AUGUSTA — State wildlife officials have approved a series of new rules that apply to animal owners in Maine and that generated a range of reactions during a public comment period earlier this summer.

The new rules allow the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to impose steeper fines on those who keep wildlife illegally, tighten the permitting process for those wanting to keep and sell wildlife, and give third-party contractors the ability to carry out the necessary inspections of a facility where wildlife will be kept — among other measures.

State lawmakers directed the wildlife agency to draft those rule changes three years ago, and they were approved Wednesday by a council of advisers to the agency.

Before that vote, opinions about the rule changes were mixed. In a public comment period earlier this summer, the agency received a couple hundred letters, said Nate Webb, a biologist with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

At a public hearing in June, a few Mainers and non-Mainers supported the changes, arguing they will ensure animals are treated better while in captivity.

But a greater number of attendees at the June hearing — including breeders, collectors, rehabilitators and researchers — expressed concern about the proposal.

Reptile collectors worried their snakes and lizards would be banned under the proposed rules, while at least one animal rehabilitator said the new requirements would make it hard for younger rehabilitators to get certified by the state. One scientist from the University of Maine said it would be harder to perform research on aquatic animals under the proposal.

Wildlife officials considered all that public input, Webb said, and the rules that were approved Wednesday included a few changes that could alleviate some of their concerns.

For example, the department requires a certain level of training for people who are certified to work with animals, Webb said, and the newest version of the rules make it easier for people to get that training without taking formal courses.

Carleen Cote, a Vassalboro woman who rehabilitates deer, porcupines, raccoons and other mammals, spoke out against the original proposal in June. At the time, she argued that it was too hard for would-be rehabilitators to take the courses they would need for certification.

But on Wednesday, Cote said she was pleased that the wildlife agency had loosened the training requirement in the final rules, allowing less formal wildlife work to count as training.

“The department was very generous in accepting my suggestions,” she said.

On Wednesday, another woman who had supported the rule changes from the beginning said she was pleased to see they had passed.

Kristina Snyder, an animal rights activist from New Hampshire, has protested the operation of a wildlife preserve in Mount Vernon and argues the new rules will ensure that captive animals are treated well in Maine.

Snyder has alleged mistreatment of animals at the preserve, called DEW Haven, where proprietors Bob and Julie Miner keep tigers, wolves, kangaroos, alligators and other exotic animals.

In March, an Animal Planet television series about DEW Haven was canceled following an investigation of the preserve by the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones.

In an interview on Wednesday, Julie Miner said Snyder’s accusations were unfounded and pointed out that the rule changes were not made because of any allegations against DEW Haven, but because of changes in state law that were made three years ago.

“It irritates me that this out-of-stater keeps referring to us like the rules were made because of us,” Miner said.

Miner supports the new wildlife rules, she said, and has worked with state officials to draft them. She said she did not think DEW Haven was violating any of the new rules.

Under the rule changes, the wildlife agency now will convene a technical committee that will consider which species Mainers should be allowed to possess and which should be restricted, said Webb, the state biologist. The committee will accept public input and make recommendations to the agency’s advisory council about how to categorize animals.

For those animal owners who are concerned about their particular species not being allowed here, Webb suggested paying attention to the website of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, where the new rules will be posted soon and where future public hearings will be announced.

Webb also encouraged contacting the agency with any questions about the new rules.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

ceichacker@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @ceichacker