Maine Deer Population:   The state estimated about 360,000 whitetail deer in 2023, 320,000 in 2022, 290,000 deer in 2021 and 300,000 deer in spring 2020. The population has been supported by mild winters.   About 275,000 deer in 2019 and 240,000 deer in mid-2017 and 2018.  About 225,000 in 2016 and 211,000 deer in 2015.  The population has been supported by mild winters.  Deer permits have increased since 2016-17.  About 220,000 deer in 2014. Maine’s deer population reached a previous all-time high of 331,000 in the late 1990s.

Maine Deer News

Scientists: reintroducing pure wolves to Maine would likely fail May 29, 2024 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... “if an eastern wolf from Ontario or Quebec finds its way to northern New York, Maine or New Brunswick, it will find itself in a sea of eastern coyotes. Any dispersing eastern wolf would readily hybridize with eastern coyotes, and the offspring would be assimilated into an eastern coyote population that already has a genetic legacy of wolf genes.” ...

Maine's wolf history is still a hot topic May 19, 2024 Piscataquis Observer

... Wolves were commonplace when settlers first came to Maine. Naturalists assert that there were two species of wolves, the smaller “deer wolf” that preyed on deer in coastal Maine and a larger species of gray wolf that preyed on moose and caribou in northern Maine... When these wolves were killed off around the turn of the century a “predator void” was left. In time, our present day coyote migrated eastward and filled the niche ..,

Old Town resident questions integrity of town's hunting regulations April 19, 2024 Maine, The Maine Campus

... there is a 100-yard limit on hunting in residential areas ... In Lech’s opinion, 100 yards is too close in proximity to a building... Not all shot deer are going to stay in the little one-third of an acre backyard where they are shot, ... No one wants to watch animals die outside of their windows.” ...

Court's right to food decision protects legal hunting April 16, 2024 Maine,  Bangor Daily News

...  a Readfield couple to use the Right to Food amendment to overturn Maine’s ban on Sunday hunting, the state of Maine argued that, in fact, the new amendment did not grant constitutional protection to hunt in our state... the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the Readfield couple ...

3-Legged Deer in Maine Woods Caught on Video After Months of Not Being Seen April 12, 2024 Maine, Q97.9

... the three-legged deer usually passes by her trail cams three to four times a year. When she hadn't seen the deer, she was worried. But then there she was, looking healthy in clips from January...

Read More: 3-Legged Deer in Maine Woods Caught on Video After Months Unseen |

Maine’s highest court upholds Sunday hunting ban March 28, 2024 Bangor Daily News

... Sunday hunting is still illegal in Maine after the state’s top court ruled Thursday that the 140-year-ban does not conflict with Maine’s constitution...

Outdoors in Maine: Deciphering the Downeast deer yard February 24, 2024 Maine, Sun Journal

... As Maine works at restoring its declining deer numbers in the north woods, identifying and protecting historic deer wintering areas has taken on a new urgency. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) now has dedicated funding that is legally earmarked to actually purchase known deer yards ...

Why do Maine deer hunters hate coyotes? February 2, 2024 Bangor Daily News

... Biologists believe there are between 10,000 and 12,000 coyotes in Maine, but admit that’s a rough estimate. And while the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife concedes that coyotes kill deer, it doesn’t consider coyotes a threat to game populations ...

Bear harvest is down compared with last 2 years December 26, 2023 Maine, Piscataquis Observer

... The bear population in general is stable, and although there is no regional estimate of bear numbers, the animals are more uncommon in southern and coastal areas of the state... The preliminary number of bears killed during hunting season was 3,269 ...

More moose calves should make it through the winter December 7, 2023 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... The number of ticks on the moose killed during the annual hunt this fall are down quite a bit for the second year ... Sixty  calves of the 70 being monitored died from moose ticks in the 2021-22 season, which was Maine’s deadliest year. But only two of the 70 calves collared in the 2022-23 season died..,

Maine Deer Spy Progress Update November 20, 2023 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife News

... This year, observations of 771 single does were reported, and 404 of these (52.4%) were does with fawns alongside. This compares with 55.3% last year. Among the 404 single does with fawns were 611 fawns... While this lower recruitment estimate is not good news in that it means there was lower fawn survival this year, it is good news in that it increases confidence in our data quality; the peak birthing period for our does in Maine is early June, which was extremely wet and cold this year. These poor fawning conditions were expected to limit recruitment ..,

State is selling more antlerless deer permits today November 16, 2023 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... A rule that allows some permit holders to shoot both a buck and a doe has helped hunters set a record with more than 43,000 deer harvested in 2022..,

Deer herd is healthy and historically large going into rifle season October 25, 2023 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... Maine’s deer herd numbers approximately 360,000 animals ... according to a state biologist... The deer population has grown in southern coastal and central Maine. Aroostook County’s winter conditions really affect the population there, he said. Mild winters mean a better survival rate, although there are fewer wintering grounds..,

Be on the lookout for buck rubs, scrapes, sparring, chasing, and mounting October 25, 2023 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

To gather additional information about white-tailed deer rut timing and breeding behaviors from hunters and wildlife watchers, we’ve added the Rut Watch survey to our Maine Deer Spy community science project. 

Participating is easy! When you observe any white-tailed deer breeding season behaviors between October 1 and December 31, share your information with us by visiting

Mysterious purple deer in Cape Elizabeth euthanized October 10, Maine, Bangor Daily News

... The lab states the deer’s symptoms align with those of a bacterial infection called “Bullwinkle syndrome,” but more tests are needed before they can be certain... the department determined that its health was on the decline and put it down...

Moose hunters will hit the woods starting Monday for second round October 7, 2023 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... There are 4,106 total permits for the three regular moose season weeks ... 

Hunters can buy Maine antlerless deer permits on Tuesday September 18, 2023 Maine, Bangor Daily News

... Maine exceeded its adult doe harvest objective of 13,807 last year when hunters shot 13,883 adult females... hunters killed a record 43,787 deer last year, an increase of 12.4 percent over the 38,947 taken in 2021..,

Video Below:  There's a mysterious purple deer roaming around Cape Elizabeth.  Most of the deer's face, neck and head are purple. There's also a large mass on its mouth and chest.  Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:  "If it's fibroma, its similar to what a wart would be in a human or virus or some sort of bacteria," Or he says it could be from an injury.  Maine, September 14, 2023

A mysterious Maine deer is turning purple but nobody knows why September 5, 2023 Bangor Daily News

... Most of the face and neck, the top of the head, the velvet on the antlers and the ears are either deep purple ... cases like this are rarely identical to others, and there are a lot of possibilities,” said Nathan Bieber, the deer biologist ...

Farmington residents voice concerns over high deer population  August 24, 2023 Maine, Daily Bulldog

... MDIFW informed the group that feeding of deer is illegal from June 1 to the end of muzzle-loading season ... Keel Kemper, Regional Biologist for MDIFW, said that he is unaware of any towns in Maine that have an ordinance against feeding deer...

Lessons to be learned from coyote bill August 13, 2023 Maine, Piscataquis Observer

...  LD 814, would have set back a lot of work in this state to bring back Maine’s declining deer population in the North Woods. The bill would have ended recreational coyote hunting and trapping as we know it. Coyotes kill deer...

Deer IMPALES itself on the fence surrounding Stephen King's gothic home in Maine June 30, 2023 Maine, Daily Mail

... Gruesome images show the white-tailed fawn stuck on the spikes of the wrought iron fence ... Police shot the deer when they arrived at the scene to put it out of its misery...

Maine's Moose Hunting Permit Drawing is coming up on Saturday, June 10! June 5, 2023  Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife  News

... This year, 4,106 permits will be drawn in the random chance lottery from a pool of over 72,000 applicants.  Maine’s moose hunt is designed to manage the moose population. By modifying the number and type of moose permits available to hunters, the department can manage the moose population to provide for hunting and viewing opportunities ..,

Maine data:  A state estimate of about 360,000 whitetail deer in 2023 as mild winters have allowed the population to increase.  Concern remains in 2024 about declining north woods deer numbers with a focus on saving deer wintering areas. 

Data for the graph above from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for 1980 to 2015 and state reports quoted in press for 2016 to 2023.

Deer observations in 2023 show a slightly lower recruitment rate for fawns compared to 2022 as a result of cold and wet weather in June, a prime birthing time.  Moose calf survival was higher in 2023 with far fewer ticks found on moose calves.  The state estimated  310,000 to 320,000 in 2022, commenting that the state habitat can support more deer.  A rule change in 2022 allowed hunter to take more deer, contributing to the record kill from the hunt.

An estimated 280,000 to 300,000 deer, or about 290,000 in 2021 and a proposed increase in deer permits for the 2021-22 hunt.  A state estimate of 300,000 deer in spring of 2020 as a result of a mild winter and low doe harvests resulting in a buck-to-doe ration of about 2.5 to 1.  A record number of any-deer permits in 2020 contributed to the highest kill in 18 years, also a higher than average percent of yearling bucks taken.  2020 Big Game Report2020 Deer Population Goals Lower deer numbers in the north, east, and west as a reult of habitat loss and predation.

A state deer population estimate range of 260,000 to 290,000 in 2019, or about 275,000 deer.  The Maine deer biologist put the estimate at 230,000 to 250,000, or about 240,000 deer in 2018.  The state issued a record number of doe permits to reduce the population in 2018 but is reducing the number by 20 percent in 2019 in part because of severe winter in northern and western Maine.   A trend of lower populations in the north.

A population of up to 240,000 estimated for mid-2017 with up to 225,000 in 2016.  Populations have been supported by mild winters in 2015-16 and 2016-17, a mild to moderate winter in 2017-18.    A  severe winter in 2018-19, but deer populations held steady in some areas.  Hunting permits increased for 2016-17,  2017-18, and 2018-19.   In November, 2015, an estimated 211,000 deer reported in the press but the graphic below puts the number around 228,000 for 2015.  The estimate may have been updated later when there was more information.

From the 2017 Big Game Management Plan:  "Maine’s deer population grew prolifically through the late-80s and 90s, with the impetus for growth resulting from the regulatory system that limited doe harvest, plus a series of mild winters. During this time, Maine’s deer population grew to an estimated all-time high of 331,000." (p. 39)  "Maine utilizes the number of bucks harvested per/100mi to determine whether the state’s deer population is declining, stable, or growing."

The mild 2015-16 winter allowed populations to rebound following the harsh winter of 2014-15.  Dwindling deer winter habitat has stressed the herd, particularly in the north.  Any-deer permits proposed to increase by 60% in 2016 to 45,775.  In order to reduce hunting pressure Maine issued fewer any-deer permits in 2015, 28,770  compared to 37,185 for the 2013-14 season.  The 2015 deer harvest  fell by 9.6%. Bucks were 73 percent of the harvest. The number of deer hunters trended  higher from 2011 to 2016.

The 2014 deer population was declining as a result of the severe winter.  A 19 percent winter deer mortality rate was estimated for the north in 2013 - 2014. In response, the number of "any deer" permits for the 2014-15 hunt was reduced by 9,525 to 37,185, further cuts of 23 percent are in place for 2015.  The 2014 harvest was 78.4 percent bucks, 196,146 deer hunting licenses were sold, probably about 160,000 hunters participated. A 65 percent success rate

The population rebounded somewhat in 2013 and trended higher from 2010 as a result of mild winters, but the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 winters were the 14th and 11th worst winters for deer since the 1950s. Two consecutive severe winters in 2008 and 2009 significantly reduced the herd and decimated the northern herd which has not recovered, the total population fell to about 140,000.  Doe hunting was been prohibited in northern Maine for years.  "Between the mid-1950’s and early 1960’s, MDIFW estimated Maine’s deer population at 250,000."

The reported number of deer harvested during 2012 was 21,553; the 2011 harvest was 18,170, only slightly above the 2009 figure which was the lowest in decades, with a total of 18,092. In 2010, the total was 20,063, with a significant increase in the number of yearling bucks sporting multi-pointed antlers and a decrease in the percentage of antlerless deer taken. 

A recent study suggests changes in forest management may be "indicative of declines in extent of deer wintering habitat throughout the Northern Forest Region" [Study in PDF file]  Or more directly from a hunting guide: "when they started cutting deer yards, they pretty much wiped out the deer herd in northern Maine. The deer population in the Southern region rebounded to near pre-2008 levels. Maine's Game Plan for Deer [PDF]  Deer habitat, particularly for wintering, has declined dramatically in Maine over the last 25 years.  Deer history from the 1997 assessment.  Parts of Maine can support 40 to 60 deer per square mile without forest damage according to former deer biologist, Gerry Lavigne.

History:  First restrictions on deer hunting were applied in 1830, season set at Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, with no bag limit.  The first bag limit was set in 1873, three deer per hunter per year reduced to two deer in 1895, and to one in 1925.  A ban on Sunday hunting began in 1883.  Between the mid-1950s and early 1960s the department estimated Maine’s deer population to be 250,000, and 35,000 to 40,000 deer were harvested annually.  During the 1960s, harsh winters, wintering habitat loss, coyote colonization, and increasing hunting pressure resulted in the population declining to approximately 141,000.  For more history see the 2017 Big Game Management Plan starting on page 35.

Toxic Chemicals   In 2021 state agencies detected high levels of PFAS [Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances] in some deer harvested in the greater Fairfield area and and issued a do not eat advisory for deer harvested in the area with additional advisories in 2022.

Moose  After years of unrestricted hunting, the moose population fell to just a few thousand by the early 1900s.  Moose hunting was closed in 1936 and resumed in 1980.  An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 in early 2018 and early 2019.  About 60,000 to 70,000 in 2016.  Estimated at 76,000 moose in 2012 that had been somewhat stable, but a radio collar study indicated a 30 percent winter mortality rate for adult females in 2014. As in many states, winter ticks are driving populations down.  Moose permits were reduced by 25 percent, further reductions in 2016.  Population estimates for moose improved with the 2015 number at 60,000 to 70,000.   In 2023, 70,000 hunters applied for about 4,000 hunting permits.

Caribou were once native to Maine.  By the late 1800s there was still a healthy herd, but commercial hunting rapidly depleted their numbers. The last known native was illegally shot on Mt. Katahdin in 1908.  Caribou had been in North America for an estimated 2 million years.  Maine has tried twice unsuccessfully, once in 1963 and again in 1986-1990, to reintroduce caribou to the North Woods.  They were either killed by predators, perished from brain worm, or simply moved.

Bear,  the state estimated a range of 35,000 to 40,000 bears in 2019 and 2020.

 Coyote, not native to Maine were first found in Maine in the early 1960s and 1970s.  An estimated 15,000 coyotes in 2019.   A rough estimate of 10,000 to 12,000in 2024 and in 2023  and when a bill was defeated that would have ended recreational coyote hunting.  The Eastern coyote has about 8 to 25 percent wolf DNA and that percentage is expected to increase, making the animals larger.  

Cougar (Mountain Lion)  The last know cougar killed in Maine in 1938, unconfirmed recent sightings

Wolf  Common when settlers arrived, were killed off by the early 1900s.  There were two breeds, " the smaller “deer wolf” that preyed on deer in coastal Maine and a larger species of gray wolf that preyed on moose and caribou in northern Maine."