Biologist Randy Cross of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife circles behind a chocolate-phase black bear during the department's annual spring trapping season. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has submitted seven bills to the Maine Legislature. Although I don’t remember the details of all of these bills, I do know about the most important ones. All of these bills were submitted last year, but the Legislature adjourned early because of the pandemic and none were enacted.

Here are the bills:

LR 94, An Act To Clarify and Enhance Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Laws: This is a typical bill the department submits each session to fix any problems with the laws that govern their activities. There is rarely any controversy about this bill. I am pretty sure, as a lobbyist, I always supported this bill.

LR 95, An Act To Clarify All-terrain Vehicle Registration Requirements and Establish Regular Maintenance of All-terrain Vehicle Trails: This bill will clarify and simplify ATV registrations, and establish, in law, an ongoing plan to maintain ATV trails. ATV use has increased significantly, so these trails are important, and we need more of them. Quite often, I see ATVs going up our road, even though that is illegal.

LR 96, An Act To Amend Maine’s Wildlife Laws Regarding Species of Special Concern: I’m not sure what the department is hoping to achieve with this bill, but obviously it thinks it needs a law change to do what it wants for troubled species.

LR 97, An Act To Clarify Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Licensing and Registration Laws: Another typical bill to clarify laws governing licensing and registrations.

LR 98, An Act To Allow the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife To Authorize the Hunting of Antlerless Deer without a Permit in Certain Areas: The DIF&W believes we have far too many deer in some places — mostly along the coast and in York County, so the department wants to allow — and encourage — hunters to shoot does in those areas. To do that, it will need to eliminate the requirement that you must have a doe permit — won in a lottery — to shoot a doe.

I think the request is a good one, but there will still be lots of hunters who will only shoot bucks. I became one of those buck hunters at an early age, and now have lots of deer head mounts and antlers on my office walls.

I have three head mounts of the largest bucks I shot, and one day, when our three kids were in my office, I pointed to the three buck mounts and said, “Good news. I have three buck mounts and there are three of you, so you can each have one.” And our youngest daughter said, “Oh, I don’t think so, dad. We’ll put those in your museum.” Well, of course, I loved the idea of a museum.

LR 99, An Act To Give the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Rule-making Authority To Establish a Bear Season Framework and Bag Limits: Maine has an estimated 35,000 bears, which the department thinks is far too many, so it is seeking authority to establish longer seasons and higher bag limits. It wants to allow and encourage hunters to kill two bears.

I’m not sure we have too many bears, and I’m doubtful many bear hunters want to kill two bears. One night last year, while Linda and I were sleeping, a bear pushed over all of Linda’s bird feeders and smashed them. Some are only a few feet from our kitchen window. So, yes, we’d like someone to shoot the bears in our neighborhood.

LR 129, An Act To Amend Certain Fish and Wildlife Laws and Related Provisions and LR 456 An Act To Enhance Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Laws: I’m not sure about these two bills, but they sound ambitious.

The Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will hear at least 150 bills, and will Zoom those hearings and work sessions, so you can listen and even testify from home.

George Smith, Outdoors contributor

George Smith, Outdoors contributor

George Smith has spent his life advocating for hunters, anglers, wildlife and conservation. He has been awarded many lifetime achievement awards including from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife...