Chatting with the Commish

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Chandler Woodcock, Maine’s new Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W), made a guest appearance earlier this month on my Sunday night talk radio program, “Maine Outdoors.” (The program is broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday nights on the Voice of Maine News-Talk Network, 103.9 FM and 101.3 FM).

Our program co-host, Bob Leeman, and I prepared some questions in advance. Radio listeners were encouraged to call in with questions or comments. The phone lines were busy. Commissioner Woodcock, a breath of fresh air, handled the questions and the callers with brevity, forthrightness and good humor.

Coyotes and deer was topic No. 1. A couple of trappers indicated that snaring coyotes by professional trappers in deer yards was by far the most effective way to reduce deer predation by coyotes. The commissioner did not disagree.

Regarding moose permits, Commissioner Woodcock indicated unequivocally that he favors doing away with preference points altogether in the Maine moose lottery. Will we ever see snaring of coyotes again in Maine? He said that, while he recognized the controversial nature of snaring and the legal issues, it was not “off the table.”

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Here are some of my questions and the commissioner’s responses.

 1. How do you like your job so far?

 “”Love it. It’s the best job I have ever had.” He said that he knew that it was by nature a controversial job, but that he wasn’t afraid of controversy.

 2. How bad is the money problem at MDIF&W?

The commissioner said that the best news on that front was that, to his delight, Gov. LePage had promised to restore to Fish and Wildlife the large chunk of general fund money taken away in the previous budget by former Gov. Baldacci.

3. Have you taken any action to get the federal application moving for an Incidental Take Permit (IPT) for coyote trapping in lynx habitat?

“Absolutely,” he said. The governor wrote a strong letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in January. Recently, representatives from USFWS met in the governor’s office with state fish and wildlife officials to discuss the ITP application, which has been languishing for years now. Woodcock seemed to be saying that he was guardedly optimistic.

4. What’s your favorite kind of fishing?

“Any kind when the fish are biting,” he quipped. In response to a question from Bob Leeman, the commissioner recalled sharing a day with Bob Leeman years ago on the Bangor Salmon Pool. Woodcock refused to divulge his favorite fly.

5. Why are game wardens not allowed to shoot coyotes when they are on the job?

He indicated that this is a warden policy that he supports. It was implemented to avoid public criticism and the appearance that wardens were recreating when they were being paid to enforce the law.

6. How often do you meet with the governor? Is he tuned in to sportsmen issues?

The commissioner said that he meets with the governor and other department heads routinely once a month. He also said that he and the governor meet more frequently when there are issues to resolve. “The governor is very much tuned in to sportsmen issues,” said Woodcock. “He recognizes the importance of fishing and hunting to the Maine economy as well.”

During the one hour interview, Leeman asked the commissioner if he was for or against slot limits on game fish. Woodcock said that he felt slot limits were tricky to impose but in some cases slot limits had improved the fishery.

During a discussion of Maine’s sport fishery and what his goals were in this regard, the commissioner didn’t hesitate to reveal the fact that, like a number of other Maine sportsmen, he is no big fan of splake, the hybrid cross between a brook trout and lake trout.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”

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