LD 767, sponsored by Representative Lance Harvell of Farmington, extended the prohibition on deer feeding. The bill was enacted and signed into law by the governor.
Current law prohibited deer feeding from September 10 to December 10. Here’s how they explained the new law: “the amendment expands the prohibition on baiting deer during an open hunting season on deer to also prohibit feeding deer by placing salt or any other bait or food in a place to entice deer to that place from June 1st to the start of an open hunting season on deer and from the close of all open hunting seasons on deer to December 15th if all open hunting seasons on deer are closed before December 15th.”
Penalties for deer feeding violations were also increased to the Class E crime level.Here’s the exact language:
Prohibition. A person may not place salt or any other bait or food in a place to entice deer to that place from June 1st to the start of an open hunting season on deer and, if all open hunting seasons on deer are closed before December 15th for that year, from the close of the last open hunting season on deer to December 15th.
The hearing on LD 767 drew some very entertaining testimony. Roger Lambert of Franklin County said the impact of deer feeding is that “we’re raising herd of goats. This is a big deal up in the woods.” Lambert reported that deer feeders are drawing deer into the villages, and hunters are now sitting along those trails.
Harvell suggested that we need to educate nonhunters about the problems caused by deer feeding and the new restrictions. The committee discussed an even longer ban, but DIF&W would not support a ban that started earlier than June 1.
A lively hearing was held on LD 62, An Act to Remove the Prohibition on Baiting Deer, sponsored by Representative Peter Lyford of Eddington, drawing lots of testimony on both sides of the issue. And in the end, the IFW Committee killed the bill.
Among several opponents of the bill were Dave Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association, along with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Speaking for DIF&W, Jim Connolly, Resource Management Director, listed several reasons for the agency’s opposition.
“Concentrating deer at greater than natural densities exposes them to disease through saliva and fecal matter,” he testified. He also predicted this would lead more people to feeding deer in the winter, something the department discourages.
Jim also predicted that baiting “will likely increase the success rate of hunters, and as a result the Department may need to shorten hunting seasons or reduce the number of antlerless deer permits afforded to hunters in order to keep harvests at sustainable levels.” He also reported that DIF&W is “trying to grow the deer population and we are currently meeting our harvest objectives and do not need to increase success rates.”
SAM’s Dave Trahan testified, “We see no real biological or management based reason to support LD 62. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been able to manage the white tailed deer population without having to use deer baiting as a tool. For that reason, we oppose LD 62.
MPGA’s Don Kleiner noted, “This bill if enacted would be in effect statewide and I am here to tell you that populations of deer are not high statewide. Indeed, improving hunter success in some of the management districts could have serious implications for our deer population.”