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DEC releases final deer management plan

Comments accepted until Aug. 8

A pair of white-tailed deer browse in the snow near Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

ALBANY — Informed by public input, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently released a final version of its management plan for white-tailed deer.

DEC first released its draft deer management plan for public review in the late fall 2020. The final plan released recently includes revisions and clarifications based on the DEC’s review of more than 2,000 comments submitted by individuals, organizations and elected officials.

The Deer Management Plan outlines strategies to manage deer populations across a range of abundance levels and diverse deer-related impacts, in rural, urban and suburban areas. It also 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.

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.

“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 Basil Seggos said. “The plan aligns public values for deer with ecological data to advance management decisions that benefit deer, deer habitats and New Yorkers.”

DEC is also providing additional hunter opportunities and increasing antlerless harvest strategically where needed, while also 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. DEC encourages deer hunters to use non-lead ammunition to reduce lead exposure of non-target wildlife.

The DEC is proposing to establish a nine-day season for antlerless deer beginning the second Saturday in September with firearms and bows. The department also proposes to extend the legal hunting hours to 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, while also promoting hunter safety by proposing a requirement that hunters have to wear fluorescent orange or pink.

DEC also proposed to reinstate either-sex deer harvest opportunities during the early muzzleloader period.

In addition to implementing portions of the deer plan, the regulatory proposal includes a change to simplify bear hunting in the Adirondack portion 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.

Details about the proposals are available on DEC’s website.

DEC is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation changes through Aug. 8 by emailing wildliferegs@dec.ny.gov.

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