AUGUSTA — The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council voted 9-0 Monday to approve a special deer hunt for Eastport to help alleviate the island community’s burgeoning deer herd.

However, the council cut the proposed window for the special hunt from a two-week hunt to take place for three consecutive years to two weeks this December only. Thirty archery permits will be alloted for the special hunt in Eastport, which has a firearms ban.

The herd in Eastport is estimated at well over 20 deer per square mile. Deer move freely through the downtown streets, causing traffic safety concerns, and prevent residents of the small island from growing vegetable gardens.

Members of the Advisory Council were skeptical that a special hunt would do much to ease the deer problem in Eastport. But some members admitted that the town’s deer problem also is the fault of DIF&W policies, and that the town deserves some relief.

In 2005, the department redrew Maine’s hunting district boundaries for the state’s 27 wildlife management districts and, as a result, Eastport lost its any-deer permits and went to a bucks-only hunt. The state uses the any-deer – or doe – permit system to adjust deer populations in various parts of the state.

With Eastport in a hunting district without any-deer permits for the past 11 years, its deer population has grown unchecked, said Tom Schaeffer, the regional wildlife biologist in Jonesboro.


“The department has had a role in creating the problem and so it should be part of the solution,” said council member Sherry Oldham of Rangeley.

Lance Wheaton, who represents Washington County on the Advisory Council, agreed.

“I don’t blame it on Eastport,” he said. “It starts here. IFW and the state of Maine should have been allowing an (any-deer) hunt right along.”

Dean Pike, who owns Moose Island Marine in Eastport, said the vote was good news and hopefully the hunt will thin the herd.

In 2015, Eastport police reported 20 vehicle accidents involving deer that collectively cost roughly $40,000 in damage.

“When you’re going 20 or 30 mph, and you have a little time, you try to swerve to miss them. Then you can hit something or somebody else,” Pike said. “There are deer crossing in front of you all the time.”


Eastport deer committee chairman Chris Bartlett said the council’s decision to allow a special hunt this year would allow the town to begin the process of thinning the herd.

“We were hoping for a hunt,” Bartlett said. “As we move forward we will learn and can see what works. We would have been coming back to them next year to revise it, anyway.”

The hunt will give 22 Eastport bow hunters a permit as well as eight other bow hunters who are drawn in a lottery. Landowner permission for the hunt will be secured by the town.

Bartlett said he hopes DIF&W will allow any-deer permits again in District 27 in the future.

Schaeffer said Washington County in general has a low deer population, but on the islands the herds thrive. Schaeffer said a few years ago biologists had looked at adding any-deer permits along the coast, but after the severe winter of 2014-15 most of Washington County lost deer, so the idea was put on hold.

But he said if the deer harvest this fall showed an increasing herd Down East, District 27 could see any-deer permits again in the near future.

“We did explore introducing a token number in 27,” he said. “Hopefully that will happen this year and we can recommend some doe permits for next year.”


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