Wildlife Committee update: Moose, budworm, deer and more

IFW has just started a study of moose mortality study and plans outfit up to 70 cows and calves with mortality transmitters.
IFW has just started a study of moose mortality study and plans outfit up to 70 cows and calves with mortality transmitters.

By Barry Burgason, Huber Resources and committee chair

The Wildlife Committee met at the MFPC office on January 30 to talk about issues including fish passage, budworm, a CFRU study on deer habitat and IFW’s new moose mortality study.

Jed Wright, senior fish and wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, demoed a secure computer system that could be used to track fish passage improvements that landowners make to stream crossings.  Maine’s Fisheries Improvement Network (FIN), a collaboration between landowners, government agencies and NGOs, has been looking for a method of monitoring stream improvements without exposing the data to outside groups, which may misinterpret the data collected on private stream crossings.

In map jargon, a “red dot” represents a crossing that may pose a barrier to fish moving upstream and a “green dot” indicates no passage problems. While acknowledging that forest landowners are making great strides in converting “red dots” into “green dots”, there is a need to quantify just how many.  Pat Sirois, coordinator of Maine’s SFI Implementation Committee, and others were asked to work with Wright to finalize the data system and present it to the FIN group at a meeting later on this spring.

Part way through the meeting, the group was joined by several guests.  Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association and David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAP) asked to meet with the committee and discuss the impact may have on deer wintering areas and brook trout stream habitat.  One of their concerns was an anticipated reaction if landowners start salvage-cutting large acreages and spraying herbicides in response to a budworm outbreak.  Pat Strauch. MFPC executive director, told them about the committee planning for various scenarios.  Kleiner and Trahan both offered to work with MFPC to help educate their members in advance of an outbreak so public reaction could be based more on fact and less on emotion – an approach that would be beneficial to all.

There have been some recent personnel changes in key policy positions at Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, so the committee invited these folks to join us.  Jim Connolly, the Resource Management director, was unable to attend, but Wildlife Division Director, Judy Camuso and Wildlife Management Supervisor Ryan Robicheau participated in our discussions.  Camuso was very excited to share details about IFW’s just started moose mortality study.  She described the process of netting moose from a helicopter and outfitting up to 70 cow and calf moose with mortality transmitters.  During the first day of collaring in Maine, they were able to capture 17 moose, Camuso said.

The newly released study by the Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU) of deer wintering areas, completed by Dr. Dan Harrison and others, was another lively topic of discussion.  CFRU is currently awaiting a proposal to research the silvicultural impact of different levels of moose browsing on forest growth and stem quality.  Involved in the discussions are the landowners, IFW and the universities of Maine, New Hampshire and New Brunswick.

Brief updates also were shared on an invasive plant project at the Maine Natural Areas Program and possible development of guidelines for dealing with nuisance beavers.

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