Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
January 22, 2015 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Augusta, Maine

Attending:

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director of Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Nate Webb, Special Projects Biologist
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Lieutenant Adam Gormely, Maine Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Jeff Lewis (Chair)
Dick Fortier
Sheri Oldham
Cathy DeMerchant
Don Dudley
Jenny Starbird
Matt Thurston
Larry Farrington
Gunnar Gundersen

Guests:

Gary Corson, New Sharon
Don Kleiner, MPGA
Deirdre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Dave Cressey, Rangeley

I. Call to Order

Jeff Lewis, Council Chair called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham.

Vote: unanimous – minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. Licensed Guide Rules

Mrs. Theriault stated there was one small piece of added language. It was brought about by the guides advisory board. There was discussion about allowing other types of first aid certification courses to folks who needed to become first aid certified before they applied for their guide license. Language was added to include equivalent courses approved by the Department.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the statute allowed the Commissioner to approve other courses that met the criteria in rule and we had a request from a group and Mr. Corson reviewed their program and felt it surpassed what was currently being accepted. There may be other groups in the future to come in.

There were no further comments or questions.

2. Boating Regulations

Lt. Gormely stated he did some research regarding Mr. Farrington’s question on the fire extinguisher part of the rule. We had also received other public comment on the boating rules. The biggest change was a comment on old language that did not make it into the proposal; it was an omission when preparing the two drafts. One of them was the exception that if you were guiding on a commercial trip that the requirements would be the same when guiding on inland waters as you would for lifejacket requirements for a recreational boat. This was for inland waters, ocean would still be something different. Another change in keeping in line with Coast Guard code of federal regulations, they were going away from a Type I, II or III PFD. It was more of a label now.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Ms. Starbird stated she had received a public comment which she forwarded to the Department.

Mrs. Theriault stated it was answered and reinserting the omitted language should suffice for his concerns.

Lt. Gormely stated regarding the fire extinguisher question, currently you were required to have a B1 or B2 fire extinguisher, and the comment was that seemed to be antiquated and a B1 rating only put out an electrical fire. Lt. Gormely researched the question and the proposal would remain as presented regarding the fire extinguisher portion. It was consistent with federal regulation and their priority in the concern was to make sure you could at least put out a gasoline fire. A, B and C ratings put out different things. An A put out trash or wood, B put out gasoline and C put out electrical. Most general extinguishers had a B rating. Lt. Gormely stated he had called several marinas and asked if they could provide a B1 extinguisher, and they could. After speaking with the Coast Guard they recommended keeping the rule as proposed.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Farrington stated the B1 or B2 was the minimum, if they wanted to have an A, B, C that was fine?

Lt. Gormely stated yes. At the bare minimum they would have to have a B1.

Mrs. Oldham asked if there should be language stating the minimum?

Lt. Gormely stated the B rating was what it put out and the numerical value was the square footage that the extinguisher would reasonably put out.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked if there was any liability on our part by stating they could have a B1 when it didn’t cover all types of fires.

Lt. Gormely stated he had asked the Coast Guard and primarily they were most concerned with the gasoline fires, the combustibles and that was why they were requiring at a minimum the B1 or B2. We may want to put a notation in the boaters guide regarding fire extinguishers and encourage boaters to purchase extinguishers above the minimum requirement.

Mr. Thurston asked if there was a cost difference in the 1’s and 2’s and the all in ones?

Lt. Gormely stated there didn’t seem to be.

Mr. Farrington asked about PFD requirements for regular water skiers and “trick” skiers. Trick skiers did not have to have a life jacket?

Lt. Gormely stated we had recognized in a couple different venues that when we got to a specialized group that we made some concessions. We considered that to be a risk assessment. The risk assessment said the average boater/skier wasn’t probably expecting to go under, wasn’t expecting fall and didn’t really understand that and the operator of the boat probably wasn’t well equipped. The trick skier knew the risks and was trying to perform and accepted that risk inherent with his sport. They were professionals and understood the risks and could not perform wearing a bulky life jacket.

Gary Corson asked about the PFD exemption for Type I for guides, did that include the boundary waters?

Mrs. Theriault stated it should as long as it was on inland waters.

Mr. Kleiner stated he believed the language was from a long time ago and part of a memorandum of agreement that we had with the Coast Guard at that time exempted those boundary lakes, although he had not been able to find the language. Technically, East Grand Lake required a captain’s license because it was a boundary water. But, there was a memorandum of agreement somewhere that stated they didn’t need the Type I. That was the same agreement that stopped Coast Guard jurisdiction would run very far up our rivers because they were commercially navigable.

Lt. Gormely stated the federal government oversaw the state in a variety of ways. They could research the question and find the correct answer.

C. Step 1

1. Spring Turkey hunting WMDs 1-6

Ms. Camuso stated this was to have the spring turkey hunt in WMDs 1-6 be a split season and that was primarily to reduce the strain on landowners in that area. There was a small turkey population there in isolated areas. Up until 2007 the split season was used to open WMDs. We would try the season this way for two years to try to assist the landowners in that area.

Council member Comments and Questions

Mr. Fortier stated some parts of the proposal he really agreed with. He would like to see it closed another year, but only if the science indicated that. They hadn’t had anymore turkeys brought there because of the infection issues. One point of concern for him was the landowners. The May 4 – 9 week of hunting, they were one month behind the rest of the state when it came to drying out (the season). When they went into planting their crops the 18th was kind of the minimum that the farmers started doing any crop planning. The 11th to the 16th was still early but might be more tolerable. That May 4th week was mud season and the vastness and size of the landowners up there, the ATV trails were closed but that didn’t stop those with 4 wheel drives from going onto the land and tearing it up. The farmers took a lot of pride in their land, he would hate to see repercussions. Whether the season was moved out of that week down into June or go with a 3-week season and then look at the numbers. There were a couple flocks of turkeys that were starting to spread out.

Mrs. Oldham stated Mr. Fortier was right about the mud season and landowner relations. Perhaps a simple solution was in Season A, eliminate week #1 in terms of those dates, add the June 5th to June 6th, make that just a Season A, Season B so each permit holder would get two instead of the five weeks.

Mr. Fortier stated that would be easier to shorten it to 4 weeks, they might have a year it dried out earlier and that would be that much better. The farmers were in the fields up there and out of the fields pretty much into June 1st. If we had some nuisance turkeys that weren’t infected and wanted to bring them north…

Ms. Camuso stated if there were nuisance turkeys within the County we could move them to help facilitate spreading them out. We would not be bringing up any turkeys from the South or knowingly transport the infection.

2. Moose permits 2015

Ms. Camuso went over the handouts in the packet. The quick overview was that the Department recommendations for 2015 were almost identical to last year’s recommendations. They were down about 280 and the vast majority of the decrease came from one district which was WMD 2. In 2010 the Legislature changed that WMD from a recreational zone to a compromise zone so we had a couple different management strategies for moose. Compromise zone had fewer moose so we were directed by the Legislature to bring the population down. We were now at objective so it was sort of a maintenance zone. The rest of the changes were minor tweaks. There was a strong desire to take the southern zones and separate them from the more traditional moose hunts. We did not give out many permits in southern Maine but there was a very low success rate. People were not always thrilled with that hunt so staff would like to see those areas, at least those that get issued a permit be able to maintain their bonus points and apply for the lottery the next year. They would not be penalized for participating in the southern Maine moose hunt. That change would have to be done legislatively.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Lewis stated regards the southern Maine hunt, wouldn’t everyone want to do that then?

Ms. Camuso stated this was not prime moose hunting area. Most people were not necessarily choosing those WMDs on purpose.

Mr. Lewis stated where he hunted out west a lot, that was the applicant’s responsibility and if they made that mistake it was their problem.

Mr. Thurston stated in these big game hunts across the U.S. there was a ton of information where you could narrow it down. Most of those people were pretty educated and savvy with respect to this because they loved to big game hunt. He didn’t know if that idea was such a good thing.

Mrs. Oldham stated if the success rate was low, did we need a hunt in that area?

Ms. Camuso stated those WMDs were in the road safety zone and they were designated to have a moose hunt to help minimize moose/car accidents.

Mrs. Oldham stated the hunter success rate, we weren’t meeting our objective.

Ms. Camuso stated they had talked about lumping them all into one and different ways to address the issue. We wanted to maintain the ability to harvest moose in those areas if we had a significant issue with mortality. One way to address that for this year, WMD 22 we were recommending no permits because they had no success the past few years. If the situation changed we could address it by adding permits to that WMD.
The other issue we had was with the collection of reproductive data for cows taken in November, and had pretty low compliance. We acknowledge that it is sometimes not that easy to find ovaries. We would like to work to educate the public and maybe somehow provide incentives so that we could increase the rate that we were receiving the ovaries. The reproductive data was very helpful to us in determining productivity. We were hoping to work with guides to increase our success rate with ovaries in November.

Mr. Farrington asked about the number of permits in the Greenville area. He felt they would look at the proposal and say “175 permits, that’s the same number we had last year and they just told us that the moose we have up here died when they tagged them.”

Ms. Camuso reviewed the recommendations by WMD (see handout).

Mr. Fortier stated because of the two weeks (September and October) in his area there were just a lot of hunters in that area for that number of moose. It was a hard area to hunt. For the number of roads and ways to get into the area there were a lot of hunters for that area. Was that number too high for WMD 1 because of the way its designated. They thought there were a lot of smaller moose coming out of that area.

Commissioner Woodcock stated WMD 1 was an area he discussed quite often. It was wild country and the problem he thought existed was the road system and what habitat did the moose have. The road systems were where people hunted historically, but the moose were spread out through the entire zone. He heard from experienced guides that if you moved away from the areas that people traditionally ended up driving to there was good opportunity to shoot some good animals. How did we educate people to appreciate that there was some really good moose hunting in that part of the state.

Mr. Fortier stated he saw a lot of moose come out of the area last year that were quartered to be able to get them out. In that area you were not allowed to go in with ATVs.

Mrs. Oldham asked if there was harvest data percent success?

Ms. Camuso stated we just had just received the last 4 tagging books. We were at the mercy of the tagging stations and entered the data as soon as we received it. We had approximate numbers which indicated a 65% success rate which was down about 10%.

Mr. Thurston stated he had a lot of friends in WMD 8 that were shed hunters and those types of activities and he really believed the moose population in WMD 8 was significantly lower than what aerial surveillance suggested. He did get off the road, and their system was very accessible with road systems and cuttings. During their moose hunt they hunted really hard and did not see the numbers of moose there.

Ms. Camuso stated WMD 8 was the location of the research project that was ongoing for the next 5 years.

Mr. Farrington commented on the allocations for WMD 9 considering of them died off in the survey.

Ms. Camuso stated there were a lot of ways to look at that. There were quite a few people that believe the moose population was too high and the reason they were vulnerable to things like winter tick was because they were spreading it, there were too many too close together. Based on the available data, it indicated the population was over objective in that area. We hadn’t had a cow harvest in WMD 9 since 2002. The moose harvest did not impact the population when only harvesting bulls.
Mr. Thurston asked what part heavy snow and weather played into that.

Ms. Camuso stated weather really didn’t impact moose survivorship. It may impact some of the cows. In most wildlife populations the young of the year, 70% didn’t make it the first year. The number changed a little by species, but by and large 70% of wildlife that were born did not live to the next year. Calves were probably more vulnerable to deep snow, but we were at the southern edge of the range for moose. Moose were well equipped to handle heavy snow. What could impact survivorship were things like disease and parasites. We didn’t have the winter mortality associated with moose that we did deer. Overall we were recommending 2,815, a reduction of 280 permits from last year.

V. Other Business

1. Moose necropsies update

Ms. Camso stated we were conducting a survival study on moose. Last year we started a project working with New Hampshire, and we brought in an aerial capture crew from New Mexico to net gun moose and put radio collars on them. In the process we were taking biological data from the animals including blood samples, fecal samples, tick counts, etc. Last year we collared 30 adults and 30 calves and we had very high mortality last year. 22 calves and 12 cows died. The radio collars sent a mortality signal as soon as they stopped moving to Lee Kantar’s phone. As soon as they got a mortality signal, staff would move into the field and if possible, drag the moose out. If not, they would do a field necropsy (blood and tissue samples). We were working with the University of Maine Animal Health Lab to do the analysis. To date, all the field samples had been given to the lab. We would not have the results back until summer 2015.

Ms. Camuso stated the challenge would be, this was new data and we had to be careful when trying to figure out what the necropsy results would tell us. The crew was currently out collaring moose, 23 calves and 5 cows had been collared so far. The goal was 35 calves and 5 adults.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham stated it seemed like a long time to get any results. It had been almost a year for some of the laboratory work.

Ms. Camuso stated we just had a collared moose die in November. Part of the issue was that Ann was working with the Northeast Wildlife Cooperative to analyze the data. This was the timeframe we established with the health lab.

Mrs. Oldham asked if there were any generalities regarding the necropsies.

Ms. Camuso stated there were several of the calves that were skinny and had a heavy tick load. Many of the animals, like the one recovered in November looked perfectly healthy. The other thing we were looking at were two new projects to be able to test for brainworm in moose and one of them would be able to look at the blood and be able to detect if it had been exposed to brainworm or had brainworm. The other would actually look in the spinal fluid of the moose and would detect the brainworm DNA in the spinal cord. They did not have the DNA markers yet so would have to set that up. Brainworm was not easily identified in the field.

Mrs. Oldham stated she had a question from the Rangeley guides association. Was there any role for public participation in trying to study moose.

Ms. Camuso stated we did use citizen science to help us make assessments. We did collect moose data from deer hunters, but we did not collect it from the broad general public.

Mr. Lewis stated in Arizona when you hunted there you got a card from them and an email survey for requesting sighting data. If you did not fill it out you lost your bonus points.

Mr. Fortier asked about moose that were killed on the highways. Was any data collected from them?

Ms. Camuso stated no. Any law enforcement could handle those.

Mrs. Oldham asked if a warden responded could blood samples be obtained. Would that be helpful?

Ms. Camuso stated the reality was we knew that animal died because it hit a car. We could use it to look at set examples, but couldn’t incorporate it into the study. We looked at overall mortality but not specific to road kill.

Mr. Farrington asked if once the results of the necropsies came in, were there standards established by other states or regions for us to measure against?

Ms. Camuso stated not really. Minnesota did have some.

Mr. Fortier asked about doing a study in WMDs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they briefly discussed moving studies around geographically; cost was a factor. The dynamic of having a static study area was also important.

Ms. Camuso stated originally she thought the plan was to have a second study area and it was decided this year we needed to supplement WMD 8. If we could maintain the level of funding she expected they would have that discussion.

Mr. Fortier stated he could see the tick population moving further north.

Ms. Camuso stated we did have records of tick outbreaks back in the 1920’s. This was not new, it was cyclical. Moose tick and these outbreaks were not new, whether they were becoming more intense because of a number of factors was something we were trying to figure out.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Thurston stated he had received a few questions on First Roach Pond and obviously it was closed, so they wanted to know if it would be closed the entire year. Where were we going with that?

Commissioner Woodcock stated he didn’t move forth with the proposal. The concern was fairly uniform that he heard from the Council and others, what was the biology saying about First Roach Pond and were we comfortably balanced in the population of togue in First Roach in relation to other species. There had been comments made about why we didn’t survey the first year of that. Surveying the first year may tell the size but didn’t tell the product of what happens by taking out a certain size group. Summer surveys were a little more challenging than winter. There was enough concern about the imbalance of togue, after going through the experience at Moosehead we were all alittle leary of the togue imbalance. We should wait and not have the ice fishing take place this winter, take a look at it and since we do the fishing regulation examination annually now, the proposal for Roach and others would come up in the next cycle. It would always be part of the discussion. Because the attention was focused it did draw a little more attention. There were other factors in Roach too including the drawdown of water.

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.

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if the Council could be updated on the lynx situation at the next meeting.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.