Deer tags for roadkill in demand

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — In mid-November, Police Chief Alan Brown ordered more deer tags, not because of hunting, but because the department ran out due to the high number of car-deer accidents in the last few years.

Tagging deer after such accidents is standard procedure, but it has not been a standard year.

The tags are issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Each time a deer or other wild animal is hit by a vehicle, dies and is given to someone, it gets a tag in order to show the deer is legally possessed and not poached.

“The tag represents a law enforcement officer giving the deer to someone,” said Brown. The person whose vehicle hit the deer has the first right of refusal to the carcass. “I always try to accommodate the people involved,” he said.

If the driver of the vehicle doesn’t want the newly-deceased deer, he or she may contact a family member or friend to retrieve the animal. If no one involved in the accident (and no one related to the person in the accident) wants the deer, then the police department refers to a list of people kept on file who have expressed interest in road kill. That list typically isn’t more than 10 people, according to Brown.

Each officer in the department is given a number of tags to keep with their supplies while on duty. There is also a small number in each cruiser in case an officer arrives at a scene without one.

Information gathered on the tags includes the type of animal — bear, deer, moose or turkey — its gender, when the accident occurred, where it occurred, vehicle operator, their address and vehicle information, the name of the person the animal was given to, their address and the officer’s information. The information is also filed with the state.

The tags are labeled with a clear reminder: “Poaching is Stealing!”

It was Brown’s first time ordering more tags since he began work with the department in October 2015, but he’s pretty sure there was a fresh supply of more than 200 when he arrived.

On record for 2017 in Southwest Harbor, there were seven reportable car/deer accidents, with damage over $1,000 to the vehicle involved.

So far, in 2018 that number has only increased by one, to eight reportable car/deer accidents. But throughout the fall and into winter, there have been at least one and often up to three car accidents involving deer per week, according to reports for the department.

According to Brown, if a collision does not meet the threshold for a reportable accident, it could be filed under other headings in the computer system that logs police activity, including animal nuisance or property damage.

“It is very difficult to track something like that,” Lieutenant Corey Bagley of the Hancock County Sheriff Office agreed. “It seems like this fall we’ve had a lot more car-deer accidents than over the summer or in previous years.”

Bagley and another lieutenant in the department are responsible for keeping enough deer tags on hand at the sheriff’s office.

There is not a set amount or time the tags are ordered, he said. Deputies ask a game warden if one comes by the office to restock their supply. Bagley recalls bringing more tags into the sheriff’s office in November, just as the Southwest Harbor department did.

“We have higher areas where it seems like we have more car-deer accidents,” but throughout the county the number seems to be higher than normal, Bagley said.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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