Maine's deer herd largest since 1950s


Mar 11, 2001
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Biologist sees largest deer herd since '50s.

Associated Press

With Maine’s deer season about to begin, the herd is larger than it’s been in a half century, the state game department said Tuesday.

Deer biologist Gerry Lavigne said a string of relatively mild winters in much of the state in the late 1990s has helped to build the herd to its highest level since the 1950s. Since 1986, the herd has grown from 160,000 to 292,999.

Lavigne said the increase translates into better opportunities for deer hunters when the season opens for residents this Saturday and for nonresidents on Monday.

For the monthlong season, the state has issued 54,000 “any deer” permits, which allow the killing of does and young bucks in addition to bucks. It’s the second-highest number of the special permits ever offered.

The state has been restricting the killing of antlerless deer to reverse a decline in the herd that began in the 1950s.

This season, the statewide deer harvest could, with optimum conditions, reach about 32,800, with the antlered buck harvest in the 18,700 range, game officials said. Last year’s overall total was 36,885.

Deer populations are thickest in some southern coastal areas where hunting is restricted or denied, and as many as 100 deer per square mile live. The northeastern Maine management district has a deer wintering population as low as two per square mile.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also encouraged hunters to get landowners’ permission where they plan to hunt or risk the possibility of seeing more land posted as off-limits.

The department offers courtesy cards to landowners and land users to foster contacts between the two. Landowners are more likely to allow the use of their property if they know the names and vehicle descriptions of those who use their properties.

A law enacted earlier this year allows changes in the blaze orange clothing requirements applying to deer hunters.

The law allows the use of camouflage jackets, ponchos or vests, provided they are at least 50 percent hunter orange, and a solid-orange hunting hat is worn.

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