PRINCETON (AP) – Maine wildlife officials, hoping to help deer populations rebound from a difficult winter, have voted to reduce the number of permits issued to hunters to shoot antlerless deer during the 2008 season.

The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will issue 14,425 fewer “any deer” permits this year than in 2007 – a 21 percent reduction.

More than 66,000 antlerless-deer permits were issued in Maine during the 2007 season. The department plans to issue 51,850 any-deer permits this year.

The permit schedule, which a departmental advisory council approved unanimously, means that hunting for does or any antlerless deer will be prohibited in roughly two-thirds of the state.

Officials on Thursday chose to continue allowing doe hunting on the day reserved for young people.

Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said there were no objections – none by the small number of speakers at two public hearings and none by those who submitted written comments – to the department’s decision to reduce the number of any-deer permits.

But he said there was general opposition to restricting Youth Deer Day participants who are hunting in a bucks-only district.

“As a result, youth will be allowed to continue to hunt as usual,” Martin said.

Mark Stadler, who heads the department’s wildlife division, said that based on the severity of the 2007-2008 winter, it is possible a lower-than-normal number of any-deer permits will be issued again next year.

Deer populations, especially in the northern parts of the state, were stressed by the heavy snows that began in early December and continued into March.

The Bangor Daily News reported initial estimates are that up to 30 percent of the deer herd may have starved to death, frozen or fallen victim to predators in parts of northern Maine.

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