Hunters killed just over 230,000 deer and more than 1,060 bears in the 2010 hunting season, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced. The deer take was up about 3% from 2009, bear numbers were similar to harvest levels of 2005-2007, down 25% from 2009. While overall population size plays a large role in harvest totals, annual variations in take are also strongly influenced by environmental factors that affect bear activity and hunting pressure such as natural food availability and snow fall according to DEC wildlife biologists.
The 2010 deer take included approximately 123,100 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and just under 107,000 adult bucks. Deer harvests in the Northern Zone were very comparable to 2009, with adult buck take (approx. 16,100) essentially unchanged and antlerless take (approx. 12,500) only increasing about 3%.
Across the state, hunters took a slightly higher proportion of 2.5 year old and older bucks than in previous years, continuing a trend that has developed over the past decade. This past year, about 45% of harvested bucks were 2.5 years or older, compared to only 33% in 2000.
Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required by all successful hunters, and DEC staff’s examination of harvested deer at check stations and meat processors. Statewide harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources. Though an average of only 45% of successful hunters have reported their harvest each year since 2005, statewide harvest estimates remain statistically accurate to within ±2% according to DEC.
In the Adirondack bear hunting area, the take of 521 bears was down approximately 35% from 2009, but is consistent with the long-term average for that area DEC said. Bear harvest in the Adirondacks seems heavily influenced by variations in key food resources, and this year’s harvest follows those trends. In years when soft mast (apple, cherry, raspberry) is abundant, bear harvest during the early season tends to decrease. Cherry and raspberry were widely available in September and October, and bear take during the 2010 early season dropped approximately 40% from 2009, which was a year with a poor soft mast crop and high early season bear harvest. Conversely, in years when beech nuts are abundant, bear take tends to increase during the regular season. This past fall was lacking for beechnut production, and bear take during the regular season dropped about 25% from 2009.
Hunters play a pivotal role in bear management through reporting their bear harvests. Hunters also are asked to submit a tooth sample from their bear for DEC to determine the age of harvested bears. To encourage participation, DEC issues a New York State Black Bear Cooperator Patch to all hunters who reported their harvest and submitted a tooth. More than 550 patches will be distributed for the 2010 hunting season. Eligible hunters will receive their patch in late summer 2011 when all the age data has been processed. The average age of bears harvested is typically 3-4 years old in the Southeastern and Central-Western areas, while bears harvested in the Adirondacks average about 5 years old.
In addition to harvest totals, DEC uses a variety of indices to measure bear populations. Taxidermists and DEC wildlife personnel collect age and sex information from harvested bears, as well as movement data from tagged bears.
Complete summary of the 2010 harvests with breakdown by county, town, and Wildlife Management Unit are available online (bear, whitetail).