PORTLAND, MAINE >> The mild winter in northern New England was kind to deer. Until now.
The deer-laden states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are issuing more hunting permits this year because so many of the animals survived an easy winter season.
Wildlife regulators with the states say the uptick in permits isn't just to appease hunters — they say it's necessary to prevent the deer herd from growing to the point where it becomes a problem. Unchecked growth can lead to traffic accidents and food competition resulting in starvation.
David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, said he and his fellow hunters are only too happy to help.
"Permits are up this year, which is a good thing for the hunters, and it's a better thing for the deer population," Trahan said.
Maine's wildlife regulators might increase the number of deer hunting permits by as much as 60 percent this year, up to more than 45,000. State deer biologist Kyle Ravana said the majority of the extra permits will be issued in southern Maine, where many deer survived. Maine has about 210,000 whitetail deer, which are near the northern edge of their range in the state.
Vermont is issuing almost 19,000 deer hunting permits this year, nearly twice as many as last year. New Hampshire issues deer permits for the southeastern part of the state and will increase them by a small amount. State officials have said they expect hunters to exceed last year's deer harvest of 10,895.
Vermont deer management program leader Nick Fortin said the harvest is a management tool "in certain parts of the state where we have too many deer, or we want to prevent it from growing any further."
Hunting of predators, like coyotes, has also helped deer thrive, said Trahan. Maine's hunting season for coyotes is open year-round, unlike like the seasons for deer, moose and bears, which are short and restricted.
The main firearms hunting season for deer in Maine begins Oct. 31. The permits the state is issuing are "any deer" permits that allow hunters to harvest deer of either sex. A committee is expected to approve the final number of permits next month.