Do you care about management of wild game animals?

Do you love to see moose? Are you tired of bear ballot battles? Are you concerned that high deer densities are increasing the spread of Lyme disease?

Perhaps you are bothered by a large group of turkeys that congregate in your yard. I’m thinking of the woman in Manchester who called a friend one winter, asking if he could come and shoot the turkeys that were climbing onto her outside deck to eat her Christmas decorations.

Right now, you have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the management of wild game animals in Maine. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is creating new management plans for deer, moose, bear and turkeys this year, aided by an impressive Steering Committee representing interests from the Farm Bureau and the Nature Conservancy to the Forest Products Council and the Maine Guides Association.

But the most intriguing aspect of this, to me, is the agency’s determination to engage the general public and private landowners, as well as hunters and the outdoor industry, in this process. This is especially important if you are not a hunter. I guess you could sit this out, and let those of us who hunt continue to interact with the department and influence these management plans. But it would be better for you to engage in this because you are impacted — sometimes in major ways — by these critters.

This is the most comprehensive and engaging process ever used to create big game management plans in Maine. In includes a survey by Mark Duda of Responsive Management, a national company that has done surveys and plans in all 50 states.

Duda randomly sampled 933 residents, 956 hunters, and 304 landowners by telephone, mail and email, and by region (north/east, central, south), in January and February. You can read his entire 500-page report at www.maine.gov/ifw. Look in the Wildlife section for the 2016 Maine Big Game Public Survey. You will also find game management plans and issues in the Steering Committee section there. Well worth reading before you participate.

Respondents in Duda’s survey expressed a strong level of satisfaction with the hunts the state allows for these big game animals, with 80 percent very satisfied with the moose hunt, 73 percent with the bear hunt, 72 percent with the turkey hunt, and 60 percent with the deer hunt. Those who were not satisfied were in the single digits, which Duda called, “extremely low negatives. You get an A to an A-plus for management.”

When landowners were asked if they’d had problems with wildlife, one-third said yes, with coyotes at the top of the list of problem animals. Deer were second and turkeys third.

Most landowners rated wildlife management as excellent or good. Highest dissatisfaction was with turkey management (16 percent said it was fair, and 17 poor). “Turkey issues are the red flags,” said Duda.

I’m pretty sure many of you have opinions on these and other wildlife management issues, so here’s how you can express those opinions and influence the new plans. Until March 31, the department is hosting a dedicated Town Hall Forum at www.metownhall.org where you can voice your opinions on all the big game issues, offering comments and suggestions. You will find prepared questions in the forum, and you will even be able to interact with other participants in an exchange of opinions and ideas. Should be lively and fun!

Throughout March, public meetings will also be held to gather your opinions. Here’s the list.

Meetings focused on bear management: March 16, 6-9 p.m., Katahdin Room, Embassy Suites, 1050 Westbrook St., Portland; March 16, 6-9 p.m., Red Room at the Northeastland Hotel, 436 Main St., Presque Isle; March 30, 6-9 p.m., Blue Room, Black Bear Inn, 4 Godfrey Drive, Orono.

Public meetings focused on deer, moose, and turkeys: March 19, 1-4 p.m., Katahdin Room, Embassy Suites, Portland; March 19, 1-4 p.m., Red Room, Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle; April 2, 1-4 p.m., Blue Room, Black Bear Inn, Orono.

And yes, I am disappointed that no public meetings are scheduled in our central Maine area.

Here’s what this is all about, from a state press release: “The meetings and online town hall are part of a larger study designed to assess priorities for bear, other big game, and fisheries management, including the issues residents see as important; their attitudes toward the current and desired population levels of various fish and game species; management techniques for these species; and any ideas for potential changes to the current management programs. Input from the public will help MDIFW to create the best management plans possible.”

Don’t miss this great opportunity!

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.