Dear Farm Bureau members and supporters,
Last spring, I wrote to solicit your participation in a task force to address deer damage issues on Maine farms. A number of you agreed to participate and our Farm Bureau executive director, Julie Ann Smith, subsequently scheduled a telephone conference call to develop potential strategies. As a result of that call, we agreed that farmers needed additional tools for effective deer management above and beyond what was presently available. We also agreed that our committee should address all wildlife issues, not just deer depredation. And finally, we agreed that an appropriate first step would be to have our committee meet with IF&W leadership to see if there was a path forward as a cooperative approach to address our problems, rather than proceeding legislatively, at least initially.
However, it soon became apparent our timing was wrong; our farmers were preoccupied with planting season. So, we decided to wait until winter to revive this effort, which we did this past week. But over the summer Farm Bureau continued to gather input from our farmers. We heard clearly again that while farmers knew they could shoot animals at any time they are damaging their crops, they didn’t want to be dressing out deer and cutting up meat, as required by law, in the middle of the night when they had to be back up at 4 AM to tend their crops. They also felt there was merit in leaving the deer carcasses in the fields to be cleaned up by coyotes who would then leave scent to deter additional deer. They didn’t believe they should have to pay to hire others to remove deer or other troublesome animals; they didn’t think that funding assistance for fencing should be limited to apple orchards; they expressed concern that the stringent protections afforded to beavers not only resulted in destroyed timberlands but also were often contaminating irrigation water resulting in food safety concerns; they didn’t believe issuance of doe permits were very effective at managing deer populations; and they were concerned that federal protections for Canada geese, which have become a major problem, would prohibit farmers from employing lethal control procedures.
So, this past week we took these concerns to IF&W leadership in the spirit of a cooperative approach. We were very pleased with the IF&W response. They seemed to be very interested in working with us, and agreed that some changes in state law are warranted to help address our concerns. In fact, some of those proposed changes they have already submitted for legislative consideration his session. So, it appears that some relief may be coming, and we learned there are additional avenues under present law that we could presently avail ourselves of. For example, we could simply field dress deer and the game wardens will pick them up, and we could leave the entrails to attract coyotes. Or we could invite in neighbors that we know and trust to harvest animals causing damage, at all hours, in and out of season, with an understanding that they field dress the deer themselves. IF&W wardens would provide permits to the folks we designate in advance. It turns out that many beaver control restrictions have been relaxed, allowing us to shoot them in most instances if we notify IF&W in advance. It also turns out that federal restrictions on shooting Canada geese have been relaxed, allowing us to shoot them except during periods of migration, again letting IF&W know in advance.
Our committee closed the meeting with an agreement that we will develop a Farm Bureau guidance document that lists control options for most or all species of damaging wildlife. IF&W will work with us to assure accuracy of all information. Hopefully, this will go a long way to assuring that farmers are aware of all the tools presently available to them. If further pest wildlife management options are still needed, our committee will continue to advocate for them, legislatively if necessary. So that’s the plan at present. Please let me know of your thoughts and suggestions.
Clark Grainger, Committee Chair
If you have questions or concerns about wildlife impacting your farm, send us an email! We want to help your farm succeed!