AUGUSTA — Hunters last year killed fewer than 19,000 deer in Maine, a 6 percent drop from 2010 and the fourth straight season with low harvest numbers.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said today that 18,839 deer were killed by resident and non-resident hunters.

The decline was expected due to a sharp cutback in the number of hunter permits to give the deer population a chance to recover following harsh winters in 2008 and 2009 that thinned the herd.

Biologists say this year’s mild winter should help boost Maine’s deer population and result in a strong deer hunt next fall.

As recently as five years ago, the Maine deer harvest approached 30,000 animals a year.

The harvest the past four years has ranged from about 18,000 to 21,000.

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