Do you enjoy watching deer? Do you want to help Maine’s biologists better understand the white-tailed deer population? Become a community scientist for the Deer Spy project! Volunteers are needed across the state and everyone can participate.
For wildlife biologists, regulated harvest of antlerless deer is the primary means of controlling deer populations at a healthy level, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) uses the antlerless deer permit system to regulate the number of antlerless deer harvested. When determining the number of antlerless deer permits to issue each year, it is important to estimate recruitment rates (how many fawns each doe is able to raise up until the hunting season) so we can account for how many deer are added into the population each year and what proportion of the doe population we can lose while keeping the population healthy and stable. Historically, we have relied on lactation rate and embryo rate data, which has allowed us to estimate the proportion of does that successfully reared fawns and the number of fawns produced by each doe. These data are collected primarily during the regular firearms season when biologists examine thousands of deer and collect data on physiological condition and reproductive status; however, because there is little antlerless harvest in much of the state and few female deer to examine, and because lactation data are difficult to reliably collect, our knowledge of recruitment is limited in many areas.
To bolster our understanding of whitetail recruitment patterns in the state, we’ve created a community science project to solicit help from Maine’s community scientists. This project, Deer Spy, allows deer and wildlife enthusiasts as well as Department staff around the state to record and report their deer sightings in a way that feeds right back into Maine’s deer management. The data that we receive are used to increase confidence in our understanding of whitetail recruitment patterns throughout Maine.
How to Participate
Participating is easy! When you see deer between August 1 and September 30, all you need to do is make simple observations:
- Date and time
- The number of does (adult female deer with no antlers, with or without fawns)
- The number of bucks (deer with antlers)
- The number of fawns (young deer born this year, with or without a doe(s))
Then submit your data! You can submit online or via mail:
Option 1 - Online Data Submission
You may enter each observation that you make online at the link below. This link will open the online data entry tool in your browser.
Option 2 - Postal Mail Data Submission
If you wish to participate in Deer Spy and submit observations by postal mail, please print the data recording form and instructions (PDF) and return completed data forms by October 20. Please return completed data sheets to:
ATTN: Nathan Bieber, Deer Spy
Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
106 Hogan Road, Suite 1
Bangor, ME 04401
Frequently Asked Questions
I’d like to participate. Do I need to register anywhere or sign up?
No, anyone who wishes to participate can do so without registering or signing up.
Can I count deer in my yard?
Yes, please do. If possible, avoid counting the same deer on multiple occasions.
How should I report a deer that I see many times? How do I avoid counting deer multiple times?
If you suspect you’re looking at a deer that you’ve already counted, then do not count it again. There are some things we can do after data collection is complete to remove some likely duplicates, but there is no way to remove them all. It won’t be possible for people to always tell deer apart. Do your best!
How do I document large groups of deer?
Try to view the group for long enough to get a rough idea of group relationships. If you can determine group relationships, please submit one observation record for each group; if you are unable to determine group relationships, you may submit one observation record for the whole group. If this is unclear, please consult the PDF detailing examples of correctly reported data (linked below).
If you frequently view large groups of deer in one location, only submit data for the area once since you will likely be viewing many of the same deer over multiple occasions.
How can I tell the buck fawns apart from the doe fawns?
For this project, you can record all fawns the same as just “fawns.” It would be very difficult to tell a buck fawn from a doe fawn this time of the year.
What Wildlife Management District (WMD) is my town in?
Why can’t I submit sightings from my trail cameras?
Trail cameras can provide a lot of very useful information, but because their viewing window is relatively small, it’s difficult or impossible to account for animals that may be present on the other side of the camera or just out of view of the camera. For example, a trail camera photo of a lone doe may be missing another deer that passed on the other side of the camera or was lagging behind, whereas a direct observation would likely account for the other deer.
Why can’t I send in data from before the start date?
We want to estimate how many fawns are being recruited into the pre-hunt population. Because many fawns don’t make it through their first few weeks of life, we want to start observations a bit later when most fawns are at least six or seven weeks old. At this age, they are very mobile and more likely to survive until the hunting seasons begin and the population structure changes.
Progress and Future
Data from this project are compiled at the end of each observation season, and a progress update is sent to participants. Data from this project will also be summarized each year in the MDIFW Research and Management Report.