The State of Big Game in Maine

Meredith Braun, Angela Cross, and Jake Lukach

Executive Summary

The “State of Big Game Species in Maine” is the fifth chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2014. In this chapter, we assess the state of three big game species in Maine: the black bear, the moose, and the white-tailed deer.

We describe the history of management for each species and identify pertinent legislation and stakeholders, and current status of the three species. We found that although Maine’s moose and deer populations are not listed as threatened species, climate change and disease (i.e. Chronic Wasting Disease) could threaten the future health of the species respectively. Inversely, wildlife biologists worry that bears could pose a threat to human livelihoods as their population continues to grow rapidly.

We highlight the various issues and conflicts that inform policy decisions relating to these three species. In regard to bear, hunting methods such as bear baiting, trapping, and hounding have sparked debate among Mainers for and against the techniques because Maine is the only state in the country that allows for all three practices to take place. Whereas wildlife-vehicle collisions are the foremost human-wildlife conflict involving moose (2,179 crashes between 2009-2013) and deer (14, 852 crashes between 2006-2010).

Finally, we discuss the economic, social, and environmental implications of existing big game populations and provide recommendations for future management plans. For the moose and deer we suggest the establishment of highway fencing and the conversion of WMDs currently labeled as compromised zones to moose-vehicle collision zones to minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions. We also support the conservation of critical deer wintering habitat to protect the population form mortality during Maine’s winter months. In order to reduce human-bear conflicts we believe that Maine should introduced subsides that reduce the cost of bear–proof garbage cans. Additionally, we encourage the state legislature to outlaw baiting, hounding, and trapping since other states have demonstrated these inhumane methods are not necessary in order to maintain a healthy bear population.

Introduction

Large mammals are important because they have economic, ecological, political, and social values (Chardonnet et al., 2002). Big game species, the subset of those large mammal species that are taken and hunted for sport or subsistence, nationally contribute substantial recreational value and help to generate recreation-related revenue (NWF, 2013). In 2001, over 10.7 million hunters nationwide participated in the hunting of big game species, a number which swelled to over 12 million hunters in 2011; during the 2011 season these 12 million adult hunters spent more than $16 billion for big game hunting purposes (Flather et al., 2009; NWF, 2013).

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and moose (Alces alces americana) are top herbivores. Typically where predators have been extirpated, these animals serve as important engineers for their respective ecosystems (Chardonnet et al., 2002). White-tailed deer are found throughout much of the United States, with an estimated nationwide population in 2000 of around 15 million (NWF, 2013). White-tailed deer are capable, as a result of foraging, of eradicating plant species from forest landscapes and altering plant abundance, growth, survival, and distribution patterns therein (Rawinski, 2008; Côté et al., 2004).

Moose are less commonly found throughout the country, with populations found in northern New England, Minnesota, the Rocky Mountain States north of Colorado, and Alaska (NWF, 2013). Moose browsing has been found to incur changes in plant morphology, reduce tree growth and survival, retard forest succession, shift competitive balances in favor of alternative plant species, decrease heights of deciduous shrubs, and increase the number of branches per shrub stem (Strong et al., 2009).

Finally, although they are predators and scavengers and not herbivores such as deer and moose, black bears (Ursus americanus) also influence ecosystem structure and function. Distributed throughout the western and north central United States and the east coast, black bears serve as an indicator species for the health of the environment and habitat (Parkhurst, 2009). Even though black bears consume both plants and animals, plants (especially berries) provide the majority of their nutrition and diet; if their desired food is unavailable and they will often move into developed areas where they are able to scavenge, raid bird feeders, eat honey from beehives (NWF, 2013).

In Maine, big game species include the black bear, the moose, and the white-tailed deer, the three species upon which we focus in this report, as well as the furbearers such as the bobcat (Lynx rufus) and the endangered Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (MPGA, 2014; MDIFW 2014d). We focus our study on these three species and not the furbearers because of the inability to hunt Canada lynx due to their endangered status and because of a lack of current information regarding Maine’s bobcat population and its management. Further, activities related to the hunting of these three species alone contribute to almost $175 million directly to the state economy per year (MOT & MDIFW, 2014).

Objectives

We analyze the state of big game in Maine through three case studies: the black bear, the eastern moose, and the white-tailed deer. We investigate the ways in which big game species are managed in the state of Maine, identify relevant stakeholders, pinpoint pertinent human-wildlife conflicts, and describe the political, economic, and social influences affecting the species.

Our focus is on how current management affects these three big game species in Maine. We present historical information for each species. We also identify the factors affecting these big game species in other regions. Animal populations migrate across borders, so we examine the permeability of state and international boundaries.

Methods

We used the search engines SCOPUS, JSTOR, and Google Scholar to gather information from journal articles and reports to learn about the biology and management of each species. We used data on population densities, hunting laws, permit systems, and management regimes from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. We also used information from the Maine Legislature to assess past and present governmental policies that have affected the status of big game species.

We also communicated with seven biologists and road safety advisors from The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and The Maine Department of Transportation. These conversations were conducted over the phone and through email correspondence.

Additionally, we obtained geographical mapping data regarding the locations of Wildlife Management Districts as well as the locations of Deer Wintering Areas from The Maine Office of GIS. We obtained deer and moose vehicle collision point data from the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provided information regarding deer, moose, and bear hunting registrations for the 2013 season as well as the locations of moose management areas. We used the data obtained from these institutions to create maps using the ArcGIS 10.2.2 (ESRI 2014). We created maps highlighting areas of Maine that are important to the conservation, management, and biology of our case study species. Microsoft Office 2013 was used to organize and prepare the data before importing it into ArcGIS.

Laws and Institutions

Multiple federal and state laws apply to big game management in Maine. The most relevant federal law, The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson) of 1937, allots funds for each individual state targeting four grant programs (Wildlife Restoration, Multistate Conservation, North American Wetlands Conservation Program, and the Firearm and Bow Hunter Education and Safety Program) (16 U.S.C. 669-669k). This law has been one of the most stable sources of funding for wildlife agencies since its inception. In the 2013 fiscal year, the Pittman-Robertson Act granted over $4 million to the State of Maine for the purposes of wildlife conservation and hunter education; for the 2014 fiscal year, that allotment has been budgeted to reach over $6.3 million(USFWS, 2013; USFWS, 2014).

Title 12

The most important state laws include those in Title 12 of the Maine Revised Statutes, a series of laws that are dedicated to conservation of Maine’s water, forests, and inland fish and game − among other valuable resources. All of Maine’s state laws and regulations related to conservation of wildlife habitat, species, and, perhaps most importantly for our project, hunting and trapping, can be found within the 13 parts of Title 12 and the subparts and chapters therein.

Table 5.1 Maine State Laws Affecting Big Game Species

LawYearDescriptionLocation
General Definitions Regulation2003Establishes definitions of animals and hunting practices12 MRS §10001
Wildlife Causing Damage or Nuisance Regulation2003This chapter of Maine law provides details about the right to kill nuisance wildlife that harm persons, and personal property.12 MRS §12401-12404
Wildlife Management and Research Regulation2003Subchapter 1 includes regulations for rule violations of wildlife management areas and the designation of wildlife areas in Maine. 12 MRS §12401-12404
Natural Resources Protection Act2007Acknowledges that Maine’s waterways, lakes, and wildlife habitat have significant value, and that current uses are contributing to the degradation of these resources.38 MRS § 480

Stakeholders

Maine has an extensive array of agencies and stakeholders that have a vested interest in the state’s big game species. This includes groups such as federal and state governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and citizen groups, and the public. These various groups influence and contribute to Maine’s multifaceted approach to big game management.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

The FWS is tasked with conserving, developing, and managing the nation’s natural resources. It enforces federal wildlife laws, protects endangered species, conserves and restores wildlife habitats, and distributes money in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment of state wildlife agencies (USFWS, 2014). The FWS provides critical funding for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

US Forest Service (USFS)

The USFS employs scientists to study wildlife and the habitats in which they live to inform appropriate and effective land management practices and to address threats to those habitats such as habitat fragmentation and climate change (USFS, 2014). This work focuses on conserving not only the habitats but the connectivity between and among them as well as establishing management regimes using future climate scenarios and models (USFS, 2014).

Maine State Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW)

Tasked with protecting and enhancing inland fisheries and wildlife while simultaneously facilitating wise use of these resources, the MDIFW strives to conserve and enhance the wildlife resources available in the State of Maine while ensuring that the public is well-informed about and involved with conservation efforts (MDIFW, 2013). The MDIFW acknowledges the importance of preserving Maine’s wildlife resources not only for residents, but also for the thousands of tourists that travel to the state every year. The MDIFW functions under the guidance of the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council, a ten-member citizen’s advisory group whose members are appointed by the governor and subject to legislative confirmation (MDIFW, 2005). The economic impacts of wildlife tourism and resource use amount to over $500 million annually (MDIFW, 2013). The MDIFW publishes reports on the assessment of big game species, including the management and health of the animals. The MDIFW also regulates hunting and trapping of big game species throughout the state.

In the year 2000, MDIFW established 29 Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) in an effort to reduce confusion in management of hunting zones for deer, moose, turkey, and waterfowl. WMDs are delineated geographical sections of the state that are similar in biophysical and geophysical characteristics (MDIFW, 2013) (Figure 5.1).

ES493_14_Figure5.1_FW

Figure 5.1 Maine Wildlife Management Districts (MOGIS, 2014).

After the state legislature granted the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) full authority over big game management, the department established a Big Game Public Working Group. The Maine Big Game Public Working Group was created by the MDIFW in 1999 as a group tasked with managing big game species in Maine (Kantar, 2012). It comprises numerous stakeholder groups, including citizen advisors and wildlife managers, as a means to better represent the diverse interests of stakeholders. The Public Working Group develops goals and objectives for the management and populations of Maine’s big game species. To establish these goals, the group had to take into consideration hunting and viewing opportunities, as well as habitat and nuisance issues (Kantar, 2012).

Maine State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

The DEP was established to prevent, abate, and control the pollution of air, water, and soil. The DEP is also held responsible for protecting the natural resources of Maine as well as for enforcing the state’s environmental laws (DEP, 2013). The DEP is charged with the protection, conservation, and restoration of the big game species’ habitat and provides useful Geographic Information System (GIS) data to state wildlife biologists (DEP, 2013).

Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT)

Tasked with facilitating and directing safe and effective transportation throughout the state on Maine’s roads, MaineDOT educates the public on wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) and is concerned with the safety of Maine’s residents and nonresidents alike on roadways. The agency publishes information on deer and moose-vehicle collisions and educates the public on roadway safety concerning large animals.

Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) & Maine’s Tourism Industry

Big game species draw a significant amount of tourists to Maine every year; therefore, the Maine Office of Tourism has a stake in seeing big game species endure. Tourists “from away” come for Maine’s unparalleled hunting and wildlife watching opportunities, which are unique among the lower 48 states.

Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF)

The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund provides funding for critical wildlife and conservation projects in order to secure Maine’s outdoor heritage for future generations. Its efforts are supported financially through the sale of instant scratch lottery tickets; in the past two decades, the Heritage Fund has awarded approximately $17 million in grants to conduct research and further management efforts of big game species for 828 conservation projects (MOHF, 2013).

Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (MCFWRU)

The MCFWRU is a group that provides crucial research that helps to inform policy creation regarding big game species. It is comprised of the US Geological Survey, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Maine, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Management Institute. It is one of the oldest units of its type in the country, with Maine’s wildlife research unit founded in 1935. It released annual reports to cooperators that summarize current research on Maine’s wildlife (CFWRU, 2014).

Maine Forest Service (MFS)

The MFS provides critical services, including the use of ranger pilots and helicopters, to aid in moose and deer population estimates through visual surveys. The MFS protects and enhances Maine’s forest resources, which includes critical habitat for these big game species (MFS, 2013).

Native American Tribes

Maine has four officially recognized Native American tribes: the Maliseet tribe, the Passamaquoddy tribe, the Abenaki tribe, and the Penobscot tribe. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and Maine’s four recognized tribes have “jurisdictional responsibilities on federal and tribal lands respectively – lands comprising less than 3 percent of the total land area in the State” (MDIFW, 2005). These four tribes are among a handful of other Maine agencies, which are primary constituents of Maine’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

Land for Maine’s Future (LMF)

Founded in 1987, LMF is Maine’s primary funding vehicle for land conservation in regards to its natural and recreational values. The Natural Resources Council of Maine aided in the program’s funding, and with those funds LMF identifies and, when applicable, purchases lands that ensure public use and conservation to those special places, including Deer Wintering Areas (LMF, 2013).

Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizen Groups

A variety of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) create management change for big game species in Maine through active interest and passionate action. Such groups include the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM, 2014), an advocacy group for hunters and fishermen, and environmental groups such as the Maine Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy, advocacy groups for wildlife conservation.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies are stakeholders when generating and organizing management policies for the reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Road administration results in numerous “administrative conflicts” because of frequent claims made by insurance companies after wildlife-vehicle collisions (Rosell et al., 2013).

Public

Mainers have a history deeply connected to the state’s wildlife and its usage. The big game species of Maine serve as a source of food, recreation (in the form of hunting and trapping), and income to citizens of Maine through hunting and related tourism. In addition, big game species can serve as sources of human-wildlife conflicts, with bears disturbing bird feeders and trash cans (among other sources of conflict), and with moose- and deer-vehicle collisions on the roads.

Hunters are an important public stakeholder in regards to the management of big game species. This group seeks to both preserve and conserve these species to ensure their future availability for food and sport alike. Hunters contribute financially to the conservation of big game species by funding population studies and their reliance on guides and gear salesmen. Their interest in protecting the species lies in the desire to continue hunting, a historically characteristic part of Maine.

The State of Big Game Species in Maine

This section analyzes management regimes, current threats, and key conflicts pertaining to black bears, moose, and white-tailed deer.

Black Bears

This section examines the current state of black bears in Maine by looking at management plans and major issues related to the species.

Black Bear History

Black bears inhabited the forests of Maine long before European settlers arrived in the Americas.  They lived alongside Native American tribes like the Penobscot Nation, who valued bears in folklore (Welker, 1996). Bears were hunted as a source of fat, food, and hide that helped early Mainers survive Maine’s cold winters. To kill a bear required courage and many tribes in North America honored the death of bears ceremonially (Tighem, 2013). The human-bear relationship in Maine changed with the arrival of European colonists, who viewed Native Americans as savages and treated bears as beasts that existed only for amusement purposes (Tighem, 2013)

Public attitudes towards bears in the early 20th century were heavily influenced by the classification of the black bear as a game species in the 1930s. Customarily, a zero-tolerance policy was taken toward nuisance bears and the sport hunting of the animals became common. Maine also placed bounties on bears that lasted into the 1950s (Mclaughlin, 1999). Consequently, without a bag limit it place, the bear population dwindled until there was only a fraction of the population left (Mclaughlin, 1999). This negative relationship with bears began to change during the 1970s, a decade synonymous with the environmental awareness movement, as the MDIFW began comprehensive bear biology studies (Mitchell, et al., 1991). Bear management and the hunting legislation that followed was thereafter influenced by research conducted on bear biology (Mclaughlin, 1998). For example, in 1990, after bear biologist estimated the population to be declining, the hunting season of bears was shortened to limit harvest size (MDIFW, 2014i).

Black Bear Management

Bear management influenced by intensive studies of bear biology, movements, and habitat helped to create harvest goals to healthily maintain the population. As a result, the bear population thrived, growing from 18,000 individuals in 1980 to 30,000 in 2014  (MDIFW, 2014b). The MDIFW supports bear hunting as the best management practice to keep the growing bear population under control. Bear hunting is carried out annually during an 8-week season through a variety of hunting methods.              

There are four main methods used to hunt bears in Maine: still-hunting, hounding, trapping, and baiting. Of these methods hounding, trapping, and baiting account for over 93% of all bears harvested. In 2013, 2,632 of the 2,845 bears registered were caught using one of the three previously mentioned techniques. In an effort to protect the stability of the bear population, the state has very strict rules pertaining to the execution of each method (MDIFW, 2014). Below are examples of these rules along with a description of each method using information provided by the MDIFW during the 2014 hunting season.

(1) Hounding (September 8th to October 31st) refers to the use of trained dogs to pursue bears and chase them up a tree so that the hunter can have a clear shot. The MDIFW regulates that no more than 6 dogs be used at any one time and that dogs not be within 500 yards of solid waste disposal sites.

(2) Trapping (September 1st to October 31st) involves the use of a cable trap (foot snare) fitted to the size of an adult bear’s leg in order to avoid the capture of younger bears and other wildlife. Hunters are required to check their traps daily. However, this regulation permits bears to be left in traps for many hours at a time.

(3) Baiting refers to the deliberate placement of food, such doughnuts and granola, in order to entice bears to a particular area where they can be harvested. Bait can be placed as early as July 26th although bears cannot be harvested at bait sites until the start of the season (August 25th to September 20th). Regulations require that bait be placed more than 500 yards away from any solid waste disposal site or campground and at least 50 yards from any travel way that is accessible by a vehicle.

(4) Still-hunting is permitted throughout the general hunting season (August 25th to November 29th) and is thought of as a more traditional hunting method because it refers to the stalking of a bear accompanied by a firearm or crossbow. The MDIFW require every harvested bear be inspected by a game warden prior to registration in order to determine the sex of the bear. Additionally, a licensed hunter is only allowed to take two bears during the season (one by hunting, one by trapping).

On average bear hunting in Maine generates approximately $65 million each year (Lavigne, 2014). This statistic includes revenue acquired from hunting guides, all necessary equipment sales, and secondary expenditures and services. In 2013, out-of-state hunters bought over 66% of all bear hunting licenses. Most non-resident hunters hire guides which on average charge a fee of $2,000 for a week worth of service (Oxbow Lodge, 2013) The cost of acquiring a license for in-state hunters is $27 and is $74 for nonresidents. Hunters are permitted to hunt only two bears during the hunting season. Bear hunting supports 700 to 800 jobs, mostly within rural counties, and that the MDIFW generates $1.06 million annually (Lavigne, 2014). These funds are used by Maine to help pay for the comprehensive bear biology and ecology studies that have been ongoing for the past 40 years.

In the past ten years, biological studies on bears by biologists in Maine suggest that the population has risen almost 30% (MDIFW, 2014i). There are many theories that can explain the increase in black bears. One of the most obvious reasons is that bear habitat and natural food sources, such as beechnuts, have improved throughout the years (Schooley, McLaughlin, Matula Jr, & Krohn, 1994). In years of higher natural food production, mother bears may give birth to a larger number of cubs that weigh higher than average. In years of lower natural food production, bears must work harder to find food in order to provide sufficient nutrition for their cubs and survive the winter months (Seger, et al., 2013). For example, 2012 was a poor year in natural food production of bears. Hunters therefore benefited as more bears turned out to visit bait sites in search of food.

Another theory that may explain the increase in bear population is the expansion of bear habitat in Maine. Maine’s bear habitat is said to encompass 69,0050 km2 consisting of secondary growth conifer-deciduous forest that provide enough food to support the bear population and prepare the species for hibernation (Fecske et al., 2009). Since the early 20th century some studies indicate that bear habitat has been increasing in some parts of the state. For example, the 1970’s spruce budworm outbreak led loggers to clear vast tracks of forest to prevent the tree-eating insects from spreading. The new growth forest that ensued contained ideal food for black bears such as berries, sedges, and insects (Schooley et al., 1994). Though studies have predicted that Maine’s habitat could support a population of approximately 40,000 bears, the upward population trend of the species has raised concern among some bear experts (Mclaughlin, 1999).

Human-Bear Conflict

Contrary to popular belief, black bears are strong, intelligent and fast mammals that can run up to 25 miles per hour (MDIFW, 2014i). Bears are also cautious and shy towards humans when the two encounter one another under normal circumstances. But one of the most prominent characteristics of bears is that they are opportunistic animals that are drawn to food even if it takes them to a backyard setting (Fraser & Dubois, 2013). In these “unnatural” environments, bears may show signs of aggression, particularly in the springtime months following their hibernation, towards humans and domestic pets as they forage for food (Merkle, et al., 2013)

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) employees agree with hunters that harvesting bears in Maine is extremely difficult due to the large forest cover of the state. Maine is unique in the East Coast in that is has 82% forest cover (MDIFW, 2014i). Unlike the vast open areas of land that exist in states like Colorado, the dense wooded areas of Maine make it hard to spot a bear while hunting. It has been estimated that out of the 11,000 bear hunters, last year about one in four hunters were successful in Maine. The majority of bears harvested are registered in the northern half of the state (Figure 5.2).

ES493_14Figure5.2_FW

Figure 5.2 Number of Black Bear Registrations (2013) and Nuisance Complaints (2012) in Each Wildlife Management District of Maine. (Maine Office of GIS; MDIFW, 2014).

The location of areas with higher bear registrations are inversely related to the number of bear nuisance complaints that Maine receives each year (Figure 5.2). This may result from the fact that the southern half Maine contains the majority of the state’s human population, housing developments, and major highways (MOGIS, 2014). Consequently, the northern half of the state is a more desirable habitat for bears than the south. In addition to hunting bears in the northern half of the state in order to increase their chances of finding a bear, hunters may be less inclined to hunt around urban environments as a human safety concern. As the bear population increases, the MDIFW worries that without all methods for hunting the annual number of bear complaints would rise. Maine has experienced an increase in nuisance complaints from 400 to 500 a year in the past decade (MDIFW, 2014i).

Baiting, trapping, and hounding are often the target of ethical attacks by animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Green, 2014). Yet, the state defends the practices by proposing that bait sites and bear traps allow the hunter to get close to bear and deliver a clean shot, thus minimizing suffering for the animal. Similarly, hounding is described by the MDIFW as a method that allows the hunter to judge whether or not the bear should be left alone, such as a mother with cubs, or if it is a bear worth harvesting. These observations are possible because once the hounds have chased a bear up a tree its features and family unit size become visible to the hunter.

Bear hunters and the MDIFW further claim that if the bear population were to drastically increase, bears would begin to starve as a result of food scarcity and that there would be a surge in the number of bears killed in human-bear conflicts. This consequence would be the product of bolder bears venturing into urban environments in search of food. MDIFW records that Mainers kill approximately 1-12 bears annually after feeling threatened by the animals (Jennifer Vashon, Personal Communication). Baiting may help to reduce this conflict by drawing problem bears (such as the younger, curious males and older, bolder bears) that have an appetite for human foods into the woods to be harvested by hunters at bait sites.

Bear Referendum

The methods used to manage bears in Maine fueled a bear referendum in 2014 that asked voters whether or not they wished to “ban the use of bait, dogs, and traps in bear hunting except to protect public property, safety, or for research?” Mainers voted against the referendum by a margin of 53% to 47% (Dell’Amore, 2014). These results are almost identical to the outcomes of a similar referendum that did not pass in 2004 (Morell, 2014). Those most locally opposed to the referendum were the hunters, guides, and gear salesmen whose lifestyle and income stood to be directly affected. In 2014 MDIFW biologists were among the most well-voiced adversaries to the referendum. Their aggressive opposition was powered by a claim that without these hunting methods in place, Maine would lose the ability to control the bear population.

Other bear biologists and ecologists came forward in an attempt to argue that the current hunting practices encourage negative human-bear relations. For example, studies support the notion that bait sites can lead to the spread of disease as multiple individuals share a single food source (CCWHC, 2003). Additionally, because hunters are allowed to leave bait sites active for several weeks, and cannot be expected to monitor a site around the clock, other species could be taking advantage of the food provided and further spread diseases.

Baiting could also have serious implications on bear behavior because hunters are allowed to place bait out for approximately four weeks before they can harvest bears and because they are not required to record the amount of bait that they place at sites (MDIFW, 2014c). For example, bait sites attract multiple bears to an area to feed on a steady supply of high caloric foods. Bait sites in other states have been thought to influence changes among bears such as a reduction in home range, an increase in body mass, and an increase in bear density around bait sites (Beckmann & Berger, 2003). Therefore, to proponents of the referendum, the question was not whether baits sites can feed the entire population of bear in Maine, but whether these sites are affecting the bear population and management goals negatively.

Bear referendum supporters also used science as they looked to states such as Washington and Oregon that have banned bear baiting and seen a positive reaction in their bear management plans (TWS, 2006). These states found it contradictory to ask citizens to refrain from feeding bears in their backyards while simultaneously allowing hunters to do so; once a bear has grown accustomed to human food it will continue relying on humans for food. In Maine hunting regulations allow bait sites occasionally to be placed in close proximity to human dwellings, which could entice some bears to think of humans as a source of food. One estimate suggests that each year 7 million pounds of bait foods are placed in Maine woods for the sake of sport hunting (TWS, 2006).

Animal rights activists also tried using a moral approach to persuade politicians, forest-dependent business owners, and the public to care about the issue of how bears are hunted in Maine. Many hunters in favor of the referendum were quoted as saying that they did not believe that bear baiting, hounding and trapping is a sign of true sportsmanship (Morell, 2014). In comparison to all of New England, Maine is the only state that allows the trapping of black bears (Table 5.2). This practice has been outlawed in all other states often because it is thought of as an unfair way for hunters to kill a bear (EOEA, 2014). In regards to trapping, though many state wildlife departments around the country use trapping equipment, the practice causes the animals extreme stress and discomfort (Green, 2014). Similarly, bears have been known to attack packs of hunting dogs because the act of being chased causes bears to feel stressed and threatened (Gore, 2003). Therefore, the argument against trapping and hounding, and baiting is supported by the idea that they are outdated and inhumane methods of hunting.

Table 5.2 Black Bear Population and Harvest Data in New England 2013 (MDIFW, 2013; RIDEM, 2013; NHFH, 2013; DEEP, 2013; EOEA, 2013).

StateEstimated PopulationBears HarvestedHoundsBaitTrappingStalking and Unreported% of Bears Harvested
Maine30000284547920481052139.5
Vermont4500556127--42912.3
Massachusetts4000148---1483.7
New Hampshire500057098309-16311.4
Rhode Island10No Hunting-----
Connecticut350No Hunting-----

Finally, according to supporters of the 2014 bear referendum campaign, the 2004 referendum had funding leverage that led to its defeat (Green, 2014). The ballot results of both 2004 and 2014 speak generously to the role of political funding in the management of black bears in Maine. During the 2014 referendum both sides of the debate raised millions of dollars to fund their campaigns (Green, 2014). The same year, proponents of the referendum sued the State for using tax dollars to fund and influence the decision of voters in their pro-hunting propaganda (Fleming, 2014a). The judge in charge of the case ruled, “MDIFW employees could campaign on the bear-hunting issue because their free speech is protected under the First Amendment.” The judge also ruled that the MDIFW’s use of funds in their campaign to oppose the referendum did not cause “irreparable injury” (Fleming, 2014a).  This court case highlights the passion and commitment of all stakeholders involved in the debate over the use of methods to hunt bear in Maine.

Moose

This section examines the current state of moose in Maine by looking at management plans and major issues related to the species.

Moose Management in Maine

History of Moose Management

No animal is more symbolic and representative of Maine than the moose, as can be attested by its adoption as the state animal and its presence on the state flag. The early explorers of New England wrote of the plentiful abundance of moose during the 1600s (MDIFW, 2014f). However, with the introduction of European hunting methods—mainly guns—the moose population began to thin out beginning in the 17th century.

Prior to 1830, no laws existed to restrict the harvest of moose. Moose were hunted year-round and without a bag limit (MDIFW, 2014f). In 1830, the state government passed a law that established a moose hunting season that lasted for a two-month period. At this time, game wardens were assigned by the State to oversee and regulate hunting (MDIFW, 2014b). The legislature continually introduced stricter hunting regulations relating to hunting season length, bag limit, and the taking of cows and calves (Morris, 1999). Between 1875 and 1935, hunting seasons regularly fluctuated between closed and open seasons because no concrete management plan had yet been established.

Statewide populations had declined to around 2,000 individuals by the early 1900s (MDIFW, 2014f). The suspected causes of this decline include brain worm infestation, unrestricted hunting, and the rapid clearing of forests for farmland (MDIFW, 2014e). Concerns over declining moose populations resulted in increased hunting restrictions and ultimately led to a legal ban on hunting in 1935. Moose populations began to rise because of stricter hunting laws and from the reversion of farmland back to forest, which increased moose habitat areas and food abundance (MDIFW, 2014e).

As the population increased, state lawmakers took legislative action to reestablish the moose hunt. Several bills were introduced between 1943 and 1979, but all were ultimately defeated (MDIFW, 2014e). In 1979, a moose hunting bill was signed into law and allowed the state government to allot up to 700 permits to resident hunters for use during the last week of September in 1980 (Morris, 1999). However, the newly implemented law failed to outline a proper management plan. It did not seek to distribute hunting pressure, so hunters primarily hunted east of Moosehead Lake, which is a popular area for moose viewing. As a result, the number of moose killed was very high in that specific area and led to public concern over improper hunting management (Morris, 1999). This prompted government officials to reevaluate the newly implemented moose hunt. Between 1980 and the present day, moose management has been continuously progressed and developed to better control the state’s populations.

Current Management Plan of Moose

Maine’s moose management is an important part of the state’s overall wildlife management plans. When the Big Game Public Working Group established Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) in 2000, they established a much more comprehensive set of goals in comparison to previous management attempts. Their objective was simply to maintain the population of moose at the 1985 level (Morris, 2002). These goals are continually developed through a public process that involves relevant stakeholders, including groups seeking to increase moose hunting and groups seeking to increase moose viewing, both of which are of high economic importance to Maine (Wattles & DeStefano, 2011).

Each WMD is coupled with goals and objectives for the moose management plan. In regards to moose management, the WMDs are placed in three categories according to management goals (Morris, 2002). Known as the Moose Management Areas, the categories include Recreation Management, Road Safety, and Compromise Management (Figure 5.3). In the Recreation Management Areas, the goal is to maintain the population at 60% of carrying capacity in order to maximize hunting and viewing opportunities. In the Road Safety Areas, the sole objective is to reduce the number of crashes involving moose. In the Compromise Management Area, the goal is to reduce the population by a third in order to successfully balance recreation opportunities and safety concerns (Morris, 2002). Recreational hunting is the main tool used to achieve population objectives in the WMDs (Morris, 2002).

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Figure 5.3 Moose Management Areas in Maine.

For most of the WMDs, the objective is to maintain the population at 55-65% of carrying capacity (Morris, 2001). Carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals that can live successfully in a habitat with sufficient amounts of food and space. It was determined that at this level, the allowable harvest would be maximized, while limiting significant habitat impacts (Morris, 2002). One of the biggest problems is determining accurate population numbers in order to ensure that the population actually remains at this desired level. Without knowing the precise population within a management area, it is very difficult to determine the ideal carrying capacity and an applicable management plan.

Population Estimates

Estimating the population of any animal species is difficult, and the moose is no different. In general, moose habitat and populations in Maine are higher in density in the north and west where human population density is lower. Moose are distributed statewide, but are most abundant in the northern, western, and eastern regions of the state where climate and habitat conditions are more ideal (Wattles & DeStefano, 2011). Maine has the largest moose population in the lower 48 states (Fleming, 2013).

To obtain more accurate population numbers, the MDIFW, in 2009, reevaluated their previous efforts and undertook an approach that would better identify moose populations throughout the state. The MDIFW received a grant from Maine’s Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF) to fund the project. This initiative utilizes a double count technique that is conducted in helicopters during the winter months in order to survey moose populations over northern and eastern Maine (Kantar & Cumberland, 2013). For this survey technique, two observers are situated in the front and back of the helicopter. They independently record the number of moose they observe and report their collected data to the recorder, a third individual in the helicopter. This approach was designed in collaboration with the New Brunswick (Canada) Department of Natural Resources (Kantar, 2012).

In 2012, wildlife officials, based on the innovative aerial survey approach, identified the moose population to be around 76,000 individuals, which is more than double the previous estimate of 29,000-31,000 individuals (MDIFW, 2014g; Baker, 2013; Fleming, 2013). More recently, however, state wildlife officials have reduced the number of individuals residing in the state. Current population estimates (as of 2014) identify the moose population to be around 60,000-70,000 individuals (MDIFW, 2014g; Whittle, 2014).

Moose Hunting in Maine

Hunting is a significant and integral component of moose management in Maine. In 2013, moose hunting alone contributed over $20 million to Maine’s state economy (MOT & MDIFW, 2014). Maine has a vested economic interest in maintaining the practice of recreational moose hunting. Due to its importance, moose hunting is a highly regulated practice in Maine.

Hunting is regulated by the MDIFW under a framework established by the legislature (Morris, 1999). The size of the allowable harvest is dictated by the population objectives for each WMD set by the Big Game Public Working Group (Morris, 2002). Only individuals who possess a valid moose hunting permit (and their subpermittee) are legally allowed to hunt moose. Hunting permits are distributed through a highly competitive lottery process, where only about 6-7% of the applicant pool is granted a permit each year (MDIFW, 2014g). Recently, the state has seen an overall decline in permit applications. The number of applicants entering the lottery has dropped by over 27% since 2004 (Whittles, 2014).

Both residents and non-residents of Maine are allowed to apply for a permit, but no more than 10% of the total number of allotted permits are issued to nonresidents of the state (MDIFW, 2014e; MDIFW, 2014f). Any individual that is granted a moose hunting permit is required to wait three years before reentering the lottery (MDIFW, 2014g). This is done to ensure that all applicants are provided a more equal opportunity in the lottery. Applicants indicate his or her preferred season, WMD location, and type of permit. There are five different hunting periods within a single season in which hunters are legally allowed to utilize their permit (MDIFW, 2014e).

Hunters are able to apply for three types of hunting permits: bull only permit, antlerless only permit, and any-moose permit. A bull only permit holder is allowed to hunt bull moose, which are defined as a moose with antlers longer in size than their ears. Antlerless only permit holders are allowed to harvest a moose without antlers or a moose with antlers shorter in size than their ears. An any-moose permit holder may shoot a moose of either sex. All Permit holders have a bag limit of one moose per year (MDIFW 2014b; MDIFW, 2014g). Typically, moose hunting success (the number of allotted permits divided by the total number of registered moose kills) lies around 75% (Figure 5.4).

Figure 5.4 Number of Allotted Hunting Permits and Number of Moose Harvested Per Year (MDIFW, 2005-2013).

In Maine, moose can legally be hunted with rifles, shotguns, handguns, muzzleloaders, bow and arrows, or crossbows. All other forms of take methods, including shotguns with shot loads and .22 caliber rim fire firearms, are illegal (MDIFW, 2014e). It is estimated that legal and illegal harvesting of moose accounts for 2,000-3,000 deaths per year (Gagnon, 2014). The majority of moose are harvested in northern WMDs (Figure 5.5).

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Figure 5.5 Number of Moose Registrations in each Wildlife Management District in Maine for the 2013 Hunting Season.

The number of permits given out by the MDIFW has fluctuated over time but has increased in recent years. However, from 2013 to 2014, Maine reduced the number of allotted permits by 25% (Gagnon, 2014). This was a decision based on data that indicated the winter mortality rate of moose was three times higher than average, which has been attributed to the increase in winter tick infestations. The MDIFW decreased the amount of permits in the hopes that it would offset the impact of winter ticks on the state’s moose populations (Fleming, 2014b).

Although recreational hunting has largely been successful in maintaining ideal moose populations, some areas of the state require additional hunting to achieve desired management goals. Beginning in 2009, the MDIFW established an annual controlled moose hunt located in eastern Aroostook County in Northern Maine. The MDIFW created this localized hunting management approach to maintain acceptable populations in areas of high conflict (Kantar, 2011). The controlled hunt is separate from Maine’s regular recreational moose hunting season and the moose taken during this hunt do not count towards the regular hunt’s harvesting limits. In eastern Aroostook County, abundant moose populations have lead to increased instances of human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs). The moose population in that region are negatively impacting broccoli and cauliflower harvest rates and leading to high rates of moose-vehicle collisions (MVCs). Over the past decade, the state officials increased the number of hunting permits for antlerless moose to drive down birth rates and reduce moose densities (Fleming, 2013).

During the 2014 controlled hunt, 25 moose hunting permits were distributed (Smith, 2014). Thus far, the controlled hunt has helped to alleviate some of the major issues in the area and has allowed for the MDIFW to successfully meet population objectives for the WMDs in the area (MDIFW, 2014h). As a result of this hunt, the density of moose population in the region has decreased from five individuals per square mile to two to three individuals per square mile (Fleming, 2013).

Moose-Vehicle Collisions

One of the biggest issues relating to moose populations in Maine is the frequent occurrence of Moose-Vehicle Collisions (MVCs) throughout the state. Although moose are not the most common animals involved in car collisions, due to their large size they are of major concern (MaineDOT, 2014b). Over a five-year period, from 2009 to 2013, there were a total of 2,179 MVCs (MaineDOT, 2014a). These collisions resulted in an estimated economic loss of $54 million dollars (MaineDOT, 2014a).

MVCs have been known to cause serious injury and even death to vehicle passengers. In general, MVCs are most abundant in the northern part of the state (Figure 5.6). This is likely a result of higher moose populations in that area (Wattles & DeStefano, 2011). From 2009 to 2013, there were a total of 6 fatalities and 389 serious injuries, amounting to around 18% of total MVCs (MaineDOT, 2014a).

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Figure 5.6 Points of Moose-Vehicle Collisions in Maine Between 2009 and 2013 (Maine DOT, 2014).

A major debate regarding moose management is how to prevent moose from crossing roadways in areas that are more affected by MVCs. The biggest issue facing moose-vehicle collision management is whether to focus on increasing road safety or decreasing the moose populations in areas particularly vulnerable to HWC. In some management districts, moose permits have increased to control the populations where the species has become a hazard or a problem (MaineDOT, 2014b). According to the most recent Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) publication, current harvest levels may not be sufficiently addressing these issues (Morris, 2002). The aforementioned controlled moose hunt has been a recent management approach to better achieve population goals in WMDs characterized by high rates of MVCs.

Although controlling moose populations is important for road safety management, increasing drivers’ ability to detect potential wildlife hazards is also essential. Historically, public outreach has been the main tool utilized by the state to reduce the number of road accidents involving moose. The MDIFW and Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) have created public service announcements and utilized the media to increase awareness (Morris, 1999; MaineDOT, 2014a). This approach has proven to be somewhat successful. The number of annual MVCs has decreased over the past decade by over 37%; however, these collisions continue to pose a threat to public safety, as they can be highly fatal (Fleming, 2013; MaineDOT, 2014a).

More recently, attempts to increase road safety have been the main approach to minimize the amount of MVCs that occur each year in Maine. The MaineDOT has spearheaded numerous mitigation projects in an attempt to reduce accidents on state roadways. The MaineDOT has collaborated with the MDIFW to identify possible management solutions to reduce MVCs. The MaineDOT has installed more ground signage warning drivers of areas known for high rates of MVCs and has cleared vegetation on the roadside to ensure better peripheral visibility (MaineDOT, 2014a).

The MaineDOT has recently installed large moose warning signs with flashing lights that activate when a vehicle approaches. They have also installed reflector poles and motion-activated street lamps that help to improve road visibility during dusk and dawn (Bayly, 2014; MDOT, 2014a). Improving road visibility is crucial to improve driving safety, as around 80% of moose-vehicle collisions occur between dusk and dawn (Fleming, 2013). These projects have shown varying degrees of success so far, with some projects only minimally decreasing MVCs on roadways (Bayly, 2014). The high cost of investment, mostly associated with technology, has also limited the number of projects implemented to date. However, MaineDOT officials, in collaboration with other research and governmental organizations, are continuing to address road safety issues related to MVCs.

Biological Threats to Moose Populations

Moose populations are threatened by a number of different biological factors. There are three major parasites that can lead to moose mortality: brain worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis), winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus), and lungworm (Dictyocaulus spp.) (Morris, 1999; MDIFW, 2014e). Brain worm infestation almost always leads to death, winter tick infestation may potentially lead to death, while lung worm infestation does not often result in mortality. Recent data suggests that these parasites, specifically winter tick, are reducing moose populations in Maine and are more deadly than previously believed. Moose populations may crash if high tick abundance is coupled with harsh winter conditions and poor nutrition (Morris, 1999; Fleming, 2014b). Due to their small body size, calves are most affected by winter ticks and lungworms when overwintering for the first time (Gagnon, 2014).

Currently, this influx of winter ticks is heavily impacting moose populations throughout the state. In the fall of 2013, state wildlife biologists recorded one of the highest tick counts in the past ten years (Fleming, 2014b). Climate change has been cited as one of the main reasons for the increase in ticks. Shorter winters have lengthened tick lifespan and boosted the winter tick population, which is killing off moose at an alarming rate (Fleming, 2014b; Gagnon, 2014). State biologists have seen a sharp decline in moose populations and, as a result, have reduced population numbers by around 10,000 individuals from 2012 to 2014 (Whittle, 2014).

Comparison of Maine’s Management Approach to Other States/Regions

In the Northeast United States, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York currently have documented resident moose populations (Wattles & DeStefano, 2011). New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are at the southernmost edge of moose habitat range in eastern North America, and, as a result, have lower moose populations than northern states and regions. In addition, Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nova Scotia) to the north of Maine also have robust moose populations (Table 5.3).

Table 5.3 Moose Populations in Maine and Surrounding Area (MDIFW, 2014; NHFGD, 2005; Wattles, 2011; MDFG, 2014; NYSDEC, 2011; CBC News, 2014; NCC, 2014).

State/RegionEstimated Population
Maine60,000-70,000
Quebec, Canada120000
New Brunswick, Canada29000
New Hampshire6500
Nova Scotia, Canada1000
Connecticut75
Massachusetts850-950
New York500-800
Vermont3,000-4,000

Like Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire both have well-established and successful moose populations that are socially, ecologically, and economically important. In these states, moose are utilized for wildlife viewing, tourism, and hunting permits, all of which generate millions of dollars annually for state governments. Recreational wildlife activities, of which moose are a central attraction, provide around $300 million to New Hampshire’s state economy and $600 million to Vermont’s state economy (USDOI et al., 2011a; USDOI et al., 2011b).

However, both Vermont and New Hampshire are seeing significant declines in moose populations, likely due to parasite infestations. Vermont has seen a decrease from 5,000 to 2,500 individuals between 2005 and 2013, while New Hampshire has seen a decrease from 7,600 to 4,400 individuals between 1996 and 2013 (Pendak, 2013). Thus far, moose in Maine have been less affected by the winter tick than the populations in New Hampshire (Scheerer, 2013). This is likely because the moose in New Hampshire are living in southernmost limit of their habitat range and are more likely to be attacked by warm-weather parasites like ticks. Although Maine has not yet experienced this significant impact, it may eventually become a serious issue due to increasing tick infestations. This impending threat has led some Maine state biologists to take notice of the issue due to both states’ close geographic proximities (Scheerer, 2013).

Ticks are much less of an issue in the northern parts of moose territory, where temperatures are colder. In North America, the majority of moose territory is located in Canada. Although Canada provides ideal habitat due to its more northern latitude, Nova Scotia has seen a decline in moose populations and has even classified them as endangered in the region (CBCNews, 2014). This decrease in moose abundance has been linked to overhunting, parasitic influx, and loss of habitat (Evans, 2014). Although there have been several initiatives to protect the moose population and facilitate its regrowth, the population has failed to rebound thus far, possibly as a consequence of wildlife mismanagement.

New Brunswick, Canada approaches moose management in a similar way to Maine. New Brunswick is divided into 27 wildlife management zones and each zone has a certain number of designated permit allocations (NBDNR, 2013). This is to ensure that moose hunting is evenly distributed and no local populations are excessively harvested. Like Maine, New Brunswick is subject to a significant amount of Moose-vehicle collisions (MVCs) per year. While Maine has sought to utilize new, advanced technology to improve highway safety, New Brunswick has taken another approach to the issue. New Brunswick, along with Quebec, has focused heavily on installing hundreds of miles of highway fencing to prevent moose from entering onto the roadway. The installation of this simple safety measure has been highly successful in reducing the number of MVCs on the highways (Bailey, 2014). Although Maine does have some fencing on highways, the installation of road fences has not been a major approach to reducing MVCs.

Two Canadian government agencies, the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, are an example of the potential benefits of cross-governmental collaboration. In 2012, the two governments developed a conservation plan known as the “moose sex corridor” that connects Nova Scotia to New Brunswick (CBCNews, 2014). The project seeks to encourage migration of New Brunswick’s abundant and healthy moose population to mainland Nova Scotia where the moose has been labeled as endangered since 2003 (CBCNews, 2014). The goal is to facilitate easier movement by decreasing fragmented habitats as well as to preserve and increase the population of moose in the two regions.

White-tailed Deer

This section examines the current state of deer in Maine by looking at management plans and major issues related to the species.

A Brief History of Deer in Maine

More has been written and studied about the white-tailed deer than any other species in Maine, although its arrival in the state only dates back to the early-mid 1800s (Banasiak, 1961). It is a commonly and historically held belief that it’s the deer’s northern arrival is due in part to the complete eradication of the wolf in Maine by the 1890s. In severe winters, wolves would have successfully hunted deer, but in their absence, deer are able to roam free much further north than their historical range (Allen, 1923). While human settlement of Maine moved north in the 19th century, people became the largest predator of deer in Maine. Since then, deer have become the principle big game species in Maine and a major addition to the state’s economy, with most recent estimates placing the value of the annual deer hunt at over $200 million a year in the late 1990s (MDIFW, 2011c).

Deer Hunting in Maine

Early Deer Management in Maine: 1826 to 1919

The first recorded attempt at deer management in Maine occurred in 1826, when the first official designation for a deer and moose hunting season was set up by the State – but there was no established bag limit until almost 50 years later in 1873, when the State implemented a three deer a year limit (MDIFW, 2009). Twenty years later, the State started the first attempt at a licensing system, called “The September Law”. For $4.00 for a resident and $6.00 for a non-resident, hunters could kill one deer (for food purposes only) during the month of September (Carleton et al., 1900). At the time, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game (now the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW)) recognized the need to conserve Maine’s fish and game for future generations (Carleton et al., 1900). However, the Law was vastly unpopular amongst most game hunters of the time. They believed that it eradicated many of the deer that would have been available for taking at other normal hunting times, and thus it was repealed in 1901 – making it impossible to legally kill a deer for any purpose during the month of September (Carleton, 1901). In 1919, the State implemented the first resident hunting license, costing 25 cents. The license was legal for the lifetime of the registered hunter, and it was in this year where license totals and deer registrations were first recorded (MDIFW, 2009).

Harvest Trends

Peak deer harvests occurred in the 1950s, at a time when deer were relatively abundant (275,000 deer wintered in Maine in the late 1950s), and either-sex deer hunting regulations were in effect. At that time, annual harvests averaged 38,000 deer; hunters registered a record 41,000 deer during 1951, 1959 and 1968. During more recent times, overall deer harvests have been lower, ranging from 18,092 annually to 38,153 deer over the past 15 years (MDIFW, 2013a).

Any-Deer Permit System

In 1986, the MDIFW established the Any-Deer permit system, and it is the system which is still in place today. With the framework of the system, hunters who wish to kill either a doe or a fawn (any antlerless deer) must possess an Any-Deer permit, each of which is specific to one WMD. Permits may be issued in a more conservative manner within individual WMDs, such as allowing for bucks-only permits, to a more liberal manner, in which Any-Deer permits are issued to all who apply (Lavigne, 1999). This freedom of issuance within individual WMDs is intended to allow for the achievement of set population objectives on a district-by-district basis (Lavigne, 1999).

Registrations

Every harvested deer in Maine must be tagged and registered at one of the 450 registration stations throughout the state. For every deer, the hunter’s name, residence, hunter’s license number, permit number, date and time of license issue, date, time, town and WMD of kill, and sex/age class of the deer is recorded; then, a tag is attached to the deer and recorded. The data collected from these registration stations has allowed for statewide harvest levels to be recorded from 1919 to the present, town harvest summaries from 1939 to the present, and WMD harvest summaries from 1963 to the present as well (MDIFW, 2007) (Figure 5.7). However, the system is not without its faults. Recording errors and inaccurate sex and age designations are not uncommon, as registration operators receive no biological training, and registration data can be lost or turned in too late for analysis (MDIFW, 2007).

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Figure 5.7 Number of Deer Registrations in each Wildlife Management District in Maine for the 2013 Hunting Season (Maine Office of GIS; MDIFW, 2014).

2014 Hunting Season

In 2014, the firearms season for deer hunting opened on November 3rd and closed November 29th. Maine Resident Only Day occurred on November 1st, Youth Deer Day on October 25th, and Archery from October 2nd to October 31st. The Muzzleloader statewide season amongst all WMDs ran from December 1st to December 6th, and the Expanded Archery Season in designated areas ran from September 6th to December 13th. Any hunter with a permit may take only one deer with antlers longer than three inches between November 1st and December 13th; hunters with Any-Deer permits could take any deer in designated WMDs. Additional deer during participation in the aforementioned Expanded Archery Season or by any hunter holding a bonus antlerless deer permit or superpack antlerless deer permit (MDIFW, 2014i).

Hunting Success Rates

Success rates of deer have fluctuated over the years; since the establishment of the Any-Deer permit system in 1986, hunting success rates have ranged from a low of 11.9% in the years between 1983 and 1989, which were years of transition between either-sex hunting and the new system. Hunting success rate is calculated by dividing the number of deer registrations by the number of hunters who participated in the season and multiplying by 100. Since 1990, the deer population and number of have increased – thus increasing the success rate. Between 1990 and 1996, statewide success rates increased from 13-16%, and in the years between 1997 and 2003, the success rate was 18.2% (MDIFW, 2007) (Figure 5.8). Most recently, during the hunting seasons between 2011 and 2013, success rates have averaged 24.3%, but it is important to note that hunter success rates are currently estimated through random surveying of the hunting community. Thus, associated biases may be present and numbers may not be completely accurate; however, they are the best estimates currently available (Kyle Ravana, personal communication).

Figure 5.8 Maine Deer Harvest Success Rates, 1930-1998 (Lavigne, 1999).

Current Population

The most recent data indicates deer occur in the highest density in Wildlife Management District (WMD) 29 at 22.3 deer/mi2. This WMD is located along the southern coast of the state and contains all coastal islands seaward of the first upstream bridge which are not connected to the mainland at low tide or by manmade structures (MDIFW, 2013b).

Deer Wintering Areas in Maine

Deer Wintering Areas as Critical Habitat

Currently, 94% of Maine’s land area (excluding developed parts of the state) is considered deer habitat (MDIFW, 2014i). Areas appropriate for wintering habitat, however, comprise dense conifer stands with trees of heights greater than 35 feet and crown or canopy closure greater than 60% have been found to intercept and reduce snow depths by 40% compared to hardwood stands of similar height and crown closures; their needles catch more snowflakes than the hardwood branches (MDIFW, 2011a). These deer wintering areas (DWAs) provide critical habitat and protection for deer at the northernmost limit of their range in Maine, where, in severe winters, mortality throughout the season may reach as high as 30%, with average winter mortality rates around 10%. Deer utilize wintering habitat for approximately three to five months every winter, when snow depths exceed 12 inches. Deer movement is considered restricted when snow depths exceed 16 inches, allowing for increased predation by coyotes, bobcats, and humans alike. Protection of critical wintering habitat is a major focus of the Department’s deer management activities, as in Maine winter severity is the greatest factor causing deer mortality (MDIFW, 2011b).

Deer Wintering Area Loss

In northern Maine, DWAs are larger but more widely spread than those in southern Maine (Figure 5.9). During the 1950s, 12% of the area in northern and eastern Maine contained optimal deer wintering habitat (amounting to almost 900,000 acres) and deer used more than 2,900 individual wintering areas (Ditchkoff et al., 2002). Deer overpopulated and overbrowsed those wintering areas because of the relative abundance of the white-tailed deer in the area (Lavigne, 2011). Zoning by Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) for white-tailed deer formally protects approximately 190,000 acres (2-3% of land area) of DWAs. Since 1975, the mature, dense conifer habitat upon which deer rely for protection in winter has declined by 50% from 10% to 5% despite the zoning efforts (Harrison, 2008). From 1974 to 1988, a spruce budworm epidemic decimated the deer wintering areas, damaging around 9 million acres of spruce-fir forest and killing 21% of all fir trees in the state (Lavigne, 2011). Logging increases of softwood forests and deterioration of the state’s balsam fir stands have further contributed to the land area decrease. With the removal of these forests comes increased snow depths, which in turn decrease deer mobility; with this decreased mobility comes malnutrition and increased levels of predation (MDIFW, 2007). As DWAs continue to decline in both quality and quantity, snowfall levels in Maine winters are increasing; the winter of 1971 alone caused a 35% decline in Maine’s deer populations, and three more of the most severe winters of the past 60 years occurred in 2001, 2007, and 2008 (MDIFW, 2011c; Lavigne, 2011).

ES493_14_Figure5.9_FW

Figure 5.9 Deer Wintering Areas (Maine Office of GIS 2014).

Providing Food for Survival

During the winter months, deer depend on their fat reserves and energy expenditure minimization to survive. The leaves of the northern white cedar trees are able to sustain deer during this time, but in the absence of white cedar, litterfall, comprising twigs and lichens, can act as a secondary food source – accounting for almost 50% of deer’s winter diet in certain cases (MDIFW, 2011a). While deer assemble in these yards for protection and food, they are physically unable to increase or even maintain the body weight accumulated over the previous year. Travel corridors created and maintained by wintering deer play an important role in energy and calorie conservation, as the less calories the deer exert to move to areas of new browse and litterfall, the more calories they can conserve (Wiley et al., 2010). To be successful winter habitat for deer, DWAs require travel corridors within and among them. Traditionally, travel corridors for deer follow along streams, ridgelines, and valleys, and are wide enough to provide sheltered travel ways as well as to provide a direct route to other winter shelter habitat with more available browse (MDIFW, 2011a).Reduction of the quality of DWAs has a direct effect on deer survival in winter months; records from the MDIFW indicate that mortality rates among deer in winter months have increased at similar levels of winter severity over the past three decades in northern and eastern Maine (Lavigne, 2011).

The Winter Severity Index

The Winter Severity Index (WSI) is “a numerical index that utilizes weekly measurements of snow depth, deer sinking depth in snow, and temperature using a formula that relates to relative mobility in yarding areas, and the impact of low temperatures on deer” (Lavigne, 2011). There is a trend between the location of a WMD and its WSI – this makes sense considering the fact that as one moves north, winters tend to be colder and have more snowfall at higher latitudes. However, the intensity of winter in any given area leads to the assumption that the further north and the more intense the winter, the more of a need for quality wintering habitat for the deer that do live further north.

Deer-Vehicle Collisions in Maine

Impacts

Deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) between 2006 and 2010 in Maine accounted for 14,852 reported crashes, or 80.6% of total animal collisions during the study time. Although none were fatal to drivers, many did result in human injuries ranging in severity from minor to incapacitating. In addition to human and deer injury, deer crashes over the five-year span cost the State an estimated $54 million dollars, over 40% of the entire economic loss to Maine due to animal crashes (MaineDOT, 2011).

Incidents

The number of DVCs in Maine peaks in June and November. Annually, deer mortalities due to collisions with motor vehicles have fluctuated between 2,500 and 4,000 deer statewide over the past decade (MDIFW, 2011c). November is known as “Deer Collision Month” in Maine due to the change from feeding to breeding season and accounts for over half of Maine’s deer collisions (MaineDOT, 2014a; MDIFW, 2013a). In 1982, only 1,800 deer deaths from vehicle collisions were reported, but in 1998 the number of reported incidents jumped to more than 5,600 (Lavigne, 1999). The decrease in reported incidents since 2000 may be because of the decreased deer population in recent years, or the extreme severity of the aforementioned winters of 2001, 2007, and 2008 since trends in road-kills parallel trends for deer populations (Sage et al., 1983). However, population density is not the only source of increased or decreased deer-vehicle collisions; road density, traffic volume, development, and speed limit all influence the risk of collision (Lavigne, 1999).

Reporting Discrepancies

Many deer mortalities and collisions are never reported to the Maine Department of Transportation; thus, it is difficult to discern what the true cost of vehicle collisions is to the deer population. Deer killed in DVCs represent additional losses to the deer population of Maine and they also reduce allowable harvest during the hunting season (MDIFW, 2011c).

Common Collision Areas

The majority of deer collisions in Maine occur in the southern area of the state. This may be due to a number of factors. The population density in northern Maine is significantly less than that in southern Maine and along the coastline, averaging between 1-19 people per square mile compared to the south and the coastline’s 20-500 people per square mile, thus resulting in more cars on the road and more opportunity for deer-vehicle collisions to occur (US Census, 2010). The road density in the south is therefore also higher (Figure 5.10).Deer densities are also higher along the coastline and in the southern area of the state, with 12-15 deer per square mile along the coast and 17-22 per square mile further inland compared to the northern density of 2-4 deer per square mile (Kantar, 2007).

FW_20141029_DeerVehicleCollisions

Figure 5.10 Points of Deer-Vehicle Collisions in Maine Between 2009 and 2013 (Maine DOT, 2014).

Other Threats to Deer

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal prion (neurological) disease of North American ungulates first described in the 1970s (Gilch et al., 2011) Since its establishment as a disease, CWD has increased numerically and spread geographically, reaching infection rates as high as 50% in free-ranging and 90% in captive deer herds in areas of the US and Canada. It is the most contagious prion infection affecting deer and is spread through contact with urine, feces, and/or saliva of an infected individual (Gilch et al., 2011). No cure exists, and once detected within a population, management usually entails drastic population reductions and culls. Detection stems primarily from the testing of hunter-killed individuals, as the price of collecting the deer is already paid by the hunter, the animal is already dead, and samples can be readily collected from an extensive geographical area (Diefenbach et al., 2004).

Symptoms include chronic weight loss, “[isolation from] herd, listlessness, blank facial expression, head drooping, loss of muscle control, … hyperexciteability, nervousness, … hypersalivation, teeth grinding, increased urination and drinking lots of water” (7 MRS §1821).

While Maine has remained free of the disease as of yet, in 1999 legislation established a Maine Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program, intended to detect the presence or the absence of the disease in Maine’s captive deer populations, prevent the introduction of infected deer from other states, and to eradicate CWD from captive populations if it should be found in Maine (7 MRS §1821). Six to eight-thousand deer are tested annually in Maine, and no deer has tested positive since the Program’s inception.

Predation

The principal carnivorous predator of deer in New England is the coyote. Once wolves were extirpated from the area, coyotes are widely believed to have taken their place. Coyotes use the herding tendencies of deer within DWAs to their advantage, preying in and around the areas containing fragmented deer populations in the winter months. The vulnerability of deer to coyote predation increases in the winter months when deeper snow and their delicate nutritional situation preclude them from quickly escaping the predator (Pekins & Tarr, 2008). Coyotes usually avoid hunting adult deer outside of the winter months and prey instead on fawns and smaller deer; coyotes may account for nearly 50% of fawn mortality in the first year (Long et al., 1998).

Black bears are also well-known predators of newborn fawns, while very occasionally preying on adults (Harrison, 2007). In North America as a whole, bear predation may account for 20-60% of all fawn mortality in the warm summer months (MDIFW, 2011c). Black bear predation on deer fawns is traditionally limited to the first one to two months of life (Côté, 2005).

Analysis and Discussion

Our research exposes the ambiguity of management across big game species in Maine. In comparing our case studies we identified several factors that contribute to the state of big game in Maine.

Economic Implications

Big game species help provide considerable revenue for the State; residents and nonresidents alike spend money for licenses, hunting equipment, guides, and lodging in order to achieve the ideal Maine hunting experience. The $175 million in annual revenue from big game hunting is vital to Maine’s economy and the loss of this source of income would be devastating for the State (MOT & MDIFW, 2014). This has been, and continues to be, a major topic of discussion throughout the state. For example, opposition for the 2014 Bear Referendum was largely driven by a fear of revenue loss by those who profit from the hunting, baiting, and trapping of bears. In addition, both deer and moose hunting permits have been reduced over the past few years. Some fear that the limited availability to obtain the means of legal hunting will result in a decrease in economic revenue. Deer hunting alone brings in over $100 million in revenue annually (MOT & MDIFW, 2014).

However, not all aspects of big game management are of economic benefit to Maine and its citizens. For example, wildlife-vehicle collisions are a major issue in regards to the management of deer and moose. These collisions often result in significant damage to vehicles, causing unnecessary financial burden on car owners. Additionally, bears are often involved in destruction of personal property and are frequently the center of nuisance complaints. They have been known to destroy birdfeeders, rummage through household waste, and prey on family pets.

Social Implications

Even before the arrival of European settlers, big game were hunted by the Native Americans who lived throughout Maine. Generations of Mainers have continued to carry on hunting traditions as a form of family tradition. Many Mainers fear the loss of their rights to certain hunting methods. Socially speaking, Mainers are invested in the state of big game species as a means to preserve their livelihoods.

Big game species are also iconic species in Maine. As the state animal, Moose represent more than a sporting trophy, they symbolize the pride in the Maine wilderness of the past, present, and future. Likewise, the Maine black bear has risen from being used as a source of amusement to a species that commands respect.

Maine’s big game attracts hunters from across the country to try their luck at bagging such recognizable species as moose or bear. Therefore, hunting regulations inherently link Maine to neighboring states, which can be seen in the case of the black bear. If Maine restricts methods on hunting, out-of-state hunters may change their hunting destinations and/or other states may choose to adopt the regulation changes of Maine.

Scenarios

While we do not know what the future of Maine will look like, scenarios are one tool that can help to envision the ways in which certain policy responses can affect big game species.

In this section, we provide three different scenarios for the future of Maine’s big game species. There are a number of variables that are important to consider for the future. One major factor that will influence the populations of big game in Maine is the effects of climate change. Temperatures are likely to change and habitats will be altered. Our scenarios all take into account the likely and inevitable effects of climate change. In Maine, the black bear, the moose, and the white-tailed deer are facing a diversity of threats, including increasing temperatures, changing forest species, and increased mortality due to parasitic infestations.

The following scenarios are based on variables that are central to wildlife management: hunting regulations and habitat conservation.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Maine maintains the status quo and continues to abide by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) current wildlife management practices. If the existing approach to big game management remains the same, based on current trends, it is likely that bear populations will increase while deer and moose populations decline.

Maine’s bear populations continue to increase because current management efforts have not met the MDIFW’s ideal population goals. As a result, the number of reported human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs) involving bears continues to rise and become an even bigger problem for the public. By maintaining status quo, Maine’s moose and deer populations continue to decline. For moose, the influx of winter tick populations is not addressed and subsequently decimates the state’s populations. With the amount of allotted moose hunting permits remaining stable, the added pressure of recreational hunting causes an even greater reduction in population numbers. Deer are at the northernmost portion of their range in Maine. As winters become much harsher for the populations, deer are killed or migrate to other regions with suitable habitat. Additionally, as bear populations continue to increase, bear predation on fawn and moose calves intensifies. As a result of this new threat, deer and moose populations are diminished even further.

Oh Deer… I can’t Bear the Thought of Moose-ing Big Game Species

The MDIFW loosens the regulation on hunting big game species throughout the state. Strict hunting policies are reduced and replaced with more relaxed policies. The lengths of the hunting seasons are increased to allow for higher success rates. More permits are added to the hunting lotteries and hunters are allowed to hunt by any means and with a larger bag limit.The state’s increasing incentives for hunting these big game species was prompted by the rise in reported nuisance complaints and human-wildlife conflicts.

Currently, Maine caps permits in order to limit wildlife harvesting and maintain target populations. Previous experience in Maine’s history has shown that with an increase in season length or in the number of permits allotted, big game population number can be drastically reduced. Specifically, moose and deer were nearly hunted to extinction before harvest regulations were established. Bounties were put on bears and the population was nearly wiped out. If the State does not maintain stringent hunting regulations, we could diminish big game populations to near extinction once again.

S.O.S. (SAVE OUR SPECIES!)

Maine decides to increase habitat conservation efforts to better supplement big game and wildlife management.

Currently, a national park is being proposed for the Maine North Woods and it is very possible that this will be instituted. After a long process, the U.S. federal government ultimately establishes the country’s newest National Park in Maine. With this National Park designation and additional state and private conserved lands, the area becomes a no-hunting zone and thus reduces the overall hunting of big game in Maine as the areas that allow for legal hunting are decreased. There is an increase in habitat availability for the three species and as a result, the populations increase. The maturation and growth of this forest would provide the opportunity for these species to move into new territories of habitat. The park may be even bigger than expected if plans proceed forward. This would mean that more land is under protection and hunting-free zones are further expanded.

While this scenario may benefit big game in Maine, it may be too late to save some species in the state. In addition to other factors, the powerful effects of climate change may just be moving certain animals, like the moose, out of Maine in general. But what is bad for moose may be good for deer or bear, as there is some competition for habitat space between the species. As moose move north into Canada to seek more ideal habitat, deer and bear may overtake the habitat previously occupied by moose. With the additional stress of ticks, we completely wipe out any moose left in the state. However, increased habitat conservation and a reduction of hunting permits may actually help to retain a few individuals in the state.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Maine is home to a diversity of wildlife that are economically significant and play an integral role in the statewide ecology. The management of wildlife that are classified as game species are influenced by a mix of politics, ethical values, and scientific studies. The MDIFW incorporates citizen stakeholders in the management of big game through the creation of councils such as The Public Working Group. Taking into consideration the consequences of inappropriate management that occurred in the early 20th century, (e.g. no bag limits and bounties) that led big game population to plummet, the MDIFW has created hunting regulations that fluctuate with species population.

Precise population estimates of big game are needed in order to form comprehensive management plans. However, as is presented in the case study of moose, approaches to obtaining these estimates are often ambiguous and unclear. Game species are often well camouflaged within their respective habitats. Species like the black bear are shy and highly elusive to the human eye, especially in a habitat like a forest canopy (Tighem, 2013). Technological advancements and increased visual surveys (e.g. double count technique and use of helicopters) can contribute to accurate population estimates while simultaneously minimizing human-wildlife conflicts.

Game registration in Maine reflects the impact of urban sprawl and environmental climate on the population distribution of bear, moose, and deer. Unlike deer, bear and moose are genetically engineered for the cold and can avoid the human development of southern Maine by choosing to live in northern habits. Therefore human-wildlife minimization initiatives, such as wildlife-vehicle collisions prevention programs, are required to consider the different patterns in spatial relations among big game species.

The 2014 bear referendum and moose/deer vehicle collisions exemplify the difficulty involved in balancing the needs among stakeholder groups (hunters vs. animal rights activists) and between citizens and wildlife (automobile drivers vs. moose/deer). These constant clash of lifestyle values are possibly the biggest driver of change when it comes management policies of big game species. Therefore, in addition to be being defined by state legislature, the future state of big game species is heavily influenced by the opinion of the everyday citizen.  The MDIFW will need to prepare for future debates over hunting methods, such as another bear referendum, as well as other factors that can affect the population of game species. This includes habitat loss and biological threats to health that should be especially be taken into account when allotting hunting permits to deer and moose.

Maine’s current management plans for bear, moose, and deer are established through the end of 2015. In the near future, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) will establish an updated, relevant, and effective plan for each species.

Based on our research, we suggest the following recommendations for big game management in Maine:

Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs) continue to be a major aspect of big game management. The various governmental departments involved in wildlife management, such as the MDIFW and Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), should continue to collaborate with various stakeholder groups to develop innovative technology (such as road lighting) or install simple physical barriers, such as highway fencing, to minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs). The expansion of research on and implementation of measures to reduce WVCs would require increased funding and capital investment from State officials. The proactive investment in WVC reduction approaches would help to diminish the major negative economic consequences of thesecrashes for the public. Future moose management planning may also need to change the designation of moose management areas. Currently, the WMDs characterized by high rates of moose-vehicle collisions (MVCs) are designated as compromise areas rather than road safety areas. These WMDs may benefit from increased focus on road safety efforts.

Wildlife management officials should continue to develop more advanced approaches to reduce HWCs. Since a major concern with black bears is public nuisance complaints, it is crucial that state officials appropriately address these recurring issues. We suggest that the state introduce subsidies to reduce the cost of innovative tools that reduce HWCs on private property (such as bear–proof garbage cans and dumpsters) as a means to reduce the number of nuisance complaints. The funding for these subsidies could be taken from the sale of hunting licenses or from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF).

Public education is incredibly important in order to reduce HWCs. For example, black bear activity is highly misunderstood by the public. Some citizens believe that bears are a direct threat to their safety; in reality, however, bears are a timid animal and tend to avoid human interaction. There have only been three injuries (and zero fatalities) reported from black bear attacks in Maine in the last three decades (Holyoke, 2010). Additionally, public education would help to inform citizens of big game hunting regulations and ways to avoid WVCs, especially with deer and moose.

Collaborative Wildlife Management and Policy Formation

Big game management policies require the input from various stakeholders and individuals. To improve upon current big game management in Maine, wildlife officials should collaborate with other governmental wildlife management departments as well as with the public. Management seeks to balance the needs of all stakeholder groups.

The importance of policy collaboration between various governmental organizations can be seen in the management of moose. In general, the MDIFW should collaborate with governments of other states and regions directly adjacent to Maine. State and national boundaries are permeable and moose habitat extends across these various regions. Collaborative policy should be considered a feasible approach to management. This includes the states of New Hampshire, Vermont as well as regions in Canada (New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nova Scotia), where management plans are well-established and have been in place for several decades. Public participation and engagement from various stakeholder groups has been highly influential in the establishment of management policies (Kantar, 2011).

Collaboration with the public is also important to achieve successful management strategies. The notion of reducing big game species, especially moose populations, can be fairly controversial amongst the public. Although there is a high risk of MVCs, public opinion suggests that most residents do not favor a large-scale reduction of moose population along the coast (Morris, 2002). Management plans should seek to maintain a balance between the desires of hunters and wildlife watchers in Maine. The moose is a historic symbol and a significant icon of Maine.

Black bear baiting, hounding, and trapping should be outlawed in the State. This would require collaboration with other states that have already banned these forms of hunting and seen no negative impacts. Other states, including Washington and Oregon, have demonstrated that these inhumane methods are not necessary in order to maintain a healthy bear population.

Create Adaptive Management Policies

To better provide proper management for big game species, Maine wildlife officials must think proactively about climate change. Climate change threatens the future health and biodiversity of Maine’s ecosystems. Climate change will greatly increase the vulnerability of approximately one-third of Maine’s wildlife species, including the moose, which has been categorized as highly vulnerable (Whitman et al., 2013).

Maine wildlife officials must establish a comprehensive and robust state-level climate change adaptation plan. Mitigation strategies are useful when looking at the long-term health of big game species. Successful adaptation to changing conditions requires collaboration between various stakeholder groups including hunters, wildlife viewers, and wildlife agencies. An effective plan requires management that focuses on adapting to increases in temperature, extreme weather events, and increased precipitation. Funding for these conservation efforts, which would likely come from the MDIFW and the USFWS, are critical for future planning. Without the necessary economic support, adaptive management approaches will not be helpful.

State wildlife officials should protect and maintain forest and wildlife habitat in the state. This would benefit big game species two-fold. First, the forests act as a natural carbon sink that would help to limit carbon emitted into the atmosphere, which is a major driver of climate change. Second, the protection of, and possibly the expansion of, big game species’ habitats would provide the animals with a better opportunity to adapt to a changing environment. Maine wildlife officials should use science-based approaches to assess the climate-related vulnerabilities of big game species and implement conservation strategies that specifically target the needs of each individual species. It is especially important to maintain or restore connections between winter and summer ranges and to enhance habitat corridors between individual populations.

Wildlife managers may need to readjust desired population targets to better account for the indirect impacts of climate change (the increase in big game fatalities by parasitic infestation, for example). The adjustment of hunting licenses should be considered for future management. The state should continue to monitor and evaluate allotted big game hunting permits on a seasonal basis to prevent the over-harvesting of the populations. Continuing to allot hunting permits on a singular Wildlife Management District basis can allow for more easily met population density goals. More policies should be created that ensure populations are meeting the goals set by the MDIFW and would create stable populations of big game.

We also suggest that state officials focus on the conservation of critical deer wintering habitat to protect the population form mortality during Maine’s winter months. It is critical to manage human access and minimize development when milder winters lead to increased access to wintering habitat areas.

Due to climate change, ideal moose habitat is likely moving northward and Maine would no longer provide a suitable environment for the moose. Management practices should seek to ensure that Maine remains a somewhat suitable habitat for moose in order for the species to reside in the state.

Management plans should also seriously consider the importance of outside factors, such as biological influences, affecting big game species. Although management efforts do take this into account, biological factors should be given even more attention in establishing future management strategies. Future management plans should include an approach such as the implementation of biological control mechanisms to better protect the state’s big game populations.

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