FARMINGTON — At the Tuesday, Aug. 22, Select Board meeting there was lengthy discussion on the nuisance deer issue – both in-town and on more rural Route 27 – resulting in the possibility of a deer committee being formed.

At the July 11 Select Board meeting it was announced Sarah Boyden, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, along with her supervisor and the district game warden would attend the Aug. 22 meeting to address concerns raised by some residents regarding the deer population.

At the July 27 meeting, Selectman Dennis O’Neil presented a petition signed by more than 24 residents from Lake, Stewart, and Sunset avenues, Eastmont Square, Granite Heights, and Perham and High streets asking if an ordinance against in-town deer feeding could be adopted.

Attending the meeting Tuesday from Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with Boyden were Keel Kemper, regional biologist from the Sidney office; Avery Boucher, game warden from Division C which includes Farmington; Cpl. Kris MacCabe, a former game warden for the Farmington area and Sgt. Scott Thrasher from the warden service. More than two dozen citizens also attended.

Kemper said deer are a common problem for many communities.

Resident Tracy Williams said she got the petition together with neighbors. They talked, commiserated about the deer, wondered what they could do, she noted. Boyden did reach out, she said.


“We clearly see the growth in the population of deer every year, and problems increasing with that and the risk of tick borne illness on top of it. So are there any success stories for reducing deer population anywhere?” Williams asked.

“There are a few, but it is a pretty steep climb,” Kemper said. “People like to see deer, like it or not.”

It is illegal to feed deer from June 1 to Dec. 15, game wardens can talk to individuals and if it continues, can give citations, he noted.

Kemper said he had only seen ordinances regulating duck feeding, and those in only a few towns. If Farmington was to pass one on deer feeding, the warden service doesn’t enforce, that would be the responsibility of local police, he noted.

“The purpose I think of this discussion is to find out who supports, beyond the neighborhoods that started the petition, at this point,” O’Neil said. “And if there are alternatives town wide to address the problem.”

Expanded archery season is an option for towns prohibiting discharge of firearms, Farmington doesn’t have that, Keeler noted. Special hunts require rule making, going through the Legislature, he said. There are companies available for deer reduction, IF&W has to buy into it, he added.


Resident Aileen Kennedy asked if the deer could be trapped and transported elsewhere.

That is generally not successful since about half the deer are killed when being sedated, Kemper said.

An outspoken supporter of banning deer feeding, resident Rachel McClellan said she comes from away, where there was a $500 fine for feeding deer, elk and other wildlife. Chronic wasting disease in deer is another concern as feeding stations are vectors for that disease, she noted.

“If we like hunting, and we like the tourism, not to mention our gardens and the thousands of dollars that people spend either protecting from the deer or replanting and so forth and deterrence, this isn’t just about gardens,” McClellan said. “This is also about their health, our health from tick borne diseases.”

People feed deer corn and other things that aren’t normally part of their diet, she noted. As ruminants, their bodies need to adapt over time, it’s unhealthy for the deer to do this, she stated.

“People don’t understand what they’re doing,” McClellan added.


If chronic wasting disease shows up in Maine, state regulations on feeding deer would likely be seen, Kemper said.

Walter Gooley owns a Christmas tree farm off Route 27 north of town, has had a big problem with deer the last two years. “It costs $12 to plant a tree, two years later it is gone,” he said. The state problem has allowed him to bag a couple deer in January, but the population is so huge, it doesn’t help much, he noted.

Kemper estimates Farmington has around 35 deer per square mile whereas Isleboro has 100 deer per square mile.

Police Chief Kenneth Charles said feeding deer and other feed sources such as hosta and hydrangeas, loss of habitat around the town’s perimeter [an example is the solar farm on Farmington Falls Road/Route 27] and lack of predators are all part of the population increase. Contributing factors need to be identified, he noted.

A few mild winters in a row is another factor, Kemper said. The state has almost doubled the number of any deer permits given out, understands the issue. Deer can be very prolific, sometimes hunters just aren’t able to get it done, he noted.

“Only about 10% of hunters are successful,” he stated. About eight antlerless permits across the state are needed to tag one doe, he added.


Those shooting a firearm must be 100 yards away from a dwelling or have permission, McCabe said. Posted land is very prevalent today, it is increasingly harder for people to find places to hunt, he noted. Letting hunters know they can use a property, getting permission from all nearby landowners could help, he added.

When asked if birth control was an option, Kemper said the technology is there, is cost prohibitive at $1,500 per deer. Another issue is many deer don’t survive the tranquilization needed, he noted.

Kemper asked if the town had a deer committee that could help organize a special hunt, do foot work on other things.

“The idea of having a deer committee seems interesting,” McClellan said.

O’Neil thanked the officials for the information shared. “This is what we, the community need to know,” he said. Sharing what you can, can’t do becomes important to finding a path forward, he added.

Williams asked those interested in serving on the deer committee to meet outside.

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