AUGUSTA — The number of deer, turkeys and bears killed by hunters this fall were all down from last year, but on par with wildlife biologists’ expectations, while the moose harvest was up, according to preliminary numbers released Tuesday by the state.

Fewer permits, extreme weather and abundant natural food were among the reasons for the reductions, Maine Wildlife Division Director Nate Webb said at a meeting of the Maine Department Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council.

The preliminary numbers were available three to six months earlier than they have been in the past because of a new electronic tagging system implemented last year and an associated real-time harvest map that went live online in September. The preliminary numbers have not been broken down in greater detail, such as for the new subzones created this year where bonus deer permits were handed out to help cull high concentrations of white-tailed deer. Final numbers will be available in the coming months.

The preliminary harvest number for the deer hunt – which continues through Saturday for muzzleloaders and archery in certain areas – is around 28,000, according to IFW, down from 32,451 harvested in 2018. Webb said the reduction was expected because the state issued fewer any-deer permits, which allow hunters to shoot a doe in order to help control the deer population. He said the severity of last year’s winter also affected number of deer killed by hunters in the northern part of the state. Still, the harvest exceeded the 10-year average of 22,943 deer.

There were about 1,968 moose harvested by the 2,820 permit holders in the fall hunts, which occur in September to October. That’s up from 1,888 last year. Webb said the numbers may have been higher if not for extremely warm September that made it more difficult for hunters to call in bull moose because they weren’t moving as much.

Webb said moose mortality from winter tick previously had been reported with the harvest numbers, but the impact of the parasite on Maine’s moose hunt this fall is not known, he said, because state biologists have not yet conducted either the radio collar study or the aerial winter study.

“We haven’t even collared the moose,” Webb said.

The fall wild turkey and black bear hunts both had significantly lower harvest numbers than in 2018, which Webb said was expected because the abundant acorn and beechnut crops provided ample natural forage for turkeys and bears, enabling the birds to move around less and keeping the bruins off hunter bait piles. Webb said the bait hunt accounts for 90 percent of the bear harvest in Maine (trapping and hunting with dogs and stalking account for the other 10 percent).

The wild turkey fall harvest this year was 1,980, down from the 2018 fall harvest of 3,507 birds. And the black bear harvest this year was 2,371, down from last year’s total of 3,314.

“The same thing happened in 2011, and there was a low black bear harvest that year because of the abundant mast crop,” Webb said.

This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. on Dec. 12 to correct that the moose harvest was up from last year.


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