Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maine's Deer Herd in 2013

I recently sat down with Kyle Ravana, the state’s deer biologist, to talk about what his goals are for the deer herd, what challenges he sees ahead and he answers the question: “Would you rather have a warm winter that is easy on deer or a harsh winter that kills off a lot of deer ticks?”

Maine Biologist, Kyle Ravana

You took over this position in February. What are your goals for your first year on the job?

I really want to get familiar with the job, the materials that we have and the current deer data. I’m diving into the management systems that we have and looking at what our strengths and weaknesses are. I have been researching how other states work with their deer herds and what works or doesn’t work for them in terms of management. Places like New York and Vermont as well as Canadian providence’ like New Brunswick all face the same climate challenges that we face here in Maine.

I have also been talking to regional biologists and hearing their opinions and suggestions on what they want to see in their areas of the state. I want to make myself available to the public and really get out there and talk to stake holders and hear what their issues and concerns are. We are all invested in a healthy deer herd and I want to hear about it.

What about your five year plan?

In 2015, we will be in our planning phase of the deer work plan. The last time we did this was in 2000 and we put together a comprehensive plan on where we wanted the herd to be in 15 years. Now, it is time to look at where we are and where we want to be in another 15 years. The public is a critical part of the plan and I want to learn about the goals and issues that people have when it comes to hunting, viewing and the overall total of deer in their area. When the plan is done, it will lay out how we want to shape the deer herd in terms of health, harvest numbers, and goals for each wildlife management district. I want to make sure that I have as much knowledge and partnerships in place as possible so that we can design a successful new system to meet the needs of the herd over the next 15 years.

What is the current health of the deer herd?

The herd is rebounding really nicely. We have not had a bad winter in a few years, so the population is really coming back. Our buck kill index for the 2012 hunting season is almost above our ten year average. Zones 3 and 6 had their highest buck harvest since 1963.

Maine deer biologist Kyle Ravana and his 2012 buck
I want to get a deer study going (like IFW currently has for the bear population in Maine) and look at the survival percentages for does and fawns, as well as get some regional specific information on our deer. It would be the first time in 30 years that this has been done, but it could really help us to see if there some issues that we might not be aware of right now.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to keeping the herd healthy and growing?

Weather is a big one. If we have a harsh winter, there is nothing I can do about it but it can have a big impact. Also the loss of habitat has played its part in hurting the well being of local herds or driving them out of the areas where habit loss is an issue. We are constantly working with logging companies and land owners to manage habitat.

Winter is always a variable. Would you rather have a warm winter that is easy on deer or a harsh winter that kills off a lot of deer ticks?

(laughs) Huh. I think I would rather have a mild winter to help the deer. You can always control the population if it gets to be too strong, through more permits being issued or control culls. By controlling the number of deer, you can also control the concentration of ticks.

Anything else that you want the readers to know?

I am glad that people are so passionate about the deer because we can turn that passion into action to help grow a healthy deer herd. What we need to stop doing, is talking about how there are no deer here. I have had people come up to me and talk about how they are seeing deer or more deer on their property than they have in the past three or four years. We need to stop being negative when it comes to our deer population; we went though a normal ebb and flow in our numbers and deer are resilient and bounce back quickly. If we want people from out of state to come back to Maine to hunt, we need to stop talking about the lack of deer and realize that they are coming back stronger than before. It is a great time to get into the woods and hunt deer!


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