When Maine’s Governor LePage signed new legislation that gave Inland Fisheries and Wildlife an additional $100,000 for their predator control program, I wanted to follow up with Mr. Woodcock on how this money will truly impact the program and the State.
How do you see this additional money helping IFW this year?
We had a plan to target critical deer yards around the State (These are in areas D, E, F, G, C). This additional money will help us by providing another funding source. There are 10 locations covering about 1000 acres that are our top priority. With this additional funding, we are able to increase our efforts without worrying about stretching the budget too thin. We can expand the number of people who can participate and regulate the hours put into this. It really needs to be an ongoing effort in order to sustain itself. Last year, we started the program in November and with the additional funds, we can start it this year around September 1st.
It is only one year of funding. The Legislature can not agree to fund multi-year projects, so we will need to work to find ways to continue this effort if we want to grow and sustain the program.
Doesn’t the Deer Management Fund help with the funding? Last year $2 out of every $5 in tagging fees went into this fund.
It has changed this year. It used to be that for a $5 deer tag, the agency got $4 and the tagging station got $1. Then, it was a $3/$2 spit. It ended up that the agency will now get $1 for every tag. We are hoping that folks will make contributions to the Fund throughout the year. Funds can also be donated (and designated) when you get your license online each year. We are hoping that folks will understand the importance and want to support us so that we can continue the efforts to grow a healthy deer herd in the state.
ok, so how are these deer yards chosen?
We work with biologist, loggers, guides, hunters, trappers, regional wardens… its a way of gathering information about the deer herd and the land. It a matter of finding and targeting critical areas. Last year, our winter was so mild that a lot of deer did not yard up, so we need to rely on the folks who are familiar with the area to help us.
Ideally, what would the population number be for you to say the deer herd is healthy again? I would like to see a 50% increase in the population, but it is also is dependent on where you are in the state. There are parts of Maine that do not need any more deer. They have a high population now. Its a matter of managing the regions across the State and setting realistic targets to grow the population into a healthy deer herd.
Deer go where there is food. Both the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and IFW recommend that people do NOT feed deer because they don’t feed them properly and deer need a nutritious diet to sustain themselves. If people want to feed them, then we suggest they do it cautiously, but we would prefer it if deer were not fed. When you feed them, they create yards around the food source. Move the prey and you will see predators begin to come into that area looking for food. It’s a cycle.
Any concerns about the increase in deer ticks and the overall deer herd?
The increase in ticks has more of an impact on us. There all kinds of ways to protect ourselves when we go into the woods. I remember going fishing and seeing a man in the water and it was almost as though he had a bubble around him. The bug’s wouldnt go near him. It was incredible. If you have the right protection, you will be fine. (At this point, I tell Mr. Woodcock about my run in and he proceeds to lecture me because I was not fully protecting myself. I have not had a tick, or mosquitoes, attack me since this interview.) But, we always run the risk of higher Lyme cases when there are more deer in a smaller area. Last year in Islesboro, there were 26 cases of Lyme disease.
How are the location of the coyote hunts determined?
Coyotes go where the food is and we work with groups, hunters, biologists and wardens around the State to determine where we need to hunt. One thing we will NOT do, is trap coyotes in areas that have prohibited hunting and trapping. We are also very cautious about the Lynx population and ensuring that these efforts do not hinder their population numbers. So, we are very cautious about this work.
Once we know where there are higher concentrations of coyotes, we have hunters and trappers go in and take them. They all have the proper permits and have to report where they are going to be and when. Its a very focused effort about where, how and who plays a part in making this successful.
How does someone get picked to be a hunter for the coyote selected hunt?
We get suggestions from game wardens, biologists, guides and folks who ask IFW about it. If anyone out there is interested, they should contact John Pratt about it.
At what point will you know this program is successful?
I would say when 50% of the coyotes in the targeted areas are culled. 40% is successful but I would like to reach 50%.
For more Info:
Lyme disease and tick issues on Islesboro: here
Feeding Deer in Maine: Here
How to avoid accidental taking of Lynx: here