AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine game wardens say they are seeing an increase in deer poaching, including night hunting, in a trend that has been noticed in other states as well.
The Maine Warden Service said it has received more than 80 complaints about night hunting this year. It comes at time when there are fewer deer to legally shoot because the state has cut the number of any-deer permits in an effort to rebuild the herd after last winter’s high mortality count.
Biologists expect 4,000-5,000 fewer harvested deer this year.
Warden Sgt. Kevin Adam said the wet weather may be playing a role in the poaching activity.
“The deer haven’t been moving too good because of the weather. So [hunters] get frustrated, and they start baiting or they feel they need that confidence boost,” Adam said.
Poachers are getting trickier, too.
“We’re starting to see a move where people are night hunting more with bow and arrows. So people don’t hear shots at night,” Adam said.
In October, six men in western Maine pleaded guilty to charges that included night hunting, hunting in a closed season, exceeding the deer limit, theft of traps and trapping without a license. Their arrests followed a two-year investigation.
In Vermont, game officials said that state’s growing deer population is luring poachers. Vermont wardens arrested 14 people in three poaching incidents last month. The poachers used lights to hunt deer at night.
Two South Carolina men poaching in Iowa in the fall of 2007 used crossbows to shoot deer from their vehicle, then returned at night to recover the animals’ heads. One of the men had a history of poaching, authorities said. The men had to pay $24,000 in damages and forfeit more than $5,000.
A Montana man violated virtually every hunting law on the state’s books as he killed at least 68 moose, elk, deer, antelope, mountain goats and black bear. The poacher, a former Texan, lost his hunting and fishing privileges for life in Montana and 25 other states under an interstate wildlife compact. He was also fined nearly $53,000 last December and ordered to complete 1,000 hours of community service.
In one of the nation’s most egregious cases, two men in Wisconsin were accused earlier this year of using a high-powered rifle and spotlight to shoot 600 animals from their vehicle over a year’s time. Charges in what was described as a thrill-killing spree included hunting deer during closed season and hunting deer at night with a spotlight.
Night hunting in Maine is punishable by three days in jail, a $1,000 fine, loss of hunting privileges for the season and the loss of firearm. In Vermont, poaching is punishable by 60 days in jail and loss of fishing and hunting licenses.