the first turkey hunt up there. Last year the hunt was stopped because of the conditions and the snow conditions. Had that changed this year? He felt the birds had dispersed better.
Mrs. Oldham stated this was the very northern range for turkeys, and Ms. Camuso confirmed that. Did breeding behavior change from Cumberland County to Aroostook County?
Ms. Camuso stated typically things like sunrise and what time sunrise started was what triggered the photo period in many species, it’s what triggered the breeding response.
Mr. Fortier stated he worried about the landowners.
Ms. Camuso stated maybe we could have Rick LaFlamme work with the landowners and see if there was any way we could help.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated in years past we had held a turkey hunting workshop.
Ms. Camuso stated we held 3 last year. We could ask the Turkey Federation if they would be willing to do them again.
Mr. Fortier asked if the biologists had gone out to verify how the birds were dispersing.
Ms. Camuso stated they did counts in the late summer, early fall to get productivity and things like that. It was more anecdotally, none of the turkeys had receivers on them. Rich Hoppe and Amanda DeMusz had a good handle on the population that it was increasing or stable. Rich Hoppe expressed that the population appeared to be growing and spreading out more.
Mr. Farrington asked if we had funds for public education where this was a relatively new thing up there to get people to work with the farmers so they didn’t drive their 4-wheelers across a field that was just plowed.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the classes we would hold, that would be part of that.
Mr. Fortier stated that was also stressed in their hunter safety classes.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked Mr. Fortier if he had a sense of what the interest in turkey hunting was going to be up there.
Mr. Fortier stated he had no idea. He thought it was going to be good.
Mr. Dudley asked if they set something up in the area with the Presque Isle club and had Rick LaFlamme come and speak, would he reach most of the people that would be turkey hunting?
Mr. Fortier stated if they knew ahead of time he thought that it would. Their club was 250 members now.
Ms. Camuso stated she could ask Rich and Rick to work with the Wild Turkey Federation on additional outreach.
Mr. Fortier stated where they were on the border they would get Canadians coming over to turkey hunt. He wanted the turkey hunt there and wanted it to be successful. It was how it started that first season that set the ground work on everything going forward.
Mrs. Oldham stated what she was hearing from the Deputy Commissioner was that the Department would commit to public outreach with an emphasis on landowner relations.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we had held meetings there in the past. She gave the controlled moose hunt as an example. We could also provide information at the Presque Isle sportsman’s show.
There were no further questions or comments.
2. Moose permits 2015
Ms. Camuso stated a total of 2,815 permits was being proposed. There were no major changes from last year except for a couple of minor tweaks. In WMD 2 we cut the permits by 300 because we were at target there. WMD 2 was changed to a compromise zone and we were directed to bring the population down.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated Ms. Camuso had asked them to submit questions.
Ms. Camuso stated one of the questions was, “What were some of the unexpected preliminary results of the cow/calf mortality study.” It was hard to say right now because the study was still ongoing. Mr. Kantar was emphatic that the results would be evident when the study was over. He did indicate that it appeared that the annual survival rate for cows in WMD 8 was lower than we were experiencing in other parts of the state. When he had been doing surveys in other areas the population did not appear to have the same mortality rate that we experience in WMD 8. Another question asked was “During the population assessment flights have any habitat issues been identified?” When they were doing population studies with aerial surveys they targeted an area that had appropriate habitat that was representative of good moose habitat. When they were doing the surveys in the helicopter they were really focusing on moose and not habitat.
Another question, “What was the most important issue in need of further research?” Ms. Camuso stated it was consistent what we were looking to address was the parameters effecting reproduction. Reproductive rates and twinning rates was probably the most important thing for us to figure out. What was limiting reproduction could be a host of things, habitat, density, climate change, parasites, etc.
Another question, “Do you anticipate any significant management changes in the near future?” Ms. Camuso stated that was a hard one to answer. We were about to embark on a species planning process for bear, deer and moose. As part of that we would do some broad public surveys, we would do some targeted public surveys and we would likely do some regional public meetings. We really would not be prepared to answer the question until we had gone through that process.
Mr. Farrington stated one of the questions that was posed to him by a gentleman from Jackman was if Mr. Kantar and his survey crew knew that they lost over 50% of the animals that they tagged how come there hadn’t been a permit reduction in WMD 8?
Ms. Camuso stated there were no cow permits being issued in WMD 8. To grow or decrease the population we would use the cow permits to adjust that, not bull permits. The ratio of cows to bulls was ok and the number of mature bulls in that WMD was within range so there was no need to adjust the permits.
Mr. Fortier stated for WMD 2 he saw an article from a guide in the area. The article stated too many moose had died from ticks, etc. Mr. Fortier did not disagree with the reduction in WMD 2.
Ms. Camuso stated there was a school of thought that moose density effected the rate at which moose got ticks. That was not consistent across the moose range so they still had moose in southern Maine with low moose densities that could have high tick loads. It was not just density, there were lots of other things that effected ticks and how they impacted moose. The ticks would affect moose differently depending on the age of the moose, sex, condition, etc. There were most often underlying circumstances that would cause the moose to be more vulnerable to ticks.
Mrs. Oldham asked how long an epizootic usually lasted.
Ms. Camuso stated it varied. The tick survey that we did in the fall on the harvested moose, one of the higher counts was in 2013. We were working with other states to try and come up with a predictive model of if we had this many ticks on the moose in the fall, we could expect x, y or z. It could be highly variable. This winter being so cold could do a good job of killing off many ticks. We did not have the answers yet as to what were the impacts of weather, temperature, snow depth, wind, etc. on the survival of the ticks.
Mr. Fortier asked if the snow depth helped protect the ticks.
Ms. Camuso stated the winter tick was different in that it stayed on the moose or host for its entire life cycle so we would highly expect that cold temperatures and more snow was problematic for winter ticks.
Mr. Farrington asked when the results of the tests done last year would be available. Some of the necropsies that were done must have some results back by now.
Ms. Camuso stated it was a 5-year study. It was not that simple to tell what the moose died from. A lot of the normal ranges for hormone levels for moose were not really set. We were working with the Maine Animal Health Lab to help establish the norms. We should have preliminary results this summer, but it would take a few years to get more conclusive results. We were also looking at a couple new projects to be able to test for brain worm. Brain worm had been very difficult to detect in moose.
Mr. Farrington asked if the tests Mr. Kantar was doing did not actually give the cause of death?
Ms. Camuso stated no. We knew the moose was dead; Mr. Kantar would take measurements, fecal samples, blood samples, tissue samples, etc.
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
1. Controlled Moose Hunt
Ms. Camuso stated there were no rule changes there; we were proposing the same number of 25 permits to disabled veterans in the same towns open for hunting. There was only one change to expand it an additional week but that was within the Commissioner’s authority within the rule. The hunt had been very positive and successful.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
Mr. Farrington asked if there was any progress on the trapping, as far as protecting the lynx. He would like some information to share with the trappers in his area.
Mr. Connolly stated we had met with the trappers and representatives of the MTA. We met with the board directly and then at a meeting that they had in Bangor where membership was invited to attend and express their concerns about how things would proceed in the future. We had started a dialogue with representatives of the trappers to come up with some ideas long term to then meet with the USFWS to implement rulemaking for the fall of 2015. We did not have specific answers and part of it would be, we needed to work with the USFWS to gain acceptance of those ideas moving forward. The other piece was that the Friends of Animals had filed a lawsuit against the USFWS for issuing the ITP. That had been filed in the Boston court and there was movement in terms of who was going to be interveners in that and how that was going to proceed. That had implications for our rulemaking changes as well.
Ms. Camuso stated she thought the goal was to have something before the Council in June.
Mr. Connolly stated we had to get a permanent regulation in place for the upcoming trapping season and normally we would start rulemaking in June to do that so that it would be available to be published before the start of the early fox and coyote trapping season in October.
Mr. Dudley asked if this would affect the K-9 season? We were going into foot traps as well as killer type traps.
Ms. Camuso stated we would be irresponsible to not look at ways to minimize incidental capture of lynx in the early fox and coyote season. If we had an animal that was non-releasable that would count as our third take. Both making sure that we minimize the number of lynx we caught in footholds and making sure that any lynx we caught in a foothold we minimized any chance that animal could be injured to the point where it couldn’t be released. Also, we couldn’t go over the maximum number of animals that we’re allowed as incidental catch.
Mr. Dudley stated he felt this would not be limited to lynx only areas; would it be state wide sensitive?
Mr. Connolly stated trappers had raised that as a concern.
Ms. Camuso stated everybody recognized that it didn’t matter where you were in the state, if it was in the lynx zone or outside the lynx zone if there was an issue with a lynx it was going to affect everybody. All the regional staff was participating in the surveys and we were seeing a good number of lynx tracks. She thought the estimated population was 1500 animals, and that was probably conservative.
Mr. Dudley asked if this would really have any impact on the ITP? The number of lynx, if it was considerably higher than what they set the ITP, it didn’t change the fact that we were down to one.
Ms. Camuso stated the USFWS, it was not being handled in the eastern part of the country it was in their western office, was looking at a status review for lynx and they were committed to have that done by the summer. At that point, given all the information they had, their biologists could determine that the threatened status was adequate, or that they should be listed as endangered or that they should be taken off the list. If they determined lynx should remain as a threatened species then the USFWS was obligated to come up with a recovery plan that would be due in 2018. They were dealing with population across the range so we could have 3 to 4 times as many lynx as we had 10 years ago and that wouldn’t change the status on the continental scale.
Mr. Dudley stated it looked as though the only way we would ever get back to a normal trapping season was to somehow change, either we’re a distinct population segment or change the number somehow.
Ms. Camuso stated they had discussed with the trappers that the USFWS had to date determined that the lynx did not qualify as a distinct population segment. We could continue to work on that, but that would be a long term process. We were bound right now, they were listed across the range not eastern and western.
Ms. Camuso stated the trappers had asked that we do a major amendment to the ITP.
Mr. Connolly stated he had a discussion with Marty Miller, the head for endangered species for Region 5 in Hadley which was what we operated under. They discussed the DPS (distinct population segment) issue and one of the challenges was because the listing was done for the entire lower 48 when it considered the states where there were lynx, and it was considered one DPS they had to resolve it on that scale. They talked about, was there an advantage for Maine to being a DPS. They did not make a single state a DPS, it would have to be more than an area. They would not delist one state. When they looked at DPS’s they had to look at it in terms of a stable population they had two criteria. When they looked at the 5 or 6 areas of the country that had lynx populations, none of them met both the standards that were there. The other advantage to having a single DPS for the entire country was, they might want to think of it as having separate stable groups of lynx was actually better for lynx long term in terms of being persistent and resilient in case there were issues with the population. The USFWS had to look at all that and make that decision going forward and evaluate it. Western states were very interested in seeing lynx delisted entirely. There had been a big increase in information since they did the initial listing across the country. We were going to be looking at some issues in terms of the genetics and the movement of lynx between the northeast and Canada. From Quebec all the way over to the Maritimes and up to the gasbay there were lynx moving places. It was legal to take lynx in Quebec. There was a lot of movement of their lynx to us and who got to claim them complicated the issue.
When you talked about a major amendment to the ITP, you had to think of it as the ITP was kind of an insurance policy where insurance companies never insure anything where they’re pretty sure they won’t have to pay a claim, or if they pay a claim you’ve already probably paid them $2 for every dollar they’re going to give you. It’s always figured out in favor of the insurance company. The ITP, because of the endangered species act, was written that way. It was written very strictly, it was not a free pass to take things. There was a lot of criticism by the Friends of Animals that this was permission for Fish & Wildlife to just go kill and injure lynx. It was not. In the ITP we had to pretty much show that we were never going to make a claim, or that we’d done everything possible to prevent ourselves from making a claim, before they would give permission to have a policy that insured you if you did. There was a question about why we did not ask for more. With lethal traps, we had never shown that we had ever had an animal taken lethally. Part of our defense in having a trapping program was the measure we had shown was effective in avoiding lynx was a leaning pole set, we had hundreds of thousands of trap nights and we had never taken a lynx at all. The service asked what we needed lethal take for, because we just said this was a method that didn’t result in lethal take so we had avoided the take. We couldn’t ask for 6 animals to cover us on a method that we just said was the way we were preventing lethal take. The take that we thought would occur most likely, was the take from an animal couldn’t be released because just capturing a lynx was against federal law. When we did research we had to get a permit that would allow us to catch them to even put radio collars on them. We also had an exemption in our rules that would allow us to take them out of the traps from trappers and examine them and release them. The take that we anticipated and asked for was the unavoidable take doing all the things we suggested to avoid capturing lynx during the early fox and coyote season in regular land traps, the idea there was potential that we would capture a lynx that couldn’t be released. If it couldn’t be released that was the same in the Service’s eyes as killing it because it would be taking it permanently out of the wild. Our suspicion was that there was a potential that an animal could break a leg and we’ve had 2 animals have leg injuries. Both animals we’ve taken out of the wild, rushed to Tufts University, cured them and we’ve released them back into the wild.
Mr. Connolly stated when we looked at regulations we had to portion out the take by that method by the year over time. We assumed we would catch about 13 animals a year, there might be 9 animals with serious injury and the potential for three that would be caught and never released. We ended up taking two of the three lethal takes but we’ve still got to look at minimizing the number of animals that we just plain catch and release or the potential that we could catch more animals and have them suffer injuries that we would have to take to the vet.
Mr. Connolly stated if we were going to increase the permit from what we had, we had to look at the take we were experiencing and show the Service how you’re not going to make that claim. Trapper training, education, methods to deal with the lynx when they’re caught, examine them and make sure they’re not injured and if they were injured have provisions to take care of them. If we wanted to amend the permit we would have to show in the take we’re experiencing, what we’re going to do to reduce that because the law says that the take has to be reduced to the maximum extent practicable. The permit was to allow us to trap so we had to modify trapping in such a way to protect lynx. Mitigation for our lynx ITP was we had to set aside 27,000 acres as lynx habitat and identify about 6,200 acres of habitat that would be managed to be high quality hare habitat because high quality hare habitat equates to healthy lynx. We identified the Seboomock unit because IFW did not have 27,000 acres of land so we got Bureau of Public Lands to set aside the acres. If we wanted to amend the permit and ask for additional take we would have to come up with more mitigation that would offset whatever take we have had. We talked about the benefits of fisher trapping as being a way to reduce take and that was not accepted by the USFWS.
Mr. Dudley stated that was ironic because fisher was the major predator of lynx. Ironically they were going to make it very tough for the trappers to catch fisher.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated when you looked at the amount of time it took to get the ITP; to do a major amendment would probably be very difficult.
Mr. Connolly stated the way the regulations evolved, WMDs 1-6 and 8-11 were part of the consent decree. Those were the original lynx WMDs that in order to settle the lawsuit we entered into a consent decree and we established the restrictions within those areas. Afterwards, the Department, because we’ve always tried to manage things appropriately, added WMDs 7, 14, 18 and 19 to the lynx WMDs but they didn’t have the same restrictions as the consent decree and we got exclusion devices allowed in those four WMDs all along. Now, with the issues with the leaning pole set and not being able to rely upon that to avoid lynx captures we want to go back and get exclusion devices allowed in the 1-6 and 8-11 where they were never in place and add those in so we can get the fisher and martin trapping going this fall. In addition to that, we wanted to find a way to use some other methods that were less demanding on the trapper.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
There were no public comments or questions.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The date and location of the next meeting would be forwarded to the Council at a later time.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.