Monday, March 8, 2010

DEC: Big Buck Hunting Harvest Down 21 Percent Locally

Hunters killed approximately 222,800 deer in the 2009 season, about the same number as were harvested statewide last season, according to an annual report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In the Northern Zone, antlerless take was down by almost 8 percent and the buck take dropped 21 percent from 2008, returning to levels seen in 2005 and 2006.

Deer take during the regular season seemed strongly affected by a warm November according to DEC officials, as both deer and hunter activity tend to slow down in warm weather and the lack of snow cover made for difficult hunting conditions during a time that typically accounts for the majority of deer harvest.

The 2009 deer take included more than 120,700 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and just over 102,000 adult bucks. Antlerless takes grew by 3 percent from 2008 (117,232), while buck takes dropped 3.5 percent from 2008 (105,747). Totals for bow and muzzleloader seasons were on par with the past few years.

Southern Zone deer harvests were comparable to 2008 with overall buck take essentially unchanged and antlerless take only increasing about 4 percent. Still, biologists noted that the lack of snow throughout much of the Southern Zone regular season likely kept deer harvests from being higher.

Western New York continues to lead the state in total deer-harvest densities, but Orange County in southeastern New York has also become a strong contender. The top five counties for 2009 were Yates (13.2 total deer per square mile), Wyoming (11.2), Orange (10.5), Genesee (9.9), and Ontario (9.5). Importantly, total harvest is strongly impacted by the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) available in an area, which directly affects the harvest of antlerless deer. A more accurate picture of relative deer population densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. By this figure, the top counties for buck harvest density were: Wyoming County (4.6 bucks per square mile), Yates County (4.5 bucks per square mile), Allegany County (4.0), Orange County (3.9), and Cayuga County (3.7).

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance began in New York in 2002, with increased efforts since 2005 after the disease was detected in five captive and two wild deer in Oneida County. Surveillance efforts continued in 2009 with more than 1,800 samples tested. CWD is a rare neurological disease that affects the brains of deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to become emaciated, lose body functions and eventually die. Despite intensive testing of nearly 30,000 deer in the five years since the disease was detected, no additional cases have been found in the state.

The annual deer hunting report also showed that nearly 16,000 14- and 15-year-olds signed up for the “Junior Big-Game License”.

The 2009 deer harvest is broken down by county, town, and Wildlife Management Unit with comparisons to previous years’ deer harvests is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42232.html on the DEC website.

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