AUGUSTA – A century from now, Mainers will look back and say the state’s fish and game department did what it promised, vowed Chandler Woodcock on Friday.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife chief told sportsmen and women gathered at the 17th annual Sportsman’s Congress that IFW will repair the state’s withered deer herd — and it already has made headway toward that end.

In 2010, after saying they would, IFW officials took steps with new sources of funding, a new position and new studies to get the state’s deer herd back on track.

A perfect storm of events, including coyote predation, the loss of winter habitat and two back-to-back severe winters in 2008 and 2009 reduced the state’s whitetail herd. But 10 months after presenting “Maine’s Game Plan For Deer” and vowing to help the whitetail, IFW has taken steps.

“Every deer in the state of Maine becomes important now,” Woodcock said Friday.

Last year, as much as $50,000 was found in IFW’s budget to dispatch hunters to deer yards to decrease the coyote population, said John Pratt, IFW’s wildlife division section supervisor.

Another $50,000 from Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grants paid for research on deer reproduction that used fetuses from road kill. The grant also paid for digital equipment to better catalog the winter severity in deer yards, and funded flyovers of deer yards that will help better determine winter severity.

Small amounts of funding from the Legislature also helped produce a better response to the deer hunter survey, said Maine deer biologist Lee Kantar.

“In years past we had a low response to the questions: How many days did you hunt? In what district? What did you see? It was not useful. I think now we can use this survey,” Kantar said.

The study of deer reproduction had not been done for 20 years because funding was put on hold, Pratt said. That, too, is back on track.

Part of IFW’s approach is a new way of doing business. Kantar said that unlike years past, he is able to lobby for additional funds from sources outside the state.

“The commissioner has said OK to soliciting funds,” Kantar said.

So last year, Kantar went to the Outdoor Heritage Fund board to fund his deer projects, once just to ask for $906 for new digital monitors in deer yards. He got matching federal funds and now data from an additional 26 deer wintering areas can be tracked.

In addition, a new position was created when Andrea Erskine was named deputy commissioner and her legislative liaison position was left vacant.

In its place, IFW brought back its landowner relation position, which it used to share with the Department of Conservation.

Mark Latti was hired at the end of the fall and was charged with improving access for sportsmen and working with landowners on managing deer wintering areas.

As for what’s next, Woodcock promised the poaching problem across the state would become more visible in the near future. New road signs are also in the works to help decrease deer road kill.

Grants totaling $120,000 also are being pursued to help educate landowners in Eastern Maine how to manage their land for better deer habitat.

New steps have been taken, and more are to follow, Woodcock promised.

“It isn’t an IFW problem, it’s a concern for the state of Maine,” Woodcock said.

“IFW is (going to be) interconnected with the public, because that is what I think we should do. And deer are our focus.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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