Old News Archive

September 26, 2006 - Outdoor Report

September 26, 2006 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

The 122nd Maine Legislature adopted a Resolve directing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife “To Evaluate the Possibility of a Moose Hunt in Southern Maine” The resolve read that the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife shall evaluate the possibility of a moose hunt in southern Maine and shall submit a report based on the evaluation, including necessary implementing legislations, to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over inland fisheries and wildlife matters on later than December 1, 2006. The joint standing committee may submit a bill based on the report to the First Regular Session of the 123rd Legislature.

Based on a series of public informational meetings conducted by MDIFW during the fall of 2005 in which it solicited input and comment about moose hunting in southern Maine, the Department is proposing the following for further public consideration.

The goals of the hunt are to allow a slow to moderate decrease in moose numbers in WMDS 15, 16, 23 and 26, and to consider further expanding the moose hunt to the remaining five southern WMDS after the department has reviewed the information and experience gained from the initial moose hunt in southern Maine.

The Department is proposing to hold the southern Maine moose hunting during the regular firearms deer season in November. The majority of people who attended the public meetings preferred that the moose season, in southern Maine, be held in November, in conjunction with the regular firearms season for deer, than during October or December. This was true for landowners, the general public, and is in agreement with the public working group’s recommendation.

The Department proposed allocating sufficient permits to allow a slow to moderate decrease in moose numbers: WMD 15 – 25 permits, WMD 16 – 20 permits, WMD 23 – 45 permits, and WMD 26 – 45 permits. People generally accepted the idea of moose hunting in southern Maine, however, there was little enthusiasm for greatly reducing the number of moose. Although the public working group recommended a large reduction in moose numbers, they also noted that such a season would be controversial. The public working group recommended a conservative start.

The Department proposes issuing “any-moose” permits, which would allow hunters to take a moose of either sex. In the WMDs proposed for the southern Maine moose hunt, our goal is to reduce the moose population, not to maintain it. Therefore, we would only be concerned if hunters were selecting for bulls and not removing cows. Hunter success is expected to be low during the southern Maine moose hunt. This may make hunters less selective as to whether they shoot a cow or bull moose. Permits would be allocated through the regular moose lottery.

There are two scheduled informational meetings to present the specifics of the proposal. The first is Wednesday October 25, 6:30 p.m. at the Mount View High School in Thorndike, and the second is Thursday, October 26 at 6:30 at the Stevens Brook Elementary School Cafeteria in Bridgton.

Mark Latti, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Region B - Central Maine

I often heard it said that the first sign of winter is the Skowhegan State Fair. Now it appears that the first sign of fall is the weekly hunting reports by regional wildlife biologist. As the torch is passed, a tip of the hat is in order to our fishery biologist for their spring and summer fishing reports detailing the complexities of fishery management across the state.

This transition time from summer to fall provides opportunity to put away the hip boots and beaver live traps for wool socks and calipers. This past week, regional staff removed the face boards on department owned wildlife management dams at the Madawaska WMA in Palmyra and the newly renamed James Dorso WMA in Searsmont. This fall ritual lowers and stabilizes the water levels to provide for the winter needs of fur-bears, while reducing ice action against the face of the dam. The wild rice was thick at both locations and scads of ducks were observed feeding within the cover this perfect wildlife plant provides.

Bow hunting for deer in the expanded archery zone is in full swing. I recently aged a yearling buck that was taken in Waterville that sported a beautiful six-point rack with a beam diameter of 23 mm. Good genetics and nutrition likely contributed to such a great rack on a deer that last year was a fawn. Seeing such a trophy rack was a positive sign for the upcoming season and definitely stirred those hunter instincts.

I will miss my first Moose Season since 1990 this year as I have not been assigned to cover any of the moose check stations up north. MDIFW staff will be at some registration stations to collect biological data, rub elbows with hunters and look for ticks. Biologists recently hypothesized that the winter tick is actually the limiting factor for the moose population in Maine, and an effort is going to be made to assess this theory by examining moose to determine the density of ticks to be found. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Stay tuned for results in the future.

Keel Kemper, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

Over the decades, the array of jobs for a Wildlife Biologist has changed and expanded. In the early 1970's it was about full time Deer Wintering Area Inventory, year around. The spruce budworm epidemic was peaking, as a result there was accelerated timber harvesting and road expansion to salvage as much wood as possible. At this time LURC Zoning was in place and a DWA (deer wintering area) was protected habitat that required approval of a cutting plan before a Forestry Operating Permit would be issued. Our job was to cruise the area, see if it met the standards for cover and deer density and map it. We had some flight data and also interviewed wardens, foresters and trappers of where they had observed deer in the winter, especially at times of deep snow. Many times, we were given active cutting operations as DWA. This brought up the question, was it a DWA they were cutting in or were the deer drawn there from the surrounding areas by the sound of the cut and fresh browse availability? Our job was to determine if there was evidence of winter use by deer before the cut, as evidenced by old trails and previous years pellets and browsing.

Previous to this time, there were few roads, and the main roads were the CCC Roads, as the Stud Mill Road was just being built and numerous side roads. We stayed at the Nicatous Warden Camp which was in T41MD. Across from us on Nicatous Lake stayed a trapper, who had been there for decades. I was constantly quizzing him about where he had seen deer in his beaver trapping travels. He told me about an area that he hadn't been to in about 25 years, that at one time he trapped bobcats in the winter there and there were deer. At that time there were no sno-sleds or wheelers, only snowshoes. It was common practice to skin the beaver on the flowage and make a cubby for the carcasses and make a set for a bobcat. The cedar swamp had all the makings of a real wintering area; it had the headwaters of a brook, tight cedar swamp type of cover and generally a southern aspect exposure. Many of these trappers of that time trapped and guided a little. One of his interests were trapping bears, back first when there was a bounty. He had five trails that had a permanent cubby graced with a number 5 Newhouse. Nearby the setting clamp was hung on a nail on a tree. The hunters gradually stopped coming and the hunting trails weren't maintained.

The access used to be an overland trek, but luckily there was a new road running parallel to the swamp, and since there was no cutting in the area, I was getting a chance to see if it was being used. Unfortunately, there was no sign of recent use, but I did observe some old game trails and some interesting open spring holes. Later when I was telling the trapper about them, he asked if I saw a log cubby by the big spring hole, I said I didn't notice anything, he said that it was one of his trap locations. Later I was going back by the area and it was only a short walk from the new road I took him with me. He told me to look for a big pine tree, in short order we saw it, walked up to it and there hanging from a spike was the clamp. He turned around and said the cubby was right here, and all there was a blanket of sphagnum moss. He figured that someone must have come along and taken the trap as the other 4 and been long gone. We walked over and there was a slight bump in the moss, I kicked it and saw brown rust. The No. 5 Nehouse was still there deeply entombed by the moss and the metal deeply pitted. The hardwood drag and the wood for the cubby had been reduced to peat moss over the last 25 years.

James Hall, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

The month of September in a regional wildlife office is not unlike at home. There are many ongoing projects so wrapping up as many before hunting seasons or snow arrives is of growing importance. In two weeks we’ll be at moose registration stations to collect biological information. Shortly thereafter well be on the road for much of five weeks collecting biological data from the deer harvest as well as sampling for Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD is not in Maine, still biologists will be monitoring for it for years to come. There could be snow by the time this work wraps up in very early December.

From spring through summer regional wildlife biologists respond to hundreds of calls associated with injured or orphaned wildlife, or wildlife taking up residence where they cannot stay for one reason or another. Early this summer we had a call from a lady who said there was a tame bobcat in her yard. To be honest, we expected to find either a really big house cat, or an injured or starving juvenile bobcat. When we arrived, a really healthy and friendly young-adult bobcat ran up to greet us. I was wearing my welder’s gloves when the cat ran up to greet me and play. I couldn’t help obliging but please know that I was wearing large, heavy welders gloves because a bite would mean a very expensive trip to the doctor’s for rabies shots. Despite bringing every type of equipment for wildlife capture, this cat went into the transport crate by following a tossed tennis ball. We do not know this animal’s history. Because it was so tame, transport and releasing the cat somewhere else was not an option, so we delivered her to IFW’s Maine Wildlife Park.

Game Wardens and regional wildlife biologists rely heavily on wildlife rehabilitators. They are licensed by the Department to receive injured or orphaned wildlife with the goal of rehabilitating or raising young wildlife so they may be released back into the wild. Most of these folks have their facilities at their home. Not only are they not paid, most of the time their expenses come out of their own pocket. Often veterinarians are needed and some don’t charge for their services, or charge only to cover their expenses. Without this collective volunteer effort, wardens and biologists would only have “no action” or euthanasia as options most of the time. The public owes our wildlife rehabilitators many thanks for what they do.

On Friday we accompanied wildlife rehabilitators Mike and Dawn Brown of Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation in New Sharon with the release of a river otter. I selected a release location that was remote, had limited a public access, and provided great habitat for an otter. The release was successful and enjoyable to view.

This story began with Kendall Marden, a wildlife biologist from the Gray office, removing two abandoned and very young otter kits from under a restaurant in southern Maine. They were delivered to Mike and Dawn. One of the kits did not survive. The other thrived on dead fish provided by hatcheries in Embden and Augusta, vitamin supplements, as well as live crayfish and large minnows released in the otter’s pool. Key to its survival is the opportunity the Browns provided for it to capture natural food. Further, their facility is isolated with exposure to humans limited to just the Browns, and a very limited association between them and the food she received. On release day, this young otter was feisty and clearly showed dislike for those of us there. The effort to prepare this animal for release was shared by several, though the cost and “heavy lifting” was covered by Mike and Dawn.

Stories like this on are repeated often from spring through fall, by many wildlife rehabilitators serving both the wildlife and people of Maine.

Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

For the last 6 years toward the end of summer and into early fall, I’ve been capturing and banding ducks in the Greenville area, as are biologists in Maine and other states and provinces, in order to gauge the role of hunting in the dynamics of duck populations. When all the data is pooled, someone somewhere will calculate what part of the population of each species is shot by hunters, and determine whether that number is excessive. If so, changes in hunting regulations would be recommended. To date I have caught ~800 ducks, ~70% of those are black ducks, the species over which there is the most concern at present.

In banding, each new duck is identified by species and sex then banded with a serially numbered aluminum band. Their plumage enables us to distinguish “hatching-year” birds from older birds. Records from this operation are sent to our Bangor office, then Laurel Maryland, the location of the central clearing house for banding records in North America.

Although I am not always kept up-to-date of where our ducks have shown up, a while back the list included coastal ME, MA, NY, MD, VA RI, NJ, VT, parts of quebec such as Kamouraska PQ, Resevoir Gouin PQ and near Montreal. The geographic and temporal distribution of where our ducks are shot derived from banding will tell us when and where curtailment of hunting would be most effective, if that seems to be necessary.

This year, as in past years, I have observed several instances of homing, that is, the ducks banded here in other years are now returning to this location, specifically from ’02, ’03, and ‘05. Homing is typical behavior of adult female black ducks and mallards.

Birds trapped here at IFW Regional Headquarters and at a trap in the Junction have turned up in my traps as much 11 miles away within the same banding season. Young birds seem to be exploring larger areas, especially after mid-September. Banding generates interesting info of this sort, but has little to do with our purpose.

This work is funded by dedicated revenues, derived from duck hunters. Though this activity is new to the Greenville area, it has been going on in Maine since the 40s or before. The reason we have chose Greenville is that we are able to turn up quite a few black ducks here, whereas they can’t further south. Banding studies, aerial inventories, and mail surveys of hunters (effort, success & kinds of ducks bagged) form the basis of waterfowl management recommendations.

Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

September continues to slip on by with some hunting seasons already in full swing, and others just around the corner. Bear season has been ongoing since late August. The baiting portion of the season concluded this past Saturday (9/23). Overall, the comments I have received suggest that the (bait) harvest may be down to some extent across the Region. I have received several reports suggesting that there were fewer hunters booked with the guide services this year. In addition to my own observations, I received many reports that suggested an abundance of natural foods available to bears this year, particularly soft mast. Beechnuts (hard mast) as expected are “on” this fall, a favorite and very important fall food for bears as well as other wildlife. A combination of these factors may help address any questions about a lower than perhaps expected baiting harvest. As the numbers come in these questions will be answered. Hounding and trapping are still ongoing and continuing thru October.

The first of two six-day hunting seasons for moose got underway Monday. Only a couple of the Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) that fall within Region F are included in the first season, including WMDs 5 and 11, with just a few towns included from WMD 19. Registration stations in the northern portion of the Region should be busy this first week. Region F includes 10 stations throughout the Region. These folks are also collecting biological data on the harvested moose for the Region. Many thanks to them for their effort and interest in taking on this additional work.

Starting in late summer, our office, not unlike other IFW offices across the state begin to receive calls asking, “how the birds are doing this year”. They are of course referring to ruffed grouse. As you may recall, last year was a tough year for grouse with very few reports of broods, in many cases, none at all. This year appears to be more promising, however another cold, wet nesting and early post-nesting period took place again this late May and early June. Reports of broods were promising early on, and certainly better than last year. I think that overall however, it will not be a banner year out there for grouse. But don’t let that stop you from getting out there. Remember, it’s not just about the hunt.

Mark Caron, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

Seems Aroostook County is about 7-10 days early with fall this year compared to last year. Peak color is just about here and the Aroostook County potato fields are being harvested earlier then usual. We should all be aware that this week is the first week of a two-week season for moose with a total season allocation of 2825 permits. The first week (Sept. 25-30) in Wildlife Management Districts (WMD’s) 1-6 will have a total of 773 bull permits and 126 cow permits, with the second week (Oct. 9-14) having 257 bull permits and 379 cow permits. Over 480 cow permits alone will be issued in WMD 3 & 6 in order to reduce vehicle collisions as recommended by the Departments big game working group. All indications from biologists, wardens and sports verify frequent sightings of moose throughout the summer with excellent calving. This should be an excellent moose hunt.

Bear baiting season ended last week with preliminary indications from selected registration stations of fewer bear harvested this year over last year. There is an abundance of natural foods in the woods this year that may have contributed to the reduced harvest.

Special archery hunting season opens September 28 through October 27 offering the hunter to take a deer of either sex. Another interesting season during a great time of the year to hunt is the Fall Turkey Hunt for 2006. This hunt will be divided into two zones. Zone 1 (October 7 - October 21) consists of WMD's 15, 16, 17, 20, 24, 25, and 26. Zone 2 (September 28 - October 27) consists of WMD's 21, 22, and 23. A web site of interest for information on hunting and trapping is http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunttrap/index.htm

Last and not least is the waterfowl, grouse and woodcock season that opens October 2. With leaf drop earlier then normal this year sports should have clear sight on their target.

Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by : Mark Latti
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
fax 207-287-6395
284 State Street
41 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

For More Outdoor Information, and Sporting Licenses 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week, Please Visit www.mefishwildlife.com

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.