Fishing and Deer Feeding Rules Revised and Enacted

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Commissioner Chandler Woodcock presented significant changes to proposed rules governing deer feeding at this morning’s meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council. The revised rule proposal won the endorsement of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a strong critic of the initial proposal.

Woodcock also offered amendments to the agency’s controversial proposal to ban the use of live fish as bait on 16 wild brook trout waters on the “B List.” The Commissioner read a lengthy statement on this proposal and other proposed changes in fishing rules, at the beginning of the meeting.

Among other things, he announced that DIF&W will organize a bait focus group, to “revise bait regulations in Maine.”

Fishing Rules

Seven of the 16 waters proposed for a ban on the use of live fish as bait were removed from the list for a variety of reasons, including the fact that some of them were “misclassified” as “B list” waters. The unreliability of the “B list” continues to plague the department and is the subject of a legislative bill I have submitted for consideration in the upcoming 2013 legislative session.

The Advisory Council approved the amended proposal, with only one member opposed: Wade Kelley of far northern Maine.

It’s important to note that the new rules, including the ban on the use of live fish as bait on those 9 waters, won’t take effect until the new rulebook is published in the spring of 2013.

Deer Feeding Rule

Jim Connolly reported that it was not the intention of DIF&W to prohibit deer feeding, and because many people interpreted the proposed rules that way, the agency refocused the rule on two specific problems: deer getting killed crossing roads to get to the feed, and poor feeding practices that were harming deer.

The Council quickly and unanimously approved the revised deer feeding rule. Dave Trahan told me, as he exited the meeting, that he is “ecstatic” about the changes in the proposed rule that was severely criticized by SAM.

When he submitted SAM’s testimony against the rule, Gerry Lavigne (DIF&W’s retired deer biologist who is now a member of SAM’s Board of Directors), wrote, “This rule criminalizes nearly every individual who provides supplemental feed for deer in Maine… the Department has over-reached its legislative authority.”

The changes in the rules mirror in most cases those that Lavigne recommended in SAM’s testimony.

In its amendment to the proposal, DIF&W eliminated an opening statement that the agency “discourages the supplemental feeding of deer.” Also gone were definitions that took the rule beyond the motor vehicle collision issue, and a lengthy list of activities the agency judged to be “detrimental to the deer population” that could be used to shut down deer feeding stations.

The original proposal made violations of the news rules Class E crimes. That was also removed from the amended version.

The two activities deemed detrimental to deer remain in the amended proposal are: 1) increased vulnerability to collisions with vehicles, predation or other mortality risks; 2) providing food to deer that could result in the death of deer by acidosis (grain overload) and enterotoxemia (overeating disease-proliferation of Clostridium).

SAM has focused much of its work on this issue in educating those who are feeding deer on the proper way to do it, and has brought the producers and sellers of deer feed into the program as partners. It was clear in the legislative discussion of this issue last year that legislators want DIF&W to help people feed deer properly, rather than focus on punishing those who are doing it wrong.

While the new rule still focuses on deer feeding problems, it appears that SAM will be the primary driver of information to assure that deer feeding is done properly and effectively.

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