Harsh Winter Trims Maine Deer Herd, Cuts Permits

April 4, 2014

By PATRICK WHITTLE | Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — This year's harsh winter culled Maine's deer herd, which will reduce the number of hunting permits the state issues for the fall hunting season, state officials said Friday.

The winter mortality rate among the state's approximately 200,000 deer was 12 percent, compared with 8 percent last winter and 10 percent for an average winter, said Kyle Ravana, the state's deer biologist. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is tentatively scheduled to issue about 36,000 “any deer” permits for the fall hunting season, down more than 10,000 from last year, he said.

Deer mortality was as high as 19 percent in the northern reaches of the state, Ravana said. The herd's ability to withstand this year's season was aided by mild previous winters, he said.

“We're coming off two easy winters in southern Maine and four below-average winters in northern Maine, “ Ravana said. “They had good food sources.”

This winter brought an average temperature of 22.6 degrees, three below the 30-year average, to Portland, according to the National Weather Service. Bangor's average temperature was 18.5, which was 2.3 degrees below the 30-year average, the weather service said. Both areas also had much more snow than typical, with Portland getting 78.3 inches, or 33.9 more than the 30-year average.

Hunters are prepared for a drop in deer population and permits, said David Trahan, executive director of the Augusta-based Sportsman Alliance of Maine.

“The opportunities to hunt deer, across the board, will go down as a result of this,” Trahan said. “That doesn't mean we can't have a successful deer hunting season.”

Vermont experienced a tougher winter than the last two years, but the impact on the deer population has not been determined, said Mark Scott, the state's director of wildlife. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will propose its quota for antlerless deer on April 23, he said. Vermont's deer herd is about 120,000.

In New Hampshire, there are no plans yet to reduce the number of does taken in the fall hunting season, said Dan Bergeron, a wildlife biologist and the state's deer project leader. The state estimates a deer herd of 87,000, which Bergeron said has been healthy and growing since a big drop in the early 1980s.

At the end of April, the state will analyze its Winter Severity Index, which tallies daily temperatures and snowpack starting in December, to decide whether to limit the number of does taken, Bergeron said.

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Associated Press writer Rik Stevens in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.