Between July 20 and September 10, citizen volunteers across Maine are spotting deer and sending simple observations to Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The observations include the location, date and time, and the number of does, bucks, and/or fawns.
“Maine Deer Spy” was created this year to bolster State biologists’ understanding of whitetail recruitment patterns in the state through the recruitment of citizen scientists. This project allows deer and wildlife enthusiasts as well as Department staff around the state to record and report their deer sightings in a way that feeds right back into Maine’s deer management, said MDIFW, in a news release.
“The data that we receive will be used as a secondary source of recruitment data and to increase confidence in our understanding of whitetail recruitment patterns throughout Maine,” said the release.
For wildlife biologists, regulated harvest of antlerless deer is the primary means of controlling deer populations at a healthy level. Since 1986, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has used the Any-deer Permit (ADP) system to regulate the number of antlerless deer harvested.
“When determining the number of ADP to issue each year, it is important to estimate recruitment rates (how many fawns each doe is able to raise up until the hunting season) so we can account for how many deer are added into the population each year and what proportion of the doe population we can lose while keeping the population healthy and stable,” said the release. “Since the ADP system was devised, we have relied on lactation rate and embryo rate data, which has allowed us to estimate the proportion of does that successfully reared fawns and the number of fawns produced by each doe.”
These data are collected primarily during the regular firearms season when biologists examine thousands of deer and collect data on physiological condition and reproductive status. However, because there is little antlerless harvest in much of the state and few female deer to examine, knowledge of recruitment is limited in many areas.
Do you enjoy watching deer? Do you want to help Maine’s biologists better understand the white-tailed deer population? Become a citizen scientist for the Maine Deer Spy pilot project! Volunteers are needed across the state and everyone can participate.
Biologists will review the data received to determine whether this project can meet data collection needs, and then biologists will consider enhancing online data collection options in the future.
Data from this project will be summarized each year in the MDIFW Research and Management Report.