Recreation

State needs to find a new deer expert

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Make no mistake about it. When it comes to Maine’s most important wildlife game species, our whitetail deer are at the very top of the list. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the enormous  impact that deer have on Maine’s overall economy, as well as the budget and income at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

This makes deer management in Maine a priority affair. Management decisions and policy is the domain of the regional wildlife biologists and the leading deer biologist in the Bangor office. For more than 20 years, Gerry Lavigne oversaw the management and study of Maine’s deer populations. A knowledgeable and dedicated deer man, and a nationally recognized deer biologist, Gerry left his position at a peak time in his career. His retirement choice was partly motivated by ongoing differences of opinion about deer management policy with his superiors at MDIF&W.

Eventually Lavigne was succeeded by an equally dedicated and knowledgeable young wildlife biologist, Kyle Ravana. A modest fellow with his eyes wide open, Kyle had no delusions. He knew that, like every job, there is a learning curve, that you don’t swoop in and effect wholesale changes in deer management policy or direction until you know the ropes.

To his credit, Kyle – like Lavigne – was always accessible and patient in carefully explaining the whys and wherefores of deer management, which is often complex. During his short tenure we watched him grow in his job and become more self-assured and deliberate about his research and his policy recommendations to the higher ups.

Kyle, who had only been at his position a few years, apparently decided it was no longer for him. Although there has been no official acknowledgment of this from the Department, his departure was, insofar as I can tell, abrupt and unexpected. There were no press releases. I stumbled upon the information that he had left his job more than three months after he left his post.

He could not have departed at a more inopportune time: he was in the middle of an important and highly touted winter deer mortality study and the preparation of the 15-year deer management plan.

Purportedly, our second good deer man left one of the most highly sought after DIF&W jobs to become a farmer, an equally worthy calling. Was there some other reason Ravana decided to leave what should have been a career position? Nobody is saying.

What we do know is that the position has been vacant for almost six months!  The Department has been conducting interviews for a replacement. Even if the Department fills the post tomorrow, the new deer man will have to “spool up” and learn the job just as the others before him had to do.

The bottom line is this: At a critical time in Maine’s deer recovery the state has ostensibly been without  a seasoned, experienced deer research leader for far too long. It’s a typical bureaucratic situation: sudden departure, slow replacement.

A business would have engineered some kind of a smooth transition. Ravana, a critical employee, would have stayed on board until a successor was trained.

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The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

 

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