Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
May 9, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Augusta, Maine


Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Nathan Webb, Special Projects Coordinator
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Dana DeGraaf, Coldwater Fisheries Biologist
Mark Latti, Outreach and Communications
Dan Scott, Game Warden Lieutenant
Rick Clowry, Game Warden Corporal
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Dick Fortier
Lance Wheaton
Gunner Gundersen
Cathy DeMerchant
Sheri Oldham
Don Dudley
Dick Thurston (by phone)


Don Kleiner, MPGA
Gary Corson
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
Teri Fortier
Dave Weatherby, New England Outdoor Center
Brian Cogill, MTA
Joe Christopher, Three Rivers Whitewater
Suzie Hockmeyer
Rick Mills

I. Call to Order

Lance Wheaton, Council Vice-Chair called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

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

Vote: unanimous ? minutes approved.

III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair


A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to nominate Mr. Lewis for another term as Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton. There were no further nominations.

Vote: unanimous ? Mr. Lewis reelected as Council Chair


A motion was made by Mr. Wheaton to nominate Mrs. DeMerchant as Vice-Chair.  Mrs. DeMerchant reminded the Council that she had reached the end of her two 3-year terms, and the motion was not seconded. and the Council was reminded that Mrs. DeMerchant had reached the end of her two 3-year terms.

A motion was made by Mr. Dudley to nominate Mr. Wheaton for another term as Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant. There were no further nominations.

Vote: unanimous ? Mr. Wheaton reelected as Council Vice-Chair

Bear Presentation ? Judy Camuso

Ms. Camuso gave a Power point presentation to the group outlining IF&W?s position on the upcoming bear referendum and what the Department does as a whole in its bear management program.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

1. Wildlife Violators Compact

Lt. Scott stated the compact would allow us to take part with 43 other states; if your hunting privileges are revoked in another state we could revoke it here as well. It had been in place for a number of years across the country similar to the motor vehicle suspension compact. Basically it was working. He had received a number of calls from people whose hunting license had been suspended in another state and they were checking to see if they could hunt in Maine. Not being part of the compact made Maine a filter for people to come here that were revoked in every other state. The basis was that fish and game violators really knew no boundaries and folks who were violating in other states may very well come here as well.

Mrs. Oldham made a motion to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote: unanimous ? motion passed.

2. Moose Permit Allocations

Ms. Camuso stated the Council had received information regarding modifications to the permit recommendations. The Department had undertaken a major project looking at moose survivorship this past winter. We collared 30 adult females and 30 calves and monitored them through the season as part of a 5-year project and would continue to do that for the next several years. This year it was limited to WMD 8 and given the high adult mortality we felt it would be responsible to re-run the numbers and make sure what we were recommending was valid. We did have a winter tick episode this year with higher than expected mortality for adult cows. Winter tick was not new to the state. We had documentation of winter ticks back in the 30?s, 40?s and 50?s. We did feel that this year the adult mortality of 30% was significant and we needed to relook at the permit numbers. We also had documentation from many regional biologists across the state that documented mortality. Other biologists had also been in touch with Mr. Kantar. We did have quantifiable data that this was a statewide episode and not limited to the moose in Western Maine. We had adjusted the permit recommendations statewide. No changes were made to the bull permits. Ms. Camuso went over the permit reductions by WMD (see packet). There was a total reduction of 990 cow permits. This would put us below the threshold to be able to offer any permits to the lodges.

Commissioner Woodcock stated this was the recommendation to the Council. It had been discussed thoroughly and we had received comments during the comment period expressing concern.

Mr. Fortier stated there were areas that were cut back that really should have been. He felt some areas were too high, the total of 4,000 was too high. The data from WMD 8 collaring moose, he did not know if there was going to be any collaring of moose in the future but if it was to happen in Aroostook County that would be great. It was vast area and tough to get data. How did WMD 8 in dealing with ticks and disease and the kill relate to the northern part of the state.

Ms. Camuso stated wildlife biologist Amanda DeMuze had been out in the field in Aroostook County documenting. She had significantly higher mortality there as well.

Mr. Fortier asked if the tick mortality rate was as high in the north as they found in the southern part of the state.

Ms. Camuso stated yes. Also, the animals that died in WMD 8 would be having a full necropsy done on them so we would be able to assess if there were underlying diseases that maybe enhanced its vulnerability to the tick episode.

Mr. Woodcock commented on why WMD 8 was chosen for the moose collar study. It had a relationship with Western NH and north at the same time (mid-Somerset County). The habitat in Somerset County was quite similar to the northern and western and eastern parts of the state. It was a good indicator for our concerns about NH?s comments and other parts of Maine.
Mrs. Oldham stated we now had some high tech, critical data. She had been critical of the Department in the past for apparent slow response to new information. This was timely and significant and she would applaud everyone who worked so hard getting this new data. She thought this was a very appropriate response to some scary information.

Ms. Camuso stated in 2015 we would be starting the working group. One of the theories with ticks, is a way to minimize the exposure to ticks was to reduce the moose population. That would take major public outreach, it was not a decision the Department was going to make. It would be discussed with the public working group. If we were going to start seeing winter tick episodes every 3 years instead of every decade, would we need to bring the population down.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the wildlife action plan referenced was a very important public part of the process for setting the goals for the harvest of the animals under the Department?s jurisdiction. It was a 10-year plan that was coming up in 2015 so we would have many opportunities for the public to engage in that process as we formulated our wildlife goals.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as amended.

Vote: unanimous ? motion passed.

B. Step 2

1. Controlled Moose Hunt

Ms. Camuso stated there were no changes from Step 1. We were proposing 25 permits to veterans only.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. Native Brook Trout waters, A & B list

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated in the past, these waters would have been designated major substantive. We would have gone to a certain point with the Council and then gone back to the Legislature. That changed during the last legislative session where we now have the ability to put these through our normal rulemaking process. We were moving forward with a list of state heritage fish waters, waters that contain both eastern brook trout and arctic charr and are regulated in accordance with the statute which prohibits the stocking of waters that are on the state heritage fish list as well as the use of live fish as bait on those waters. The document before the Council was merely a list of the waters. The regulatory part came partly by the Legislature directing how they were to be managed. We presented them with a management plan for the waters that was accepted. In some cases we would then, in the regulatory process, be applying the special code or removing in some places. We had received a couple of positive comments.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the comments included some suggestions for us to examine the list closely as we present it for Step 3 and it would probably include some changes.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the waters on the list were designated state heritage, and there were two categories. One, what we had been referring to as the ?A? list were waters that had never been stocked according to reliable records. ?B? waters were waters that had not been stocked in 25 years. The list of state heritage waters fitting those two categories and regulated as indicated by such.

Mrs. Oldham asked that moving forward, we would not be talking about ?A? and ?B? we would just be talking about state heritage fish waters?

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated yes.

There were no further questions or comments.

3. Fish Regs ? Pond in the River fishing petition

Mr. Brown stated we were looking to make some regulation changes on the Fish River from Ft. Kent down to St. John and to reverse the recent change that prohibited worms. It was something we had planned to do in our next rulemaking package for this summer. There were folks there that wanted to see the change go into effect earlier. Deputy Commissioner Erskine had contacted the Council to explain why the proposal was before them at Step 2. This was something the Department was ready to move forward and did not see the necessity of presenting at Step 1. We did receive a number of signatures from folks up north. It was not a valid petition, but we would use those as support for the rule change.

Mrs. Oldham stated if it would not be in the fishing law book would there be public notification?

Commissioner Woodcock stated the change would be sent out electronically, on the website and to clubs.

There were no further questions or comments.

C. Step 1

1. Fall Turkey Hunting

Ms. Camuso stated the Department was looking to open WMDs 10, 11 and 19 to fall harvest with a one bird limit. There were good populations of turkeys in those districts and they hadn?t been opened to a fall harvest so our approach with opening a new district for a fall harvest is a one bird limit and we will review in two to three years to see if it could support a two bird limit.

There were no further comments or questions.

2. Any-deer permit allocations

Ms. Camuso stated the winter was difficult for deer and they were vulnerable to snow depth for extended periods of time. In years that we had extended periods of high snow depth we expect our winter kill to increase and that was the situation we found ourselves in this year. We were proposing a reduction of about 20% of the any-deer permits from last year. The deer population was rebounding nicely from the two sever winters we had, but we were being conservative and recognizing this had been a hard winter on deer in particular. We had our winter severity data in and analyzed so she felt the numbers proposed would stand. Many WMDs we were proposing the elimination of the doe harvest entirely. Overall we had a reduction of 9,525 any-deer permits. WMDs 21 and 24, we did increase permits. Those were the southern Maine, coastal zones where we had a high deer density and there was less opportunity for deer hunting so our population remained above target there. Southern Maine did not have as extensive winter conditions as in other parts of the state.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham stated where there were no doe permits on youth day for hunting, no doe can be harvested either. A large portion of the state where on one day we were encouraging young people to hunt, but they?re not going to be able to hunt does. She knew this had been controversial in the past. It would be good to see some numbers about the youth harvest from last year where we did have doe permits to see how many deer we were actually talking about. Was it enough to jeopardize our rebounding deer population to allow the kids to be able to harvest a deer of either sex?

Commissioner Woodcock stated Ms. Camuso would get those numbers for them. The numbers taken on youth day were minimal. The discussion melded into whether or not you wanted to allow them to do it when no one else could.

Mr. Fortier stated he would want to make sure that the scientific data would say it could support it.

Mr. Wheaton stated he was very active in the rod and gun clubs and the guide association. It was very hard to get kids to come to a rod and gun club for any occasion; free fishing, fly fishing or even 4-wheel riding. To let them shoot a doe on youth day, he did not think that was going to make a difference whether they were going to buy hunting licenses.

Mrs. Oldham stated they always had a youth hunter breakfast at the Rangeley Region Guides. They had the same 7 kids every year and they had doe permits for the first time last year in a long time. The usual 7 plus 8 more kids came this year. She felt some of that was an increased likelihood that they might be able to harvest a deer.

Mr. Dudley stated the deer task force wrestled with the issue years ago and ultimately said it was best for the resource. Whether we actually lost any youth or not, he was not sure.

There were no further questions or comments.

3. 2015-2016 Crow season dates

Ms. Camuso stated the only change for the crow season was just the calendar year, the dates changed every year.

4. Whitewater rafting allocations

Corporal Clowry stated part of the proposal was a training issue. The majority of the training now was currently in order to get your license at level 1 was on the Kennebec. We weren?t going to change any of the number of days or the number of runs, but make it an either or so that subjects who were going to be on the Penobscot River mainly could train on the Penobscot River. Most companies that rafted both rivers were doing that now because the Penobscot was a far more technical river to run and required more training. They would still have to come to the Kennebec and do a couple of days, but they could major in the river they were going to be on.

Corporal Clowry discussed the second portion of the proposal. Sundays on the Penobscot River, the number of rafters had continually declined significantly. The last five year review, they were below 50% of the allocations that we allowed for that day on the river. We felt it important to have language in the rulemaking process to be able to take that out of an allocated river or day. Currently there was no language that allowed for it. We wanted the Commissioner, at the end of a 5-year review, and if business had declined 3 out of 5 of those years we would be able to respond to that and do something to help the outfitters.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked if it would be our intention in the language to strike out language where we?ve allocated the second, third and fourth Sunday in July?

Corporal Clowry stated we would strike those out on the Penobscot River Sundays. The Council would also be seeing a proposal coming soon for the order of launch.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the order of launch for the whitewater rafting industry was established according to longest time running on the river. The Legislature made modifications during the last session specifically regarding affiliation. We needed to look at the launch order for companies that had been on the river that now had acquired a sister outfitter; they could have 3 licenses now.

Mrs. DeMerchant asked Corporal Clowry if he had worked with the companies on the proposal and if they were in favor.

Corporal Clowry stated yes.

There were no further questions or comments.

V. Other Business

1. Fish Regs ? Pond in the River fishing petition

Commissioner Woodcock stated we did not bring forth the Pond in the River request for a change in the regulation under the basis that it was his determination that the brook trout resource in the Pond in the River was one of the very unique brook trout resources in the U.S. He did not want to threaten that resource in any way. He supposed it would be possible to make accommodations, but was the risk worth it? It was not worth the reward. With the unique nature of that particular fishery and the regulations that existed there, it was his determination that we would not advance any changes to the Pond in the River fishing regulations and it was not at Step 3 for a vote.

VI. Councilor Reports

Council members gave reports.

Mr. Fortier stated that a petition had been circulating in the Portage area on wanting to look at rededicating the zone in WMDs 1 and 2 back to a recreational and trophy zone for moose instead of the way it was designated now. He asked if the Commissioner and biologists might look into that and review as part of the wildlife action plan.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Rick Mills stated he initiated the Pond in the River petition and was a little disappointed. He asked to see the science that Commissioner Woodcock based his decision on. He was a little annoyed that someone from Aroostook County that wanted to dunk a worm could get a regulation change in just like that and the rest of America had to go through a petition process to even get it on the table.

Commissioner Woodcock asked Mr. Mills to explain.

Rick Mills stated one of the fisheries guys stood up and almost approved a regulation change on the Fish River with no petition from a citizens group.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the petition came in after the change was proposed by the biologists. The petition was separate from that. The biologist was the one that proposed the change after it was discussed with a few people. The petition that came in came in after that fact in support of the proposed change.

Rick Mills asked if he didn?t see the difference between that and a guy having to go out and get 180 names himself and get the petition into the process?

Commissioner Woodcock stated he did see this one differently.

Rick Mills stated he would like to see the science. He did not think fisheries had any science pertaining to Pond in the River and he would like to see what he made his decision on. To Ms. Camuso he stated she had done a fantastic job. He would also like to see the collaring of the moose in the winter time, and the circumstances around collaring, if that was a result of any of the mortality.

Ms. Camuso stated there was no drug use.

Rick Mills stated the word in Western Maine was that it was actually the collaring that was killing the moose.

Ms. Camuso stated stress on the animals was taken into consideration and looked at and all the other states that had done it. Any time you handled an animal there was additional stress and there was potential for mortality. We monitored the animals very closely and made sure that the stress of capture and the burden of bearing the collar wasn?t too much. We did the same when banding birds.

Suzie Hockmeyer stated in the Forks Area they had seen a lot of dead calves especially this winter on snowmobile trails and they were full of ticks. The deer had a hard time this spring, they weren?t as lucky to stay on top, they were going through the snow. She was sure the coyotes had fun. She wanted to thank the Department and Corporal Clowry for bringing up two issues for the whitewater industry that needed to be addressed. One, changing the guide rules so that people that concentrate more on one river, they should be getting more of their training on that river and for going forward in trying to unallocate Sundays on the Penobscot. It was the right thing to do and it was time to do it.

There were no further comments or questions.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for June 14th, 2014 at the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club beginning at 10:00 a.m.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:15 a.m.