AUGUSTA — State wildlife biologists on Wednesday proposed increasing the number of any-deer hunting permits issued by 59 percent after an unseasonably mild winter allowed the state’s deer population to swell in some regions.

If approved, the proposed permit allotment would increase by 16,985 to a total of 45,755 this season, up from 28,770 last year. Any-deer permits are distributed through a lottery, as are moose-hunting permits, and it is competitive.

The proposed increase comes on the heels of a 23 percent decrease last season following back-to-back harsh winters. It was the second decrease in as many years. The 2015 allotment was only the fourth to fall below 30,000 permits since the any-deer permit system was implemented 31 years ago.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said state biologists arrived at the proposed number by analyzing scientific data on the herd. The IFW Advisory Council will vote in July on whether to approve the number.

“In general we are rather enthused with what we’re seeing for deer in most parts of the state,” Woodcock said.

Several members of the IFW Advisory Council, who represent all of Maine’s 16 counties, said they are seeing greater numbers of deer in their regions.

But some hunters said they didn’t understand why such a dramatic increase was called for a year after the allotment had fallen to a historic low.

“The herd has rebounded. But they finally get the herd to go up, and young hunters can see some game, and the first thing they do is try to reduce the herd again,” said Registered Maine Guide Jake Allain of Dover-Foxcroft. “I’m confused. I know they are trying to balance the herd. How about go halfway? Creep up a little bit. When people go hunting they love to see deer. Add a few more permits, but don’t go overboard.”

But Maine deer biologist Kyle Ravana said hunters need to look at how the permit increase is dispersed, not the total increase statewide. Most of the additional permits – as much as 34,700 – will be distributed in southern and central Maine, from Kittery north to Belfast.

Nine hunting districts in northern and eastern Maine again will see no allotment of any-deer permits because populations there still are below biologists’ targets.

“It’s not 59 percent across the landscape of Maine,” Ravana said. “There are places that are coming off a very mild winter where we want to increase the harvest to decrease the deer population in those areas where the deer population is above the publicly-derived goals.”

Biologists determine where to reduce the deer herd using data gathered from the harvest in previous years, from health data obtained from hunter- and road-killed deer, and from a winter severity index.

Ravana said some parts of southern Maine that typically have anywhere from 15 to 20 deer per square mile have more this spring. Unless those populations are kept in check through hunting, they could expand quickly.

There were mixed reviews about the permit increase among hunters and guides.

Deer hunter Brian Donaghy of Unity was skeptical of the need for such a drastic increase.

“I think there are plenty of deer. But I think deer numbers in most areas of the state are skewed with fewer big bucks and lots of does,” Donaghy said.

But Registered Maine Guide Jayson Lucarelli, who guides in the North Maine Woods, said the proposed increase made sense to him given the extremely mild winter. Lucarelli knows as well as anyone how mild it was – he works on the ski patrol at Sugarloaf, which saw little natural snow this winter.

“I can understand with the weather pattern we’ve had. There is probably more of a need to harvest them this fall. I know there is a lot of deer in those areas (in central and southern Maine),” said Lucarelli, 31.

Hunter Dave Conley of Washington County said he trusts the state biologists. Conley, a recreational guide who hunts from his canoe, said he sees plenty of deer – and some big bucks – in the district he hunts in north of Belfast, where the number of permits would increase from 2,210 to 4,425 under the proposal.

“To me it’s pretty obvious that with a mild winter the deer herd will recover more,” Conley said.

Also on Wednesday the Advisory Council voted unanimously 10-0 to reduce the number of moose permits from 2,815 last year to 2,140 in 2016.

The reduction was a result of state moose biologists wanting to meet population goals set by a public working group a decade ago. And in one northwest hunting zone – Wildlife Management District 4 – there have been less moose sighted, biologists said.

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