Advisory Council Meeting
April 25, 2018 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (upstairs conference room)
284 State Street, Augusta
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Bob Cordes, Special Projects Coordinator
Francis Brautigam, Director or Fisheries and Hatcheries
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Supervisor
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Don Dudley (Chair)
Sheri Oldham - by phone
Matt Thurston (vice-chair)
Brian Smith Jeff Lewis
Deidre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Nelson Palmer, Kennebec Furtakers
Don Kleiner, MPGA
James Cote, MTA
I. Call to Order
Don Dudley, Council Chair, 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. Scribner.>
Vote: unanimous - minutes approved
A. Step 3
1. Migratory Bird Season 2018-2019
Ms. Camuso stated there were no changes to the proposal. The rule would make minor changes to the goose season from 70 days to 60 and the daily bag limit from 3 to 2 and possession limit of 9 down to 6. There was also an accommodation that we did not have to count Sundays for woodcock hunting so there would be a few extra days. Comments had been supportive.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mr. Sage to adopt the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous - motion passed
2. Fishing Regulations Petition - Branch. Green & Phillips Lake
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was discussed at Step 2. There was no further information. The comments at the public hearing were in opposition. Two written comments had been received and those were also not in favor of the proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Scribner to oppose the proposal and that was seconded by Mr. Farrington.
Vote: 10 in favor to oppose proposal; 1 (Mr. Fortier) in support of proposal - motion passed, proposal would not move forward.
B. Step 2
B. Step 2
1. Moose Permit Allocations 2018
Ms. Camuso stated we were not recommending any changes to the proposal. A public hearing was held and there were no members of the public at the hearing. We had not received any written comments on the proposal.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier stated where we had gone up and down with permit numbers, was one year enough to go to 2,500 did we have enough data to be safe.
Ms. Camuso stated we had excellent data and staff were very conservative in the allocations of permits. The plan was to move the proposal forwards and a brief overview was going to be given on the Big Game Plan and the in the next couple of months Mr. Kantar would come before the Council and give a presentation on the plan as it related to moose. Ms. Camuso stated that moving forward she believed we would be looking to increase permits, not decrease. That would be an effort to improve the health of the moose which we believed were impacted by winter ticks and there was density correlation there. We did not wan to make those recommendations this year because of the Big Game Plan had not been presented.
Mr. Fortier asked about the kill rate. What was happening at the New Hampshire/Vermont borders with moose and the Canadian Side, were they still in a decline?
Ms. Camuso stated their moose populations were more impacted by winter tick than ours were. It was important to remember they were more southerly than we were so that was what we would expect given tick behavior. We did believe the winter ticks were a climate issue and the temperature (weather) in the spring and the fall was the most impactful as to whether the ticks would survive or not. In the southern latitudes when they dropped off in the spring and in the early fall they were not hitting snow and were more likely to survive.
Mr. Cordes stated they had just attended the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference and they had a whole new symposium. Vermont and New Hampshire had seen a little bit of increase in their productivity. Their districts were about in line with our WMD 7 and that was where we had a little more impact with winter tick and their core moose range would fit in WMD 7. They had less moose to work with.
Mr. Fortier stated the moose hunt that year was extremely hot during the first week and even going into the second week.
Mr. Sage asked about the mortality rate in WMD 12.
Ms. Camuso stated we had two study areas but WMD 12 was not one of them. She could give an update on the study from previous years.
Mr. Thurston asked if New Hampshire had collared moose as well (yes). Was their calf survival rate similar to that of WMD 8. We had data that WMD 8 was not as successful as the northern zones with respect to calf and cow survival.
Mr. Cordes stated they were about the same as WMD8.
Ms. Camuso stated for 2018 to date in WMD 8 we had 36% calf mortality. Last year calf mortality for WMD 8 was 57%, the year before that it was 74% and before that 60% and the year before that 73%. 36% calf mortality was a normal mortality even on the low end for any wildlife species in its first year.
Mr. Sage asked why it was so low compared to other years.
Ms. Camuso stated we were figuring that out. We did see fewer ticks on the moose when the animals were being collared. Either the fall of 2017 or the spring of 2017 was low survival for the ticks and lower tick loads on the moose.
Mr. Cordes stated one theory was we had a drought in the fall and the ticks could not handle that sustained dry landscape.
Mr. Farrington asked what the numbers were that the percentages were based on.
Ms. Camuso stated we had 105 collared.
Mr. Scribner stated back to the density factor, how did densities compare over those years in comparison to the mortality. Did the density also go down; they had mentioned the density of moose was also a factor in terms of winter ticks. Had density stayed level in WMD 8?
Ms. Camuso stated it had probably come down a little bit. The other thing density impacted was productivity. It was only the 5th year of the study and they did not want to jump to conclusions. The density in WMD 8 was lower than it was, but probably not as low as it should be.
Mr. Fortier asked if the ticks were running in a cycle.
Ms. Camuso stated she was not sure we could identify that the ticks had a cycle similar to predator/prey. They were definitely susceptible to climatic conditions in the spring and fall. That was what we believed was determining their survival or not and their impact on moose. The adult cow mortality in WMD 8 was less than 5%, and that was one female that we did not believe was tick related. Her collar had turned off and we could not find her. She was found by an ice fisherman this fall. She was too far gone to perform a necropsy. Last year for WMD 8 adult mortality was 10%, then 8%, then 8% and in 2014 it was 43%. WMD 2 calf mortality was 11%. That was well below normal mortality. Last year it was 24% and the year before that is was 48%. WMD 2 to date had not had any cow mortality. That was the same last year and in 2016 there was 17% mortality.
Mr. Farrington asked if we were far enough into the study to understand what caused the largest percentage of mortality.
Ms. Camuso stated it was ticks.
Mr. Sage asked if we had looked at how to combat ticks. He knew we could not Frontline all the moose, but was there any creature that fed on the ticks? He knew we were trying to bring down the population in WMD 8 to help control the ticks, but were there any birds that ate the ticks.
Ms. Camuso stated in the world of parasites it was not a new issue. We had encountered deer ticks for a lot of years. We had a tick problem that actually posed a significant human health issue and there was not any good answer for eliminating or reducing ticks. Birds in general were not big predators of ticks. Years ago people used to get guinea fowl and other species to have in their yard to try and eat ticks and to her knowledge that was not particularly successful.
Mr. Sage stated it was successful, that was why he was curious in choosing WMD 8. If we had chosen a more southern district like WMD 12 where there were more wild turkeys, turkeys loved to eat ticks. Wild turkeys ate ticks, it was one of their natural foods and they had more of a population in WMD 12 so he would be curious to see more south.
Ms. Camuso stated we had abundant wild turkeys in the southern part of the state and we still had a huge tick problem. She did not think turkeys, guinea fowl or anything else was going to be successful at a landscape scale at taking care of winter tick on moose. The climate was changing, this was a climate issue that wasn?t going to be solved with a chemical or by introducing a new species.
Mr. Sage stated it appeared we were trying to manage the ticks not get rid of them. He was curious as a nation, were we looking at ways to combat ticks.
Ms. Camuso stated as a nation there were people all across the country looking at ways to reduce the impacts of particularly deer ticks on human health issues. We had a parasite that caused significant impacts to humans and to her knowledge there was no solution for eliminating the ticks. As human health interests continued around the subject more information and tools may become available.
Mr. Scribner stated to better understand the interactions between predators and the calf mortality, he knew the winter ticks were the biggest factor. On the calf mortality, in Newfoundland the caribou herd in particular was really impacted by black bears and to a lesser degree moose up there. In our mortality studies of calves, what percentage did bear predation play.
Ms. Camuso stated the most likely scenario for a black bear, that would be at the neonate stage in the first few days of birth. That did happen, but the animals we were collaring by the time they survived that long at that point they were really not vulnerable to bear or other predators here.
Mr. Sage stated at the last meeting he thought Ms. Camuso made a comment that the mortality rate was very similar to Minnesota where they had wolves. The tick death was similar to theirs with the wolves.
Ms. Camuso stated in an ecosystem with more large predators you would annually see much higher mortality rates of neonates and calves. Without the presence of those animals in Maine we had a higher survival rate than you would normally expect.
Mr. Thurston stated it looked like what we were trying to do was not let moose be its own worst enemy right now with having too many moose. When you looked at any population if there was too many of anything there were usually challenges with that species.
Mr. Farrington stated the percentage of mortality, would be happy if it stayed at the current rate.
Mr. Cordes stated it was not considered to be an epizootic event until it reached 50% of mortality of calves.
Ms. Camuso stated 11% mortality in WMD 2 was low.
Mr. Cordes stated most of the proposed permit increases were in the northern WMDs.
There were no further questions or comments.
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
1. 2017 Deer Harvest/Any-deer permit Allocations 2018
Ms. Camuso stated this was just a broad scale overview. We would be at Step 1 next month with permit recommendations. She anticipated permit levels would be similar to what was issued last year. Winter mortality was average. Until they had the Big Game Plan and had been able to review that we would wait to implement changes next year. The deer population was doing well.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier discussed deer/truck accidents in his area.
Mr. Lewis asked if we knew the winter mortality up north.
Ms. Camuso stated the WSI (winter severity index) stations were currently being taken down. We would calculate all the data and make adjustments as necessary. We should have a handle on winter mortality prior to Step 1.
Mr. Dudley stated the deer were clustering around the towns in the winter and people feeding deer. They were not in the deer yards they had normally been.
Mr. Thurston discussed the clusters of deer in Eustis.
Ms. Camuso stated we were conducting a study and there were collared animals in an area where they were being fed and an area where no feeding was happening. We would be looking at the differences.
Mr. Dudley stated if people were feeding deer they needed to learn what to feed them and feed correctly.
Commissioner Woodcock stated in order to feed deer correctly it was expensive in order to get the nutritional value. People would migrate to something that didn't cost as much but unfortunately it didn't add value.
2. Big Game Species Plan
Mr. Cordes stated the plan had been a couple years in the making but was finalized and out for comment. We had been doing big game planning since the 1960?s for all hunted, trapped and endangered and threatened species. It was really the guide on management decisions. Since 1989 formal public participation had been part of the process. The historic planning was three components; species assessment, goals and objectives and a management system. We had changed the format slightly. The species assessment was for individual species or groups of species such as songbirds and typically written by the species specialist and then reviewed within the division and then outside expert review. The species assessment was really everything we knew about the species. The goals and objectives was where the public working group came in and had input on the species assessment with department and outside experts and developed sideboards and participate when asked. The goals and objectives were based on population targets for the number of animals then IFW would respond to those goals and objectives whether they were feasible, the capability of the habitat and some possible consequences. After that it was reviewed to be approved by the Commissioner.
Mr. Cordes stated after the assessment and goals and objectives, then the Department would go through with the management system. That was data we collected, create some rules of thumb and management responses based on those rules of thumbs. Again, they were developed by our species specialists with internal and external review and then go out to public informational meetings and rulemaking. Those plans were updated every 15 years. Some of the furbearer plans were 30+ years old. Each plan revision required reconvening the working group. Some of the lessons we learned, the old plan system wasn?t really managing moose relative to carrying capacity. Some of the old goals such as 10 deer per square mile in northern Maine really weren?t realistic given some of the habitat. Some of the goals weren?t mutually exclusive, imagine moose and deer and maximizing moose viewing and maximizing hunting opportunity. The plan had not been adaptable and that was something we?d talked about moving forward. We had moved to this new system as we managed wildlife based on more than just abundance. We were concerned about habitat, herd health, conflicts in damage management and we had started to increase our public education and research in some of our emerging disease issues.
Mr. Cordes stated in the new way moving forward we had a comprehensive wildlife action plan for most of the nongame species, but also included some game species. The complexity of wildlife management was increasing with more human interactions, new endangered and threatened species, diseases, invasive species, climate change, etc. The public expectation had also changed and we managed for the full suite of interests and perspectives. The new planning process was a more comprehensive management plan. We did not have multiple documents, and streamlined species assessments so there were fewer pages with natural history information. We also had broader public consultation so further than just working groups we had reached out to the broader public. The working groups had changed to steering committees, similar to the Advisory Council and our management systems were not part of the plan so they could be more adaptive. In the comprehensive plan we had the goals and objectives, assessment and the management strategies all in one document. We used Vermont as an example to draw from when creating the document.
Mr. Cordes stated some species such as lynx would need more extensive assessments due to the complex issues surrounding them. Our broader public consultation, we had the prior working groups which had quite a balance of input from different interest groups. Now, we were reaching the general public but separated out landowners and other targeted groups. The Department also identified survey questions and reached out to professional survey companies that specialized in human dimensions. Some of that included focus groups where we had interaction and could get to the details of what they were interested in and what their issues and concerns were. We also had Responsive Management and reached out to Market Decisions Research for telephone and mail surveys. The working group transitioned to a steering committee and in the back of the plan there was a list of all the steering committee members. They shaped the public input and put them into goals and objectives and strategies and then we drafted the content for consideration and sent it back to the steering committee as we worked through the issues. The subcommittees worked on individual species. The management system we would do afterwards and make it more adaptable as the current research and science evolved.
Mr. Cordes stated the plan combined moose, deer, turkey and bear into one and had a 10-year planning horizon. Between the old management plan and the management system, the management plan described where we were going guided by both biological and social issues, identified the goals and objectives and strategies; the management system described how we got there and was the metrics or rule of thumb to be able to implement those strategies. Goals were put into broad statements identifying the vision for each of the species. Objectives had more measurable targets and supported the attainment of the goal and the strategies were the actions to get there.
Mr. Cordes discussed goals for each species which included a healthy population, public satisfaction, research and management, policies, communication and outreach. The draft plan was made available on the Department website for review at: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/docs/biggamemanagement_18-03.pdf
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Lewis stated regarding the moose, we were trying to increase the amount of surveys we received from hunters by 50%? In some of the states he hunted out west, if you did not return your survey you were no longer eligible to be in the lottery the next year.
Mr. Fortier asked if any thought had been given to how species adapt to their environment.
Mr. Cordes stated there had been discussion. The initial turkey management was to put turkeys in all places suitable in Maine and the first directive was, we were going to let the turkeys tell us where was suitable. The theory was it would be York and Cumberland counties. That was not the case any longer.
Ms. Camuso stated at all the conferences she had attended if you asked what were the top two threats to wildlife management in North America, climate change and not enough people going outside were the top two challenges we were going to be facing.
Mr. Scribner stated regarding the return of the surveys and getting the data, ovaries, or whatever we would need, was there any plan to put more teeth into that to encourage the return of the data.
Ms. Camuso stated we had discussed ways to come up with incentives to try and encourage better participation. Some of the issue was people struggled to find the ovaries. We had videos and how to instructions, but some were intimidated. We had discussed making it mandatory, but the point was raised that things did happen out in the field that may prevent someone from turning them in.
Mr. Sage stated it was as simple as taking care of them right away, putting them in something so birds couldn?t take them. If you knew next year?s license relied on it you would do it. We were a soft state, if we were tougher a lot of things would change.
Ms. Camuso distributed copies of the draft plan. Each month we would have staff present more detailed information for each species regards the plan.
Mr. Fortier discussed the antlers being higher than the ear for deer and moose. Personally, he would like to see that done away with. It either had antlers or it didn?t. He thought it was because of the deer having 3 inches, you had to identify and shoot. To him whether it was a deer or moose it either had antlers or it didn?t when you were identifying your species.
Ms. Camuso stated that was a statutory issue.
Mr. Sage asked if there was a way to come up with a document about moose ovaries and how important it was and what to look for that they could have as a handout for students at hunter safety courses. He had not heard the data was not being turned in.
Ms. Camuso stated it was provided for everyone that received a moose permit.
Mr. Thurston stated the information was also online on the website.
Mr. Cordes stated that was a good suggestion and they could work with Mr. Sawyer to possibly get something in the course materials.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
Mr. Kleiner stated like Ms. Camuso, he was looking towards the future and it was not good for fish and wildlife conservation because of participation levels. It was striking how complicated we continued to make it. We had discussed earlier about taking away someone's ability to hunt based on not finding an ovary in a gut pile. He was sympathetic to both sides, but we needed to sort that out as a community or we would go extinct.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, May 22nd at 9:30 a.m. at IFW Augusta.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:20 a.m.