These whitetail does check out a nearby hunting party in northeast Somerset County during the moose hunt in October 2017. Credit: Pete Warner

State wildlife officials are sometimes forced to seek new ways to manage the animals and alleviate negative consequences that can crop up.

That’s the case in two specific parts of the state this year — one in Wildlife Management District 26, including part of Brewer and eight other towns — and another in WMD 25, including Georgetown and Arrowsic. Rather than apply a management rule to the entire district, officials for the first time will be targeting those two “sub-units” by allocating bonus permits designed to keep the deer population at the desired level.

The BDN asked Nathan Bieber, the state deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to explain the situation, talk about bonus permits and explain how people can apply for them.

The deadline for application is Aug. 15, so time to apply is running out.

Here’s what Bieber had to say:

What is a bonus permit? “A bonus permit lets you take an additional deer. So if you get a regular any-deer permit, you can take a buck or a doe. A bonus permit allows you to take an additional deer, which has to be antlerless.”

In what situations does the state issue bonus permits? “If a wildlife management district has more permits than people who apply — when you have so many permits you can’t get rid of them — then the extras roll over and become bonus permits. And that’s just another way to incentivize people to actually apply for these things and take antlerless deer with them.”

Explain for us the move to establish two “sub-units.” “This year we added two deer management sub-units. These are going to be impermanent zones. They’re intended to last five years or as long as needed. And the intent is to increase harvest there because we’re seeing more issues associated with locally overabundant deer — roadkill, Lyme disease, property damage, complaints, things like that.”

How do you determine that a town has a deer problem worth addressing? “What we do is, we have data for every town in the state for all these different factors. And we do a percentile ranking for every town in the state to see where it lies compared to other towns. And so if a town is consistently in the top five or 10 percent for each one of these different metrics, that’s a town we look at and say they’re consistently having issues across the board. If there’s a cluster of towns, we want to deal with that.”

So this year, you’ve established two sub-units. Where are they? “One is called 25A, within Wildlife Management District 25 in Georgetown and Arrowsic. And then in the center of Wildlife Management District 26 we have sub-unit 26A, consisting of parts of Brewer, Bucksport, Castine, Dedham, Holden, Orland, Orrington, Penobscot and Verona.”

How many bonus permits are up for grabs? “In 25A we will be issuing 270 bonus permits, and in 26A, 200 bonus permits.”

How does a hunter enter? “It all happens within the any-deer permit lottery. The last day to apply is Aug. 15, so you’d better get on it. If you’re interested in getting one of these bonus permits, there’s a drop-down menu during that process where you can pick which areas you’re interested in for an any-deer permit or a bonus permit. And in the bonus permit drop-down you can select either a WMD where you would like a bonus permit if there are any, or one of these sub-units. And this year you can choose two preferred areas. You could only choose one in the past. You’re allowed to choose three WMDs for an any-deer permit and two for a bonus permit.”

Do I have to use the bonus permit during a specific deer season? “If you get one of these bonus permits you can use it during any season. Firearm season, bow season, muzzleloader. Pick your poison.”

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...