The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with Maine’s two leading associations representing forest landowners, recently endorsed a set of Deer Wintering Area Management Guidelines aimed at assisting forest landowners to enhance the quality of deer wintering area on their properties.

To survive the winter season, deer seek habitats with a combination of cover and food that minimizes net energy loss. As snow accumulates and temperature drops, deer spend more time in older conifer-dominated forest stands associated with watercourses and valleys, often returning to winter in the same locations year after year. These traditionally used areas are called deer wintering areas. Deer management in Maine involves a complex interaction of factors in addition to DWA management, such as winter severity, predation, and hunting regulations.

The guidelines were developed as a priority recommendation of the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force, which was convened in 2007 by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin in response to the public’s concerns about declining deer populations.

“Working together with landowners to develop these guidelines was a critical step in understanding landowner objectives, the winter habitat needs for deer and how the two can be compatible,” said John Pratte, MDIFW Wildlife Management Section Supervisor. “Having these guidelines as common ground will facilitate the exchange of information between landowners and the Department. I am energized by the level of support from landowners and in the swiftness that some have demonstrated in adopting these.”

The Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC), which represents a majority of the large commercial timberland owners in Maine, and the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM), which represents a significant number of smaller woodlot owners, worked with the MDIFW to develop the guidelines through a series of field trips and meetings. The guidelines represent sound biological practices which are aimed to enhance the quality of deer wintering habitat in Maine. Although the guidelines are not intended to be mandatory for any landowner, MDIFW, MFPC, and SWOAM are all encouraging the adoption of these guidelines into landowner management plans wherever possible.

The guidelines focus on numerous considerations regarding the management of deer wintering areas: winter shelter; travel corridors; winter browse; spring and autumn food; and harvest timing.

“The process that landowners and the Department went through to develop these guidelines was healthy and collaborative, and created a much-needed open forum for discussing these issues,” said James Cote, Maine Forest Products Council Director of Communications. “Forest landowners in Maine have a strong record of wildlife stewardship, and we believe these guidelines appropriately balance the objectives of private landowners, as well as MDIFW.”

As a result of this process, the Maine Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, of which the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is a member, also has decided to take a lead role in the process, and will be working with the Department to disseminate information to forest practitioners such as loggers and landowners, and develop collaborative training opportunities in the months to come.

The guidelines can be found on all three of the organizations’ websites:

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: mefishwildlife.com.

Maine Forest Products Council: maineforest.org.

Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine: swoam.org.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative: sfimaine.org.

For more information, contact John Pratte at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, James Cote at the Maine Forest Products Council, Pat Sirois of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or Tom Doak at the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine at the information below:

John Pratte, MDIFW
E-mail: John.Pratte@maine.gov
Phone: 207-287-5253

James Cote, MFPC
E-mail: jcote@maineforest.org
Phone: 207-860-6600

Tom Doak, SWOAM
E-mail: tom@swoam.org
Phone: 207-626-0005

Pat Sirois, SFI
E-mail: psirois@maineforest.org
Phone: 207-622-9288

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