November 3, 2013

New Maine deer biologist winning over a tough crowd

In his role managing Maine’s whitetail herd, Kyle Ravana has to know how to handle sportsmen as well as deer.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SOLON — He might be only 33 years old and in his first job as a head deer biologist, but Kyle Ravana is already winning over a tough crowd.

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Kyle Ravana, left, Maine’s new head deer biologist, talks with hunter Floyd Whitmore at a moose tagging station in Solon last month. In his first seven months on the job Ravana is proving a good listener.

Photos by John Patriquin/StaffPhotographer

click image to enlarge

Kyle Ravana wants to manage “for the health of the deer, rather than how many there are per square mile.”

Ravana has some different ideas about how to preserve and grow Maine’s deer herd, yet he isn’t just sitting behind a desk crunching numbers. Ravana comes from Baranof Island, a remote, rugged strip of land in Alaska that is 20 miles wide, 120 miles long and has one major paved road. He already has shown an ability to get out to talk with sportsmen – and, maybe more important, to listen to them.

Ravana, a lifelong hunter, was hired as Maine’s head deer biologist seven months ago. He wants to focus on the health of the herd rather than on geographic deer densities. In doing so, he hopes to improve the state’s deer herd while meeting the needs of sportsmen from Caribou to Kittery.

Ravana is Maine’s first new state deer biologist since 2005 and he wants to win over the trust of Maine’s 200,000 hunters. He brings some different ideas to one of the most high-profile wildlife management positions in Maine, which paid a little more than $50,000 in 2012.

It’s a job that will be demanding because that’s the way sportsmen are here. Maine hunters want a robust deer herd to hunt. And biologists can’t control some factors that hurt deer numbers, such as severe winters, the loss of habitat on private land and coyote predation.

Ravana starts his new post as the deer herd is rebounding, and he’s making a good impression on a vocal group.

To Maine sportsmen, managing the state’s whitetail deer herd is a bit like managing the Red Sox. Deer hunters here want a winning season every year.

“Just about everybody becomes an expert in deer management if they hunt deer here,” said George Matula, a Unity College professor who helped create Maine’s any-deer permit system when he worked with the state 30 years ago.

“Of course, deer is kind of a premier species as far as Maine residents are concerned. And they all have ideas on how it should be done. And then if things go wrong, that guy is kind of a lightning rod for criticism, even though it may not totally be his fault. It can make it tough.”

TALKING TO THE HUNTERS

But hunter Floyd Whitmore liked what he saw in Kyle Ravana last month during the moose hunt. When Whitmore pulled his pickup truck into the deer tagging station on U.S. Route 201 in Solon, the 75-year-old sportsman wanted to ask about the doe tag he had won in the any-deer lottery. And he wanted someone he could look in the face and ask.

Ravana couldn’t give Whitmore an any-deer permit in a hunting district closer to the man’s Norridgewock home. But Ravana listened and talked to him about the health of the herd.

Whitmore appreciated the no-nonsense treatment from the young biologist, and came away a fan. At this point in Maine’s hunting history, the young, first-time state deer biologist can use them.

On Oct. 18, Ravana went to Presque Isle and addressed the 200-member Aroostook County Conservation Association to share his ideas for managing Maine’s deer herd.

Sportsmen there say it was a step in the right direction.

“I was very impressed. He’s aggressive. He wants to help,” said Jerry McLaughlin, who founded the association to help the northern Maine herd. “He’s young, but he’s aggressive, not like these guys sitting behind desks who get in a comfort zone. This new guy, he’s hot-blooded, that’s what we need. I think he’s working for us.”

(Continued on page 2)

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