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Mike Witte Speaks to Bristol Lions on Maine Wildlife 10/17/2011

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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At their October 3rd meeting at the Willing Workers Hall in New Harbor, the Bristol Area Lions heard from Bristol resident and neighbor Mike Witte who spoke on wild animals and human contact. Witte is a state certified Animal Damage Control (ADC) Officer and covers an area of some 300 square miles throughout Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties.

He is also a member of the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (I.F.&W.) as a Registered ADC Cooperator and serves on the Maine I.F. & W. Advisory Council, a job that requires travel throughout the state. As a council member, Witte often is called upon to assess the biological effects of such projects as wind farms and highways. In that position he reports to the Commissioner of Maine I.F. & W. and spends considerable time in Augusta. Witte remarked to the group that he would rather be in a marsh looking for moose than sitting in Augusta. Search and rescue is one of the responsibilities of the I.F. & W., he added, with recent figures numbering 550 rescues per year, including lost hunters and lost children.

An Animal Control Officer in Maine for 22 years, Mike Witte has experienced tremendous change during that time, from 50 calls about wildlife per year several decades ago to 413 logged calls so far in 2011. In one week in Lincoln County there were 13 calls about bear sightings alone. Currently Witte is in pursuit of a moose that has been sighted in New Harbor as well as on Academy Hill in Newcastle, possibly the same animal due to their wide range. This year, due to Witte’s efforts, Bristol will allow moose hunting for the first time in 150 years.

The speaker explained that, contrary to popular opinion, the smallest number of wildlife killed annually is by hunting; road kill and lack of habitat are by far the greater culprits. Maine alone loses one acre of habitat every hour, making the conflict between humans and wildlife greater all the time.

Bird feeders, gardens, feeding cats or dogs outside and the free ranging of chickens are primary attractions for wildlife. Witte recommends that bird feeders be used only between September and April. When asked about the effectiveness of outside motion detector lights to deter wildlife, he told the group that skunks and raccoons will be dissuaded but not porcupines, which also do not hibernate.

Witte urged anyone to stay away from what may appear to be abandoned fawns because once in contact with humans, they cannot be returned to the wild to survive. Injured wild animals should not be touched either, for risk of exposure to rabies.

The next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions will take place on Monday, October 17, at 6 p.m. South Bristol historian David Andrews will speak about Bristol and South Bristol participants in the Civil War. To make a reservation for dinner and to attend the meeting, please call 677-6191.

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