At a work session this morning, the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee acted on 3 bills carried over from last year’s legislative session.
Deputy game wardens
The first bill, LD650, was designed to strengthen Maine’s landowner relations bill, by adding 5 new deputy game wardens to DIFW’s staff. But DIFW did not support the bill, and the committee killed it.
The turkey bill, LD 1117, was mine. I worked with Senator Shenna Bellows on it, which would have, among other changes, eliminated the requirement of a fall turkey hunting permit, to encourage more hunters to kill turkeys.
DIFW’s Nate Webb told the committee about things his department did to encourage a higher harvest of turkeys last year, including adding 2 weeks to the fall season and increasing the bag limit in some districts.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work, and the fall harvest last year was 1,980, down dramatically from 3,507 birds the previous year. Nate blamed the low harvest on the large acorn crop.
The committee killed the bill, so we can only hope their strategy works this year.
A bear bill, LD 1118, proposed lots of changes to the laws governing bear hunting and trapping, most of which would give DIFW more authority to over them.
For example, the bill reduces fees and lets the commissioner set seasons within established dates. Another change would allow the commissioner to set bag limits and change trap sizes.
Legislative committee members reported that they’d received lots of messages from the public about the issues.
DIFW reported a decline last year from 13,000 to 10,000 bear hunters and that they need a substantial hike in the bear harvest to control the bear population which is estimated to be 45,000.
Among the changes, are a reduction in fees, an earlier start to the season, and establishing a 2 bear bag limit but only one by trapping.
The IFW committee unanimously approved the bill, which will now go to the full legislature for action.
During the work session Rep. John Martin noted that before the early 1960s the state paid $5 for each bear paw. I guess that was the good old days!