So far as we know, Maine’s whitetail deer population has not been infected with CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease).

Knock on wood.

There is at least one defense against this affliction, which has been a serious problem for cervids out West and in some other states closer to home. That defense is knowledge, reliable scientific data. The more data you get, the more likely that your conclusions are valid.

Wildlife biologists, the professionals who manage Maine’s whitetail deer population, are scientists. They make game-management decisions based on quantified data. They will tell you that even in science, it is not a perfect world – there is an element of subjectivity in the decisions they make. That subjectivity could be reduced by more research with larger staffs and bigger budgets. But Maine is a poor state with limited funds and comparatively small wildlife staffs.

There is a way that you – a Maine sportsmen – can help our wildlife biologists do their jobs better, and without paying more taxes or increased license fees. Volunteerism! That’s right. This fall state wildlife biologists are looking for a few good folks.

Enter Lee Kantar, who replaced Gerry Lavigne as Maine’s head deer biologist.

In Kantar’s own words:

“Ever wonder how you might help the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife gather information about deer and deer hunting? This year there are a number of ways to help biologists with collecting information on deer.

“Every year, biologists look at about 6,000 of the approximately 30,000 harvested deer. This is one of the most important ways that we gather data on herd health and the composition of the registered deer harvest. We take measurements of antler beam diameter to gauge carrying capacity, report whether it was a buck, doe or male or female fawn, and age the deer to look at the proportion of fawns, yearlings and adults in the harvest. If the deer can be weighed on a certified scale, we will record its weight; and if the hunter harvests a doe, we will record whether or not it was lactating (had milk).

“In addition, we will aim to collect 800 samples for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing. This involves extracting the brainstem and lymph nodes from deer (for more information on CWD, check out cwdfactsheet.htm). We only test adult deer because CWD does not show up in fawns. In addition, we try to get more samples from towns where winter deer feeding occurs, or where domestic deer or elk farms exist. It can be very difficult to collect the necessary number of samples from all the towns. This year we will put a list of towns from which we need samples on our department Web site. If you harvest a deer from one of these towns, check the Web site to see that the town is listed, then call the regional office in your area and arrange to drop off the deer’s head for sampling. The heads should be refrigerated, but not frozen, since freezing can potentially ruin the sample.

“Also, if you are available during the first 2 weeks of firearms season in October and November (Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 6 and 7) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and want to assist in the collection of biological data and CWD samples, we are looking for volunteers. We are currently looking for two committed volunteers to help out at the Regional Fish and Wildlife Office in Sidney. Volunteers will assist biologists by writing down deer measurements on forms, taking measurements on deer heads, and learning how to extract brain stems and lymph nodes. If you are interested, please contact Lee Kantar at 941-4477 before Oct. 15.

“Also, this fall we will be sending out a hunter effort survey. Not everyone will receive this survey, but if you do, you will be asked to keep track of the number of days you hunted deer and in which district, as well as whether you harvested a deer or not. This information is crucial to our management system and will help us better understand the number of days (effort) that each hunter hunts across the state during each season.”

V. Paul Reynolds 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, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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