Old News Archive

Outdoor Report - November 27, 2007

November 27, 2007 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

The recent flare-up of wildlife in Malibu, California brings to mind the question of whether or not those types of fires could occur here in Maine. The 60th anniversary of the 1947 fires in Maine just occurred, and having spent a large amount of time on these lands over the years, I think about the chances for a recurrence.

Natural phenomena such as fire, hurricane, drought, ice storms, and volcanic eruptions bring on changes that vary in degree and intensity. Some, such as drought and ice storms, pave the way for others, such as fire by creating tremendous amount of dead and dying material that becomes what we call the fuel load.

While such events can become catastrophic, the results in many instances provide a special niche for many species of plants and animals. Such a special habitat is the pitch pine-scrub oak forest type that is home to over 50 species of rare butterflies and moths, as well as some groups, or suites, of songbirds.

Another special habitat is the grassland uplands that were once common and are found adjacent to coastal wetlands and salt marshes. Many species of birds utilize these areas to nest and raise offspring. Over time, this habitat in southern Maine has been reduced by development and the decline in active agriculture. At the Scarborough Wildlife Management Area, we have about 20 acres fields that were developed as Ďgoose pastureí; an area maintained to provide respite and food resource for migrating geese. Because of changing priorities and increasing demands on the regional staff, this pasture has started to revert to woody shrubs, which reduces the value of this area to migrating geese, several species of sparrows, bobolinks, and meadowlarks. On the other hand, I have noticed an increase in yellow warblers. I expect there are many other wildlife species that have increased or decreased here, but my expertise is quite limited.

In Region A we are initiating a program to turn back the clock a bit by applying controlled prescribed burns on appropriate areas. Putting together a planned burn such as this is incredibly complicated. You need to have the right weather conditions, adequate trained manpower available at a momentsí notice, and approval of state and municipal fire departments. I was not aware of several key aspects of a project of this nature; fortunately for me, I had the support of Maine Forest Service Forest Rangers who provided much needed expertise, advice, assistance and supervision.

Our experimental burn turned out quite well. The weather and wind co-operated and about 9 acres of field was burned. We had luscious herbaceous plants grow, removed a tremendous amount of fuel load, and had two pair of Willet, Tringa semipalmata, a large shorebird of the sandpiper family, nest within the burn area. I had not seen a Willet before, as they are not common and the species is considered at risk due to loss of habitat.

The regional staff is planning to get the required training in wildfire applications, and will be planning for our next project. The results are well worth the effort.

-Norman Forbes, Wildlife Biologist Specialist

Region B - Central Maine

Today we started to wind up another season of deer biological data collection. At this point, we donít have a final tally of the harvest. However, the harvest numbers alone wonít explain what happened. Those numbers must be pulled together with population estimates, effort estimates, hunting conditions and other data to begin to understand what happened. That analysis comes after the season; for now we are focusing on getting any needed samples for our Chronic Wasting Surveillance effort (none found yet) and our biological sampling. I do want to take time to thank all of our meat cutters who process the harvest for hunters and collect data for us. Without the help of these great folks we would not be able to gather so much data so efficiently. So thanks to Ken Ballard and his workers at Ballardís Meat and Seafood in Manchester, the Barrows Family of Manchester, the Geidel Family of Oakland, the Ludden Family of St. Albans, the Gray Family of Newport, Todd Tibbetts of Dexter, and the Bemis Family of Levant. Thanks for all your help in collecting data and welcoming us into your businesses this past season.

On another note, visitors to the Jamies Pond Wildlife Management Area will find the Meadow Hill Road closure effort has been completed. Parking areas, gates, waterbars, footbridge, and road closure barriers are all in place. The Jamies Pond access road has been regraded and resurfaced getting it in shape at last.

At the same time, the roadwork at Frye Mountain on the Getchell Road has been completed. As part of that effort we have added another gate so that we can secure the roads in December. The last few years we have noticed the worst road damage occurs in December with the freezing and thawing that goes on this time of year. We have found, based on the deep ruts left behind, it is difficult for some users of Frye Mountain to stay away when the roads are soft. The gates will be used to secure the roads during this time and help preserve IFWís investment. Your cooperation in this effort will pay off in roads that are ready to drive earlier in the spring. In the mean time, please think of it as creating more hunting opportunity.

-Jim Connolly, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

Except for this week's attempts at muzzleloading, another deer season has gone by. Most deer hunters are likely pondering their collection of mental notes as to what to do, where to go, what to try, etc., for next season. We had another snow-less season this year in coastal eastern Maine, but the deer kill is up and most hunters are in agreement that before and during the season they saw more deer than previous years. Hunter effort is hard to measure and harder to anticipate; and is always a wild card in predicting and interpreting the results of the deer harvest when it's all said and done. Likewise, so is trying to gauge what effect high priced fuel has ... everyone talks about it but does it change a person's plans and driving habits? One fact is that the closer to coastal Route 1 you are in this Region, the greater the density of deer. That is also where most of the human population is. By hunting closer to home, you are hunting a larger deer population and the projected deer kill and success rate will increase. But there is a downside ... you don't have the free open expanses of ground to hunt like you do on paper company lands. Instead, you have to deal with posted land, safety zones in residential areas, and more contact with humans, both hunters and non-hunters alike.

Who would of thought twenty years ago that driving around and observing various fields of Washington County would get you observations of Canada geese by the hundreds and wild turkeys in flocks of 10 or more ... and even some fields with both. What you don't usually see are deer, but you may see them on peopleís lawns, gardens and under apple trees in the yard. Like the geese and turkeys, the deer have found where the good food is and where there is a relatively safe haven from both two and four-legged predators. Unfortunately, this assumption doesn't always hold, and often places them in more contact with traffic and its associated dangers.

There is still time to work your bird dog and chase grouse. The birds have changed their habits from early fall and now often utilize the cover of mixed wood stands. So now, instead of leaf cover to contend with you have evergreens. But unlike the early fall, when the bird breaks above or beyond the cover, you may actually have a truly visible target. As the hunting conditions change, so too should the hunter's armament for best results. Retire that open bored 20 gauge for the year and dig out the old trusty tight bored duck gun for those 35 yard shots with larger shot sizes.

-James Hall, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

While the 2007 firearms season on deer came to a close Saturday, we will continue to visit the meat cutters to sample deer that were brought in over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

In the old days we collected most of these data at roadside check stations throughout the state. Biologists and students from college and university wildlife management programs spent entire weekends stationed at roadside pullouts from Kennebunk to Greenville. I did this for three seasons as a college student. The experience and extra money were most appreciated. Though the number of stations declined due to efficiency of collecting harvest data, several still existed when I came to Strong in the late 1980s.

Collecting biological data through meat cutters greatly increased data collecting efficiency but we did lose a lot of contact opportunity with hunters. Some of that contact has been replaced with camp and house visits to collect hard-to-get samples for Chronic Wasting Disease monitoring. Still, folks who own or work at meat cutting businesses are our largest source of most CWD samples. Without their volunteer assistance it would be difficult and very costly to collect the data we need for the management of the white-tail deer resource that so many enjoy. Shortly Iíll be off to make my last rounds of the season so at this time Iíd like to thank Stephen and Dora Boyd of Strong, Lew Richards of Wilton, and the folks and R&B Meats in Livermore for their valued assistance this season.

- Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

The project has since been discontinued, but for about ten years, I enumerated tracks in the snow in early winter to produce information on changes in numbers of furbearers, particularly bobcats. During that period of time, some of this was done in all seven of our regional districts. A problem for some regions in the south was that they didnít always get the requisite snow often enough.

My assignment amounted to about 120 kilometers per year (= 75 miles). The counting was always done at least 24 hours after it stopped snowing. My batch of routes was in randomly chosen locations, geographically, in hopes of making the numbers representative, but limited to Wildlife Management Districts 8, 9, & 14.

Since I was out there, I recorded everything; that is the numbers of track intercepts for all the larger animals. We were supposed to record which animals had crossed within each 1 km segment examined. While there were some gyrations (especially for the scarcer kinds of animals although it was probably related to the limited amount of looking done), things appeared to be on an even keel. Bobcat tracks were observed on 2-10% of 1 km segments, marten on 8-20%, fisher on 12-25%, coyotes on 20-50%, fox on 25-50%, deer on 38-50%, and moose on 18-40%. During those examinations, lynx tracks were observed on less than 1% of 1 km segments examined. Had this been done further north, I believe the result would have been higher with respect to lynx. Forty to 50% of the 1 km segments had no rabbit tracks. On about 10% of segments, rabbit tracks were rated as abundant (by our definition, more than 20 intercepts per km). There doesnít appear to be a rabbit cycle here. Maybe someone will look back to this endeavor if thereís a question out in the future.

-Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

The Thanksgiving week brought the end of the regular firearms season for deer. Additional hunter effort due to the holiday resulted in the anticipated higher deer kill down the stretch. However, hunting conditions the back half of the week were less than favorable, with a good cold rain on Thanksgiving, and blustery winds on Friday and Saturday. Still the meat cutters were busy and I saw deer hanging while I was out and about this past Sunday. Hunters in this part of the state never did see any snow that allowed for good tracking conditions. Many a hunter I have spoken with over the past week or so have felt that the bucks were only now really starting to move. If the above is indeed what is happening across the landscape, then muzzleload hunters should be right in the thick of it starting this week. The one-week statewide season opens November 26 followed by the second week for selected WMDs including WMD 17 and 18 that are included within Region F. Good luck to all!

December 1 is the date that brings in the remainder of the WMDs within Region F not already open to beaver trapping. The opening couldnít come sooner as heavy rains over the last several weeks have brought several problems to DOT road crews and private landowners. Roadside beaver flowages are still very accessible to trappers. Addressing road safety and maintenance concerns along with trapper opportunity will hopefully take care of the problems that have erupted over the last several weeks. Trappers play a very valuable role here in helping to reduce nuisance beaver problems associated with roads and therefore public safety concerns.

Grouse hunters still have the month of December to hunt. Reports are still favorable with regard to seeing grouse. I saw several myself while out deer hunting. December grouse hunting usually means hunting thicker covers of mixed hardwood and softwood regeneration during the day, and by late afternoon, looking higher up into the trees of aspen, birch, and high bush cranberries, for budding or feeding grouse.

-Mark Caron, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

The third week of deer season ended with torrential rain and low registration numbers, while the fourth week ended with snow and freezing rain. In my hometown of Portage, deer hunting conditions were blustery and snowy on Thanksgiving Day and extremely icy and noisy Friday, enabling any wary deer to figure something was coming through the woods. Trying to be stealthy Saturday was impossible with over ľ inch of ice on top of 6 inches of snow. Well, I guess you figured it out; this biologist didnít put any venison in the freezer this year. The regular firearm season is over with one additional week of muzzleloader season in the north and two weeks in the south.

Deer registered in the North Country were up about 10% the first four weeks of the regular firearm season compared to last year. Checking deer registration stations Monday morning indicated that all were selling muzzleloader permits in good numbers with hunters hoping for a productive week. This year is indicating a similar trend in good numbers of deer registered throughout organized towns along the Route 1 corridor in the County. The reason for these higher numbers mirrors what our neighbors to the east are also observing in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. With the milder winters, habitat, and ample food supply in these agricultural areas, deer seem to be doing well. This is in contrast to the industrial forestland where deer registration numbers have been declining.

Grouse season is still open through the month of December, so donít put the gun away yet. Presently it might be hard to run dogs with crust on the snow but all indications are pointing toward good numbers of birds off the beaten paths and roads. On a side note outside the game harvest, I noted large numbers of red squirrels around this year and the office is getting numerous calls concerning damage and ways to alleviate the problems. Due to last yearís tremendous cone year offering an abundance of food, the number of offspring is at a high. This causes problems for homeowners and those individuals feeding birds.

-Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by Mark Latti, IFW

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