I have written at length about the dire predicament that exists in Northern and Eastern Maine with the whitetail deer herd. The general consensus is that there are three main factors – weather, habitat and predation. I dug around and put together population and harvest numbers for the past dozen years. These I’ve put to graphs so readers can get a better sense of the decline. Unlike the “climategate” scandal, where participants have been accused of “hiding the decline”, nobody is trying to hide the decline in deer population and harvest. The argument is what has caused it and what is being done about it?
Before you examine the graphs below, let me explain a couple things. Bear in mind that the data used is for population estimates and harvest numbers statewide. The whitetail deer crisis is for Northern Maine and Eastern Maine, comprising perhaps as much as two-thirds or more of the total state land mass. From information and accounts given, it appears the deer population and harvest figures for Central and Southern Maine remain steady or even growing in some places. I just did not have available data to plot out deer population estimates for the Northern and Eastern Wildlife Management Districts.
With the figures available and keeping in perspective that in Southern and Central areas the deer herd is stable, it’s easy to see that Northern and Eastern Maine deer herds are essentially non existent.
The first graph plots Maine’s estimated, post-hunt deer population beginning in 1998 and ending in 2008. The 2009 estimated, post-hunt deer population figure has not been made available to the public as of yet. At least that I am aware of at this time.
The Y-axis reveals the estimated deer population with a peak of 331,000 occurring in 1999 and a low in 2008 of 199,600. The years are displayed in the X-axis.
The second graph illustrates the deer harvest numbers for the years 1998-2009. Unlike the deer population which is estimated, the harvest numbers are actual shot and registered deer (required by law). The Y-axis shows the harvest numbers, with a peak occurring in 2002 or 38,153 and a low just this past hunting season of 18,045.
You can do your own calculating if you wish to guess what the post-hunt deer population for this year will be. Each season the harvest becomes a percentage of the total population. Of course there are many things we don’t know, some of which are hunter participation, weather factors that keep hunters in doors, mortality rates other than hunting, etc.
Using a 11-year average of the percentage of harvest based on estimated populations, it’s feasible that this year’s post-hunt statewide estimated deer population could be as low as 150,000.