Kyle Ravana has spent the past month settling into his new job as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s top deer biologist.
Aiding him in that transition is this fact: The man who previously held that job is just a few steps away, ready to answer any questions he may have. Lee Kantar is still in the same office, but has been given the opportunity to focus solely on managing the state’s moose herd. Up until Ravana was hired, Kantar split his time between deer and moose, two of the state’s most beloved and charismatic critters.
“One of the tough parts in state government is that when there’s transition of staff, you literally don’t ever get the chance to have overlap [between an incoming and outgoing employee],” Kantar said last week. “We get that chance now, good, bad or otherwise.”
Both biologists figure there will be more “good” than “bad or otherwise,” because both are willing to rely on the other to help when times get busy.
“Being literally next door to each other, we can talk about both deer and moose and work together on a lot of those things,” Kantar said. “Which is good, because it takes a lot of discussion to work through things.”
Ravana said he appreciates the help Kantar has already given him as he settles into his new position.
“I’m still trying to get my feet underneath me,” Ravana said. “Lee’s been an asset in terms of getting me on my feet and trying to start running with everything. He’s an awesome resource.”
The deer biologist position in Maine is a coveted one in Maine. Over the past 50-plus years, the state has employed just three — now four — deer biologists, according to Kantar. Chester Banasiak, Gerry Lavigne, Kantar, and now Ravana have served in that capacity.
Kantar said the addition of Ravana as a one-species specialist marks an important milestone for the DIF&W: When Lavigne led deer management efforts before Kantar, he was the lone single-species biologist in the department, Kantar said.
Even Kim Morris, who concentrated much of her work on moose before Kantar took over that species upon Morris’s retirement, was also in charge of managing “bats and bunnies,” Kantar said.
“It’s a nuance, but now we have two biologists here, me and Kyle, who each have the majority of our responsibility with one species,” Kantar said.
And the management of both species may generate the most debate among hunters and others who are sometimes critical of the effort of state biologists.
Ravana, 33, grew up in Sitka, Alaska, and moved to Maine and began attending the University of Maine in 2006. He said it didn’t take him long to understand the love affair Mainers had with their deer.
“That’s one of the first things that I learned when I moved to Maine, is just how passionate people are about deer,” Ravana said. “[People are] outspoken. Everyone has their opinion. And that’s great. I think if we can take that passion and focus it, and find a way to harness that passion, we can do great things for deer in this state.”
While Ravana grew up in Alaska, he’s quick to point out his connection to Maine: His grandfather graduated from UMaine in the 1950s, and his grandmother was raised in Bangor.
“I guess in a way I’m bringing the family full circle,” Ravana said.
Ravana worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska before earning his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from UMaine. He’s currently finishing his master’s degree in wildlife ecology, also from UMaine.
Ravana worked as contractor for the DIF&W last year and collected bear and deer biological data for Kantar and fellow biologist Randy Cross.
“It worked out well because Kyle came in and literally got his hands dirty with deer management and was here actually working on some of that data and was [subsequently] hired [as the deer biologist],” Kantar said.
Ravana said he looks forward to working with the public and his fellow DIF&W biologists to manage the state’s deer herd.
“Some of the big challenges ahead are to work to help people to understand that we’re really managing a public resource on private land,” Ravana said. “And going forward with that, you’re really trying to manage a species that’s dependent on specific habitat types, especially during winter times.”