DEC Releases Final Deer Management Plan
Science Determines Plan to Improve Deer Management, Provide New Hunting Opportunities, and Make Hunting Even Safer
Draft Regulations Proposed to Implement Key Plan Provisions, Public Comments Accepted Until Aug. 8, 2021
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today released the State's final Deer Management Plan. The plan is the product of public input, expert review, and sound science that will improve the management of white-tailed deer across New York State. In addition, to enact several management recommendations included in the plan, today DEC issued proposed regulations that are available for public comment until Aug. 8, 2021.
"This second-edition deer plan marks a major step forward in DEC's effort to manage deer responsibly to protect the environment and public safety," Commissioner Seggos said. "The plan aligns public values for deer with ecological data to advance management decisions that benefit deer, deer habitats, and New Yorkers."
The plan, available at DEC's website, outlines strategies to manage deer populations across a range of abundance levels and diverse deer-related impacts, in rural, urban, and suburban areas. The plan enhances DEC programs that provide relief to landowners and the public experiencing deer damage and conflicts, seeks to protect New York's deer from the devastating potential of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) particularly in light of the recent announcement (leaves DEC's website) about a confirmed detection in bordering Warren County, Pennsylvania, and enhances the state's deer hunting traditions. In addition, the plan provides information about how DEC determines population objectives, sets harvest quotas, and calculates annual deer harvest and describes the effectiveness of various management strategies for reducing impacts from overabundant deer. Importantly, the plan also identifies opportunities to improve deer management legislatively, particularly in urban and suburban areas.
DEC released its draft deer management plan for public review in the late fall of 2020. The final plan released today includes revisions and clarifications based on the DEC's review of more than 2,000 comments submitted by individuals, organizations, and elected officials.
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 changes;
- 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.
New Regulations Proposed
To begin the implementation of portions of the management plan, DEC is proposing rule changes that will improve deer management, simplify big game hunting, expand hunting opportunity, and increase hunter safety.
DEC is proposing to:
- Strategically increase antlerless harvest where necessary by establishing a 9-day season for antlerless deer beginning the 2nd Saturday in September with firearms in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3M, 3R, 8A, 8F, 8G, 8J, 8N, 9A, and 9F, and with bows in WMUS 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C;
- Reinstate either-sex deer harvest opportunity during the early muzzleloader season in WMUs 6A, 6F, and 6J;
- Extend the legal hunting hours for deer and bear to begin 30 minutes before meteorological sunrise and end 30 minutes after meteorological sunset, consistent with legal hunting hours in most other states; and
- Increase hunter safety by requiring all hunters pursuing deer or bear with a firearm, or anyone accompanying them, to wear a solid or patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink hat or vest or jacket.
In addition to implementing portions of the deer plan, the regulatory proposal includes a change to simplify bear hunting in the Adirondack portion (WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J) of the Northern Zone by extending the regular firearm season to cover the entire hunting period. Currently, the season structure allows bears to be taken with rifles and shotguns for 72 out of 79 days, excluding the seven-day period where bears could only be taken with a muzzleloader, crossbow, or bow. Under the proposal, hunters would be able to use any implement during the entire 79-day season.
These proposed regulations were published in the State Register today. Details about the proposals are available at DEC's website. DEC is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation changes through Aug. 8, 2021, by emailing: [email protected] (use "Big Game Hunting Rules" in the subject line).