The Senate chairman of the legislative committee that oversees the Maine Warden Service demanded answers about the agency’s conduct, a day after the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published an investigative report on a controversial undercover operation and raid in the northern Maine town of Allagash.

State Sen. Paul T. Davis, R-Sangerville, said Monday that he will ask for a meeting with Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock “sooner rather than later” to explain the conduct of the wardens, who are part of Woodcock’s department.

“I want answers to all this stuff, and the public wants to know what is going on,” Davis said. “My committee doesn’t have subpoena powers, but I sit on one that does.”

Davis said he was troubled by several revelations in the newspaper’s investigation, including that an undercover warden provided guns, ammunition, transportation and a searchlight to a target of the probe – and even shot a deer to encourage him to poach – as well as the wardens’ refusal to provide their written policies for undercover investigations.

“To have someone kill a deer to get someone else to kill a deer is unacceptable,” Davis said. “There’s no excuse.”

Davis said that, in fairness, undercover operations by their nature create a confrontational relationship with targets, so he wanted to hear the wardens’ side of the story. “If they don’t want to do that,” he said, “we will go from there.”

The Press Herald/Telegram investigation focused on a two-year undercover operation and dramatic raid in the town of Allagash that resulted in minor charges against its intended targets, and a raft of poaching convictions against one man who the undercover agent enticed to poach during nine night hunting outings in the agent’s truck.

Several of those charged accused the agent of a number of improprieties, including padding evidence, providing alcohol to targets, and inventing events that did not take place. One woman’s home-canned peaches were improperly seized as evidence and, she says, never returned. After charges were dropped against the woman, Hope Kelly, wardens contacted her seasonal employer, resulting in her not being rehired.

The wardens refused the newspaper’s interview requests, failed to fully comply with a public records request and refused to provide an unredacted copy of their undercover operations policy, even though earlier versions of the policy had been made public in the past. Wardens responded to some written questions but refused to answer follow-up questions.

The House chairman of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, said that he also would attend a meeting with Woodcock and that he also was troubled by the undercover warden’s killing of a deer, an act that is legal under current law, which allows such agents to violate fish and game rules. He said he didn’t want to comment further until he had more information.

Allagash native Troy Jackson, a former state senator and current Democratic National Committeeman, was particularly appalled that wardens can break wildlife laws.

“I served on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee for six years and I chaired it for two of those, and I had no idea that the warden service was able to actually break the law to entrap somebody else,” said Jackson, who is running for his prior state Senate seat. “I was just amazed by that. My first reaction is that someone who gets elected the next time really should change that rule.”

Warden Service spokesman Cpl. John MacDonald issued a written statement late Monday defending the Allagash investigation. The statement said the newspaper’s story contained “misrepresentations and inaccuracies,” but did not identify what they were.

“The department stands wholeheartedly behind this investigation and our game wardens, as do the majority of Maine’s law-abiding citizens and visitors to our great state,” the statement said. “The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will soon offer facts in a response article, which will be provided this week to the Press Herald.”

Gov. Paul LePage’s office, Chief Warden Joel Wilkinson and Commissioner Woodcock did not respond to requests for comment Monday.