New Big Game Plans Draw Plenty of Questions

DIF&W LogoThe Big Game Steering Committee is really engaged in the creation of new management plans for moose, deer, bears, and turkeys. At the committee meeting on January 5, members asked many questions of the professional staff of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and provided them with lots of advice.

The committee and agency are nearing completion of the plans which will then go out to you – the public – for comment. I expect that opportunity to be offered sometime in February or early March.

By comparison, new fisheries plans are way behind schedule. The Fisheries Steering Committee hasn’t even received the initial assessments of each fish species, the first step in this process, with draft plans following. I doubt those plans will be ready for public review before the end of 2017.

I took 5 pages of notes at the January 5 big game steering committee meeting, to give you some idea of how interesting it was. I will write separate outdoor news columns about the discussion on each of the four game species sometime soon.

Also, today, I’m posting a column today about what DIF&W expects to achieve with each of the plans. That info was distributed to the Steering Committee for the January 5 meeting.

At that meeting, Barry Burgason, representing the Maine Forest Products Council, reported that landowners have concerns about the impact of moose on the forest, and urged the agency to include a response to this in the new moose management plan. He had actually sent DIF&W a photo of a maple tree that had been destroyed by a moose.

Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides noted that we need better estimates of game populations in each district. “How do we accomplish this?” he asked.

“Twice this week at the Union post office I heard turkey complaints,” Kleiner said. “Boy, people hate turkeys. You could sell a lot of turkey poison.”

Tom Doak of the Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine requested faster ways to respond to problems that landowners are having with various big game animals. He cited a number of issues, including problems raised at the last meeting by Alicyn Smart of the Maine Farm Bureau who is getting lots of complaints from farmers whose crops are hard hit by deer, especially blueberries.

Dave Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine said that DIF&W needs a real marketing plan for each species. In the last legislative session, I proposed a bill that would have recreated the marketing position at the agency, but DIF&W opposed and killed the bill. I appreciated Dave’s raising this issue again.

This committee meeting focused on the “social and educational goals and strategies” in each of the four plans. For example, the educational goal for bears is to “improve public understanding of bear ecology and management and increase tolerance for coexisting with bears.” The committee was informed that this includes minimizing conflicts and educating the public on new ways to enjoy bears. That may be a tough job!

The committee had an interesting discussion of the possibilities of reinstating a spring bear hunt. Gerry Lavigne, former DIF&W wildlife biologist who now works for SAM, noted that Maine’s Indian tribes host spring bear debates, and it is also a very popular hunt in New Brunswick.

On the deer plan, a lot of discussion focused on problems and concerns over Lyme disease and other deer tick borne diseases.

On moose, it was suggested that the seasons need to be adjusted to take better advantage of the mating season, while avoiding the first week of October when grouse hunters fill the north woods and our sporting camps.

The committee was given a very interesting list of expected outcomes for each of the four game management plans, and I will share that with you tomorrow.

In the meantime, please know that this particular steering committee is doing a very good job of working with the agency’s staff to create these new plans which will govern management of all four species for the following 15 years.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.