ALBANY — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released a second draft deer management plan, developed to address population management strategies statewide through 2030.
An extension of the department’s first formal deer management plan, released in 2011, the 2021 updated plan is viewable on the DEC website, and the public comment window for the regulatory changes proposed by the plan is open for the next month.
During first draft stages last year, completed actions from the previous 2012-2016 management plan were removed, ongoing actions were modified and new actions were recommended, together considering recreation and economic interests, public safety and natural resource protection.
The first public draft was open for comments in the fall until the end of December. With additional feedback from more than 2,000 people and organizations during that period, the DEC finalized the draft into 85 pages in May and June.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the plan is “a major step forward” for responsible management that benefits the state’s deer population and New Yorkers.
Proposed regulatory changes associated with the plan were posted to the State Register last month. The proposed changes are included in a broader amendment to deer and bear hunting regulations that would increase antlerless deer harvest in specific Wildlife Management Units; extend deer and bear hunting hours to encompass the entire daily period of ambient light 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset; simplify the bear hunting season in the Adirondacks; and require deer and bear hunters with firearms to wear a visible item of florescent orange or pink clothing.
Comments on the proposed deer and bear regulation changes should be emailed to WildlifeRegs@dec.ny.gov, with the subject line “Big Game Hunting Rules,” by Aug. 8.
Additional changes to regulatory mechanisms may also be on the horizon to improve the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program and Deer Damage Permit program, which can be implemented on private properties where agricultural damage from deer has been documented or within a municipal area experiencing ongoing deer issues.
Formally called Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2021-2030, the plan is based on six goals: population management, hunting and recreation, conflict and damage management, education and communication, deer habitat and operational resources.
The state’s most popular game animal, according to the DEC, white-tailed deer generate millions of dollars for the state economy annually. On average, the plan notes, more than 540,000 New York deer hunters produce 10 million pounds of venison and contribute to $410.9 million in retail sales, $221.4 million in salaries and wages and $61.3 million in state and local taxes every year.
With alternating population growth and decline since Europeans claimed land in the Northeast, white-tailed deer are now populous throughout New York, and “the potential for deer populations to exceed carrying capacity, impact other plant and animal species, conflict with land use practices and affect human health and safety necessitate efficient and effective herd management,” the plan reads.
The plan identifies areas of long-term planning and research — with particular focus on cultural and ecological changes like declining hunter numbers and climate change — as well as immediate actions.
Dividing the state into 23 regions for establishing population goals and assessing deer impacts on forest regeneration, the plan makes hunting-related recommendations to meet local population reduction needs and incorporates deer disease monitoring.
In May, The DEC expressed renewed concern about Chronic Wasting Disease after a deer in northwestern Pennsylvania tested positive for the untreatable and fatal brain and nervous system disease found in deer, elk and moose. The case was identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in Warren County, 5 miles from the New York border.
The DEC started statewide CWD surveillance in 2002, collecting roughly 1,500 samples annually and first detecting the disease in 2005 in Oneida County. A containment area and emergency regulations were established to prevent further spread, and no new cases have been confirmed, according to the DEC. Movement of living or dead infected animals increases the range of the disease.
More information about the DEC’s Deer Management Program is compiled online at dec.ny.gov/animals/7211.html-DeerPlan.