Old News Archive

Outdoor Report - December 4, 2007

December 04, 2007 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

We are currently in the midst of the statewide trapping season. The beaver trapping season began this week in WMD 15 around Fryeburg and will open on December 15 in WMD’s 20-24. High precipitation during October and November has elicited many calls to the regional office with concern of flooding from beaver flowages. Once the trapping season opens, these issues can be addressed through recreational trapping. Prior to this, we work with our Animal Damage Control agents to modify the flowage level or trap and relocate individual beaver.

The beaver is a significant player in the natural and cultural history of North America. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony had established a profitable fur trade with Indians in Maine, via the Kennebec River, in the 17th century. Beaver pelts were a major export to England at this time. Later, in the 1800’s, the market for beaver fur encouraged the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the quest for the Northwest Passage and European settlement of the present-day western United States. These trappers were frontiersman such as John Colter, or part of the elite French-Canadian Voyageurs, who plied the waters from Montreal to Winnipeg with a canoe full of furs. Today’s trappers play an important role in wildlife management through a regulated trapping season. Trapping allows us to reach a compromise between the creation of high value wetlands for a variety of species and human tolerance of beaver and the flowages that can result in property or road damage. Trapping also provides unique insight into the daily habitats of wildlife that are best understood in the woods and waters where they live.

The expanded archery season for deer continues in parts of Region A, and in Wells, there is a special archery hunt to reduce the deer population in the Wells Reserve. This is a collaborative effort between IFW, The Town of Wells, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Rachel Carson NWR and the Maine Bowhunters Association.

The hunt continues through December 29. There will be no hunting December 24-26 in consideration of the holidays.

The hunt occurs on property managed by the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and select locations on Drakes Island with landowner permission. These areas – which are part of a State of Maine-designated wildlife sanctuary – are not open to public hunting. As in past years, participants in this hunt are selected from qualifying members of the Maine Bowhunters Association’s “Bowhunters Landowners Information Program” (BLIP). There are 30 hunters who have been selected and three alternates.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been working for over seven years with the Wells Reserve, Rachel Carson Refuge, Drakes Island residents, and the Town of Wells on the issue of deer overpopulation in our area. There is substantial agreement among the partners and many area residents that the deer population is much higher than the habitat can support, and that it would continue to climb if efforts are not made to control numbers. A soaring deer population has negative implications for public health and the maintenance of natural communities.

To address the issue, IFW launched this special hunt in 2002, with full support of the Wells Board of Selectmen, the Wells Reserve Management Authority, Wells Reserve Resource Advisory Committee, Rachel Carson Refuge, and area residents. The purpose of this regulated hunt is to reduce the deer population in an area of approximately 1-2 square miles from an initial density estimated at nearly 100 deer/sq.mile to a population of 20-25 deer/sq.mile.

-Scott Lindsay, Regional Wildlife Biologist, and Mark Latti, Division of Information and Education

Region B - Central Maine

I was reflecting the other day on how blessed I am to have been born and raised in the USA. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world, and this perspective comes naturally after spending considerable time in various countries, some which are rife with poverty, corruption and despotism. I was thinking how the world would be a much better place if it had more deer hunters. When I mentioned this to my best friend Rick, he busted out laughing and accused me of being off of my meds. I allowed that the world doesn’t need more dead deer, it needs more of the qualities that most deer hunters embrace. That caught his attention, and he waited for my explanation.

Deer hunters are by their very nature self-reliant. They generally are an independent lot, not inclined to wait for someone else to get the job done for them. They generally don’t mind being alone and are not afraid to take out across the landscape no matter the terrain or weather, trusting implicitly in their own abilities and judgment. They are used to providing for their friends and family, and bringing home a winter supply of meat is the natural extension of their self-reliance. Who doubts the world could use more self-reliance?

Deer hunters are the embodiment of patience. The sport teaches them the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset. They persevere calmly when faced with the difficult and uncomfortable conditions often experienced while deer hunting. Hours of sitting and waiting are passed without complaint. Quiet reflections, while waiting and watching, are a deer hunter’s hallmark. Think the world could use a little more patience?

Successful deer hunters have learned cleanliness leads to success. Deer hunters now have fancy soap to hide their scent. They wash their clothes in special soaps in order to enter the woods as free and clean of noxious odors as possible. Cleanliness is next to godliness, enough said.

All hunters, but especially deer hunters are the original conservationists. They understand the vast difference between conservation and preservation. They understand the concept of sustained yield and recognize that wildlife must be managed in a manner that utilizes the interest without jeopardizing the principle. They recognize you can’t stockpile wildlife populations and get a positive result. They intuitively know that nature is resilient and bountiful when managed properly. Today it seems that the preservationists have convinced the ignorant that nature and specifically wildlife populations are like fine porcelain, fragile, only to be observed, never utilized and rarely enjoyed. Deer hunters know better than to believe that fallacy. Without question the world needs a lot more conservation and a little less preservation.

Deer hunters are committed to their sport and the wildlife they pursue. Maybe not as committed as bear hunters but certainly a close second. They schedule vacations around the deer season. They spend money they can’t afford on accoutrements designed to increase their chance of success. They rise early, hunt hard and come home late usually without success, only to do it all over again. Most deer hunters I know have been deer hunting all their life and will likely continue as long as they are able. This ability to commit to an inspiration naturally extends into other facets of their life, work and family. Could the world use a few more people committed to their passions?

I could tell Rick was skeptical of my hypothesis. “It is a just a theory” I said, “I might be all wet”. “Possible” he replied, ”now get your boots on and let’s go scout that new piece of land, deer season is only eleven months away”.

-Keel Kemper, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

Even though Thanksgiving and days of turkey leftovers are a fading memory, turkeys continue to be a hot topic of conversation Downeast. As I write this, a flock of 19 wild turkeys are making their way across the blueberry ground outside my office window in Jonesboro, as they do almost every day at this time of year. The flock is a mixture of hens, poults (turkeys born last spring) and jakes (juvenile males born before last spring). The poults are almost as large as the hens now and it takes a pretty good look to see the size difference. Jakes are identifiable by their reddish heads and short beards, a tuft of feathers on the breast. The flock is also a mixture of banded and unbanded birds. The birds with metal bands on their legs are wild-born turkeys brought here in February of 2005 to establish a new flock in the area. After a rocky start, they had a great breeding season in 2007, resulting in the 10 or 12 unbanded birds that were born here.

Turkeys are thriving almost everywhere they are found and continue to pop up in new places. In Franklin, where turkeys have been a familiar presence for a few years, traffic was brought to a standstill recently as over 30 birds crossed Route 182 at 1:30 in the afternoon. Flocks have been seen repeatedly in Marshfield and in Machias near the high school in recent weeks. Turkeys have also been spotted in East Machias, a few in Lubec and, moving in from the north, a flock has been living and reproducing in Waite for the past two years. Although these pioneering turkeys are a good sign for turkey fans, there are still significant areas in Washington County with good habitat but no turkeys.

On a less optimistic note, a single turkey in Eastport has been hanging around homes and allowing people to approach him closely to give him food. This bird is almost certainly a captive-born bird that was released or escaped. It is illegal to possess “wild” turkeys in Maine without a propagation permit from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and it is always illegal to release these birds into the wild. They carry genes that are not adapted to our environment and may contaminate the wild population if they meet other turkeys and breed. The risk of disease transmission from captive birds is also a real danger for wild flocks. Not all mail order hatcheries, feed stores and pet shops know it is illegal for them to sell turkeys in Maine and it is ultimately the responsibility of the buyer to know the law.

With the increased visibility of turkeys in the Machias area, people understandably want to know when this area will be open to hunting. The answer is at least a few years away. Wildlife Management District 27 includes the coastal region from Sullivan to Lubec as well as the entire Cobscook Bay region up to Calais. Wildlife Management District 28 includes the area from Sullivan north to Aurora and eastward to Meddybemps and East Machias. Check the department’s website (www.mefishwildlife.com) for exact district boundaries. Until turkeys are common across either of these districts, there will be a closed season on turkeys.

The Department is always interested to hear about other flocks of turkeys in the Downeast region. Call the Regional biologist’s office at 434-5927 with sightings of other flocks or reports of interesting behavior.

-Rich Bard, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

As the unofficial (for biologists) end to deer hunting came to a close last week, I spent most of my time chasing the last Chronic Wasting Disease samples in the Moscow and Brighton area. As of last Sunday, Region D biologists completed collecting samples from these areas thanks to local hunters. As far as deer kill rates, it’s really too early to call since our data is not yet compiled in a format that we can to compare to past years. I personally observed a number of adult bucks between 180 and 200+ pounds throughout the region. The overall trend seemed to suggest that there were many more young bucks killed this year, which coincides with the winter survival rates of last year’s fawns. Again, we will have to wait until all the data is available to see if the young deer trend is significant compared to other regions and previous years.

If you were not able to tag a deer in the regular firearms season, the next two weeks offer muzzleloading opportunities in selected WMD’s. This is a nice time to hunt especially with the snow we have received over the past few weeks. Be sure to consult with your hunting law book to make sure of dates and whether your WMD is open to muzzleloading. There is also plenty of time to hunt ruffed grouse and take advantage of the December season. The grouse are grouping together in shootable covers, making it very lucrative and possible to bag your limit. I also saw several snowshoe hare during the deer season, possibly making it a banner year for bunnies. Trappers are also gearing up this weekend for the start of beaver trapping season. Even though it’s getting colder, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

- Ethan Tracy, Wildlife Technician

Region E - Moosehead Region

We have kind of an odd situation here, where “threatened” lynx today are front page news, yet when they were scarce some 30 years ago, most people probably weren’t even aware of their existence in Maine.

I worked in the northernmost IF&W Region for 8 yrs in the 70s. I was in the woods very frequently, and saw the tracks of lynx only 3 or 4 times. I have worked in the Greenville Region for nearly 27 years now, and seen the tracks hundreds of time, mostly within the last 10 years. This suggests to me a marked increase in lynx over my career, which I attribute to the change in the make-up of the woods from acres & acres of merchantable or harvestabl trees to acres and acres of rabbit cover, or regenerating clearcuts. In effect, lynx are now categorized as “Threatened,” even though they are more abundant now and receive much more attention and special consideration than when their numbers were low, which is sort of a contradiction.

One day last winter I traveled from Greenville to Rip Dam to Chamberlain Bridge to Cuxabexis Lake to Caucomgomoc Dam to Scott Brook and back to Greenville via Raggmuff, encountering lynx tracks approximately 30 times. Last year, for the first time, I was shown some lynx tracks within a mile of downtown Greenville. And last winter, I ran onto lynx tracks In Bald Mtn. Twp, west of Monson on two different occasions.

All indications are that the lynx population has increased dramatically here in recent times. Among the strongest indications are the increasing number of road kills. The population seems to be dispersing. One lynx was hit by a vehicle in Palmyra this year. I would guess that was a disperser, just one that dispersed in the wrong direction.

-Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

Week number one of the muzzleloader season for deer featured primarily windy conditions with one day of heavy rains and very little in the way of snowfall in the Region. Hunting conditions were much better during the early weekdays than it was for the latter half of the week and Saturday. Again, cold temperatures and high winds on Friday and Saturday made for difficult days of deer hunting.

We travelled to Page Farm WMA in Drew Plt. early in the week to assess an ongoing field reclamation project. Monies for this work were obtained through a National Wild Turkey Federation Superfund Project. The primary goal of this project is to re-establish some fields at Page Farm that have succumbed to succession and to eventually plant these areas with grasses and clovers to benefit turkeys along with many other species of wildlife. While there, we encountered several deer hunters that were still observing signs of the rut with some scrapes being maintained and new ones being created.

Some other activities that keep us busy this time of year are the wrap-up of deer biological data collection for the regular firearms season and preparing our Winter Severity Stations. Weather stations located throughout the state are monitored through a 20-week period to determine the severity of winter weather on our deer population. At each station, a probe monitors temperatures throughout the winter; snow depths are measured, and the sinking depths of deer are also recorded. From this information we can estimate deer losses from winter weather and, along with many other inputs, determine the allocation of Any-Deer Permits for the next season. Weather stations monitored in the Penobscot Region are located in Stacyville, Bancroft, Howland, and Argyle.

The second week of muzzleloader season for deer occurs in only the southern portion of the Penobscot Region. Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) open for the second week of muzzleloader season (Dec. 3 – Dec.8) include: 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 29. A significant snowfall is predicted statewide for Monday, which should provide ample tracking snow! Good Luck if your still out there trying to fill that deer tag!

-Allen Starr, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

Deer season just ended in northern Maine with the conclusion of the muzzleloader season on December 1. Because of snow cover and good deer tracking conditions, muzzleloader hunters enjoyed a very successful week of deer hunting. Field reports indicate a high number of muzzleloader hunters were out last week taking advantage of the good hunting conditions and many of them harvested deer. For those deer hunters wanting to continue muzzleloader hunting, an additional week of deer hunting is still available December 3-8 in wildlife management districts 12,13, 15 through 18, 20 through 26, and 29. Because these wildlife management districts have higher deer populations and can sustain higher deer harvests, we are able to allow an additional week of muzzleloader hunting in these districts.

This season’s weather in northern Maine is a good example of why we don’t extend the muzzleloader season another week to provide for additional hunting opportunity. Over the last 2 weeks weather in northern Maine has turned from typical fall weather to conditions we normally expect in mid-winter. Snow depths in the County range from just less than an inch in southern Aroostook County to 30” in the high hills bordering the St. John valley. Because of deep snow, deer in the mid-northern part of the region are now congregating in timber harvest operations and in winter deeryards. These early winter conditions restrict deer movement and also their ability to find highly nutritional foods putting stress on deer very early in the winter.

Hopefully, this winter weather will moderate. Winter is starting out very harsh for northern Maine deer and if the snow stays until April, which it often does, deer losses from starvation and predation could be substantial. This week we will be setting up weather stations in four deeryards scattered throughout the region to monitor winter severity on deer. Information collected at these weather stations will include temperature, snow depth, snow profile (e.g., crust or powder conditions) and deer sinking depths. This data will be collected weekly throughout the winter to determine the impact of winter weather on Maine’s deer herd.

With the end of deer season, most hunting and outdoor wildlife activities end for the year. However, there are still many opportunities to get out there and enjoy wildlife related activities. For example, ruffed grouse and snowshoe hare hunting is still open. A popular activity in northern Maine is combining snowmobiling and looking for moose antlers. Moose will start dropping their antlers in mid-December and generally the largest moose antlers are dropped early in the winter. If you like outdoor activities and want to get outside for some winter fun, there’s always some type of wildlife recreational activity available.

-Arlen Lovewell, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by Mark Latti, IFW

Division of Public Information and Education
284 State Street, State House Station #41, Augusta, ME 04333
For More Outdoor Information, and Sporting Licenses 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week, Please Visit: www.mefishwildlife.com

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