Maine’s whitetail deer herd has been improving over the past few years with the 2018 deer harvest being the highest since 2002. The herd is showings signs of the population returning to levels seen prior to severe winters of the last decade. The 2019 harvest totals are expected to be lower than last year but still in the neighborhood of 28,000 when the final totals area available.
Recently I asked Nathan Bieber, deer biologist with Maine DIFW, what landowners and hunters can do to help maintain a healthy whitetail deer herd. These are a few of the practices and management techniques he shared with me.
Work with neighbors
Nathan pointed out that whitetail deer need the same things that we do for survival; food, water and cover. If you have neighbors with an interest in good deer and land management coordinating efforts with them can have a bigger impact on the local population than a small landowner can affect on their own. In many cases, opening your land to responsible hunters either openly or by permission can help with deer management. Too many deer can be a problem for both deer and humans.
Work with a professional forester
Most of us who own any amount of acreage in Maine have some if not all forested land. The so called “park like” setting of an even aged canopy, with little to no ground cover, looks nice and is pleasant to walk through but offers little for deer. A timber harvest can be a deer’s best friend, especially during winter when the treetops brought to the ground become a welcome browse during these months.
Most small timberland owners will greatly benefit from the experience and knowledge of a professional forester. A good forester will help us get a good return on the timber sale and provide advice for promoting wildlife habitat.
Guard Against CWD
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that can have devastating effects on both whitetails and moose. If you are an avid hunter who takes trips to other parts of the country be cautious of accidentally bringing this to Maine.
To help prevent the spread of CWD Nathan recommended the following precautions:
Hunters need to be aware of and follow regulations on the transportation of deer carcasses. If you’re bringing a deer into Maine from another state, it needs to be boned out and free of any high-risk materials such as brain tissue, spinal tissue, and lymph tissue.
Since the infectious prions responsible for CWD can be found in bodily fluids such as urine, we recommend hunters use synthetic lures and scents rather than natural urine scents.
For folks that feed deer, get locally grown feed and keep it spread out on the landscape rather than all in one small area.
Lastly, be vigilant and communicate with your area wardens and biologists if you see a deer that is emaciated and behaving abnormally. Depending on case details, that may be a deer we need to remove and have tested. Early detection is very important with CWD.
Need More Help
Want to know more about managing your property for whitetails? Contact Maine DIFW and a good professional forester today. The state district forester who works in your area is also a good contact to make. You can find all these folks online or give us a call today for a list of names and contact information.