On Aug. 23 at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer, David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, was the guest speaker at a Deer Yard Forum hosted by some Bangor-area Republican state legislative candidates.

Gerry Lavigne, a retired state deer biologist and wildlife consultant for SAM, joined Trahan at the podium to talk about the history of Maine’s declining deer population in Maine’s North Woods and what can be done to turn things around.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Trahan said that “predation and habitat loss have led to the collapse of the deer population in northern, eastern and western Maine. At one time, 10 percent of the landscape was deer wintering habitat. Now it is just 3 percent.”

In an effort to end this “death spiral of suitable deer habitat,” Trahan said, SAM has spearheaded three initiatives to restore deer wintering habitat:

• A change in the law that requires the Land for Maine’s Future Program to prioritize its funding and land conservation purchases toward acquiring known deer yards.

• Purchased deer wintering areas will be held in Trust for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and managed by this agency.

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• Helped negotiate a $40 million state appropriation, which will be matched three-to-one by federal funding and used to purchase strategically important deer wintering areas in Maine.

The Sportsman’s Alliance also played a part in the new doe permit system. Hunters will pay $12 for their doe permits this season. This “new” money will be also earmarked solely for deer yard protection programs. This fall, for the first time, hunters will be able to harvest both a buck and a doe, with appropriate permits.

Trahan said that deer yard purchases have already begun. SAM will soon announce the acquisition by the state of a major deer wintering area in southern Aroostook County.

During a question-and-answer period, Lavigne, the biologist, pointed out that predation on healthy wintering deer in the North Woods by both coyote and bears has been a significant cause in deer population declines. Lavigne said that predators also take about 50% of the spring fawns that don’t survive.

Responding to a question about whether coyotes engage in random killing, even when they are not hungry, Lavigne explained that all predators, coyotes included, have no compunctions about killing prey whenever the opportunity arises. The career deer biologist said that this is called “surplus killing” and is not at all unusual.

Other positive news regarding deer yard protection, said Trahan, is the creation of the Aroostook County White-tailed Deer Collaborative. The mission of the collaborative is to raise private money to support deer yard protection and management in the County. With support and leadership of Aroostook sportsman Jerry McLaughlin, area sportsmen have already raised $20,000. This money, along with hours put in by volunteers on feed plot management in the County deer yards, will generate additional matching money from the Feds, on a three-to-one ratio. Other members of the White-tailed Deer Collaborative are Andrew Ketch, Rob Keiffer and Bruce Frost.

Those interested in donating to this private fund for deer yard enhancement in Aroostook County should contact David Trahan at 207-623-489 ([email protected]) or Jerry Mclaughlin at 207-592-2516 ([email protected]).

At the conclusion of the forum, both Lavigne and Trahan were applauded enthusiastically by those in attendance. I publicly thanked both of the speakers for “their leadership and hard work.” I said that in all the years that I had been writing about the Maine outdoors, this deer yard-protection package was the most historic deer-management initiative in my memory.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at [email protected]


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