New Yorkers greatly appreciate white-tailed deer and enjoy them in many ways. However, deer often cause problems for farmers, homeowners, and foresters and can cause road hazards. If not properly managed, deer numbers can increase dramatically. This increases problems for people and reduces the quality of the habitat for deer and other wildlife. DEC manages the deer population to balance deer numbers with their habitat and human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of all citizens must be considered.
Updated New York State Deer Management Plan
The final Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2021-2030 (PDF) is a product of public input, expert review, and sound science that will improve the management of white-tailed deer across New York. The plan outlines strategies to manage deer populations across a range of abundance levels and diverse deer-related impacts, both in rural upstate areas and in cities and towns in urban and suburban areas. The plan enhances programs that provide relief to landowners and other residents experiencing deer damage and conflicts, seeks to protect New York's deer from the devasting potential of Chronic Wasting Disease, and enhances New York's great deer hunting traditions.
A draft of the deer management plan was released for public review in late fall 2020 and written comments were received from roughly 2,000 individuals and organizations. We prepared an Assessment of Public Comment (PDF) describing the principal issues identified and our responses to those issues. The final version of the plan includes revisions and clarifications based on our review of the comments received. We welcome follow-up conversations with individuals or groups who seek additional background information about material that is included or excluded from the final deer plan.
Major Elements of the Plan include:
- Establishing desired deer population trajectories for 23 ecologically unique regions of the state using an assessment of deer impacts on forest regeneration and public preferences for deer population change;
- Monitoring deer populations for disease and taking steps to reduce disease risk;
- Providing additional hunter opportunity and increasing antlerless harvest strategically where needed;
- Promoting hunter choice for buck harvest by encouraging hunters who want to take older, larger-antlered bucks to voluntarily pass up young, small-antlered bucks;
- Encouraging deer hunters to use non-lead ammunition to reduce lead exposure of non-target wildlife;
- Assisting communities to prevent and respond to local deer overabundance through development of community-based deer management programs;
- Working with landowners and land managers to monitor deer browse impacts on forests with the Assessing Vegetation Impacts of Deer (AVID) protocol; and
- Understanding and addressing public values and interests regarding deer and deer management decisions.
To begin the implementation of portions of the management plan, DEC proposed rule changes that will improve deer management, simplify big game hunting, expand hunting opportunity, and increase hunter safety. To view the proposed regulations and provide comment, visit the Fish and Wildlife Proposed Regulations page.
History of Deer and Deer Management in New York
The history of white-tailed deer in New York is tied closely to the patterns of human land use and development. In their 1956 document, History of the White-tailed Deer in New York (PDF), former DEC biologists C.W. Severinghaus and C.P. Brown describe the distribution and abundance of deer in New York in pre-Colonial times and from the Colonial Period through the mid-1950s. This document provides useful context to the early development of New York's deer management program.
DEC's first formal deer plan was published in 2011, Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012-2016 (PDF).
Purpose Behind Deer Management
Deer managers strive to ensure that the positive values of deer, such as viewing and hunting, can be realized, while minimizing the negative impacts, such as undesirable habitat alterations and deer/vehicle accidents. Management programs have historically been highly successful in balancing deer populations with other interests. Importantly, these programs have never posed a threat to the existence of deer.
Management actions reflect a variety of interests:
- protecting human health and livelihood
- protecting plant and other animal species
- providing recreational opportunities
- maintaining healthy deer herds
Deer numbers in most of New York are controlled by regulated recreational hunting, which is the most practical means of controlling deer populations over large areas. However, deer have become overabundant in many urban and suburban areas where there is little hunting. Many communities are developing deer management programs to address the negative impacts of overabundant deer in their communities. DEC has created a Community Deer Management Handbook (PDF) to help guide communities through the process of evaluating options for addressing deer-related impacts and developing a management plan.
An Evaluation of Deer Management Options (PDF) is another valuable resource for anyone interested in deer management. This document was collectively developed by the New England Chapter of The Wildlife Society and the Northeast Deer Technical Committee (NEDTC) in 1988. It was revised in 2007 by the NEDTC to include new research findings relevant to several deer management options. The NEDTC is a group of professional deer biologists from northeastern states and provinces and is committed to the study and wise management of the white-tailed deer resource.
Many biological and social factors determine the appropriate deer population level for an area. DEC surveys citizens to find out their interests and concerns related to deer and whether they want their local deer population size to change. Deer management decisions are based on this information and data on deer impacts on forests in the area.
Wildlife Management Units (WMU)
New York's landscape is quite variable. Deer numbers reflect those differing conditions. To manage for local conditions, we have divided New York into about 92 "wildlife management units" (WMUs). WMUs are geographic areas which have distinct habitat types and land use characteristics.
A hunter with a big game license can kill an antlered (one antler greater than 3 inches) deer. With a Deer Management Permit, he or she can kill an antlerless deer in a specified WMU. DEC issues DMPs in most of southern and western New York, and in several northern New York WMUs - 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H, and 6K.
Deer biologists use deer take data to determine whether a deer population is at, above, or below the desired level. They then determine how many does must be killed in a WMU based on whether deer numbers need to be stabilized, decreased, or allowed to grow.
Deer biologists then review hunter success data to determine the appropriate number of DMPs to issue. In recent years, only about one-third of hunters with DMPs were successful in filling them. Hunters fill about half of those permits with adult does. Therefore, it is necessary to issue about six permits for each adult doe to be killed.
Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP)
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) is one tool that wildlife biologists can use to manage white-tailed deer in New York. DMAP allows the Department to issue additional antlerless tags to landowners who need improved harvests of deer to meet management goals on their property.
DMAP permits are valid for use only during the open hunting seasons and can only be used by licensed hunters. Only antlerless deer may be taken under a DMAP permit. DMAP is meant to supplement, not replace, Deer Management Permits or other hunting tags on specific properties.
Deer hunting provides recreation to hunters, economic benefits to many small businesses and local communities, and effective management of deer populations. It also provides biologists with important information. DEC staff inspect deer at check stations, meat cutters, and elsewhere and review mandatory "report cards." These yield information on age, sex, physical condition, and location of deer harvested. We combine this with information from fieldwork, surveys, and public input to assess deer populations and habitat conditions. We refine the deer management program as necessary to provide the best program possible.
If you would like more information about DEC's deer management program, or any of DEC's wildlife programs, please contact your Regional DEC office, or write to:
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Albany, NY 12233-4754