Sunday, October 3, 2010

DEC Asks Hunters to Help Monitor Small Game Species

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging hunters to participate in two surveys for popular game species during this fall’s hunting seasons. The DEC’s Citizen Science Programs provide wildlife managers with important data, particularly as the state’s forests mature, and we lose the early successional habitats many species depend upon. Tracking grouse and cottontail populations will helps wildlife professionals understand how New York’s changing landscape affects these and other species.

New England Cottontail Survey:

The New England cottontail is the only native cottontail rabbit east of the Hudson River in New York. However, its range has been greatly reduced due to habitat loss and competition with the more abundant Eastern cottontail.

New England cottontails look nearly identical to Eastern cottontails and are only reliably identified by genetic testing of tissue, by fecal samples, or by examining morphological skull characteristics.

DEC is requesting that rabbit hunters in Wildlife Management Units in Rensselaer, Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester counties contact the department to learn how they can submit the heads of rabbits they harvest (a map of the survey area can be seen at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/67017.html). The skulls will be used for identification to assist the department in determining the distribution of the New England Cottontail.

Hunters interested in participating or looking for more information, can contact DEC by calling (518) 402-8870 or by e-mailing [email protected] (please type “NE Cottontail” in the subject line). Participating hunters will receive instructions and a postage-paid envelope they can use to submit heads from harvested rabbits. Results of these efforts will be available after the close of the hunting season.

Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log:

The ruffed grouse is one of New York’s most popular native game birds. Annually, around 75,000 grouse hunters harvest 150,000 grouse. The ruffed grouse is a forest species that is widely distributed across New York State. While some grouse are found in more mature forests, the greatest population densities are in younger forests. These preferred habitats are declining as most of New York State’s forests grow older, resulting in a decline in grouse numbers since the 1960s.

This survey asks hunters to record their daily grouse hunting activities on a “Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log.” The hunting log requests information such as the number of hours hunted, number of grouse flushed, and the number of birds killed. Starting this fall, hunters are also asked to record the number of woodcock they flush while afield. Grouse and woodcock share many of the same habitats, so the information will help monitor populations of both of these great game birds as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

Hunters interested in participating can download a Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log from the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9351.html to record their observations. Detailed instructions can be found with the form. Survey forms can also be obtained by calling (518) 402-8886 or by e-mailing [email protected] (please type “Grouse Log” in the subject line).

All outdoor enthusiasts should consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, an optional stamp that helps support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. The new 2010-2011 stamp features a drawing of a pair of Common Loons. Buying a $5 stamp is a way to help conserve New York’s fabulous wildlife heritage. More information about purchasing a Habitat Stamp is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html.

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