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New York's Deer Management Program

image of a buck fawn in grass

New Yorkers greatly appreciate white-tailed deer. People enjoy them in many ways. However, deer often cause problems for farmers, homeowners and foresters and can cause road hazards. If not properly managed, deer numbers can increase dramatically. This increases problems for people and impairs the condition of the deer. It also damages the habitat of deer and other wildlife. The Department of Environmental Conservation tries to manage deer numbers. The goal is to balance deer with their habitat, human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of landowners, hunters, and other interest groups must be considered.

New York State Deer Management Plan

The Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012-2016 (PDF) (2.5 MB) outlines the components of DEC's deer program and provides strategic direction to focus management efforts where they can best meet the biological and social demands associated with deer.

The plan describes six primary goals that encompass the current priorities for deer management and the values and issues expressed by the public:

  1. Manage deer populations at levels that are appropriate for human and ecological concerns;
  2. Promote and enhance deer hunting as an important recreational activity, tradition, and population management tool in New York;
  3. Reduce negative impacts caused by deer;
  4. Foster public understanding and communication about deer ecology, deer management, economic aspects and recreational opportunities;
  5. Manage deer to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation efforts to benefit deer and other species; and
  6. Ensure that the necessary resources are available to support sound management of white-tailed deer in New York.

Development of this plan began in 2009 when DEC hosted a series of meetings across the state to engage New Yorkers in a discussion of deer management issues and to solicit the public's input on deer management priorities (see Public Meetings on Deer Management). DEC then contracted with the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University to complete a formal survey of New York deer hunters (see Statewide Deer Hunter Survey - 2010 (PDF) (516 KB) to further explore specific issues that emerged during the public meetings. Input from the public and results of various hunters surveys were used by DEC biologists and managers to help develop the recommendations and management actions contained in the deer management plan.

A draft of this deer management plan was released on June 13, 2011 for 45 days of public comment. DEC received comments from several thousand individuals and organizations. Subsequently, DEC reviewed all of the comments and made several significant changes to the final version of this plan. See Assessment of Public Comments on the draft NYS Deer Management Plan, 2012-2016 (PDF) (572 KB) to review the comments submitted and DEC's response.

History of Deer and Deer Management in New York

cover shot of the History of White-tailed Deer in New York

The history of white-tailed deer in New York is tied closely to the patterns of human land use and development. In their 1956 document, History of the White-tailed Deer in New York (PDF) (3.8 MB), former DEC biologists C.W. Severinghaus and C.P. Brown describe the distribution and abundance of deer in New York in pre-Colonial times and from the Colonial Period through the mid-1950s. This document provides useful context to the early development of New York's deer management program.

Why are Deer Managed?

Deer managers strive to assure that the positive values of deer, such as viewing and hunting, can be realized while minimizing the negative values, such as undesirable habitat alterations and deer/vehicle accidents. Management actions reflect a variety of interests: protecting human health and livelihood, protecting plant and other animal species, providing recreational opportunities, and maintaining healthy deer herds. Management programs have been highly successful in balancing deer populations with other interests. Importantly, these programs have never posed a threat to the existence of deer.

The Need for Deer Population Management (PDF) (171 kB)

How are Deer Numbers Controlled?

Deer numbers in most of New York are controlled by regulated recreational hunting. However, several other methods have been suggested and tested. Regulated hunting remains the most practical means of controlling wild, free ranging deer. Information on the various deer management options in New York is presented in A Citizens Guide to Managing White-tailed Deer in Urban and Suburban New York (PDF) (540 KB). The information contained in this document is essential for individuals and communities to make informed decisions about deer management.

Additionally, An Evaluation of Deer Management Options (PDF) (705 KB) is a valuable resource for anyone interested in deer management. This document was collectively developed by the New England Chapter of The Wildlife Society and the Northeast Deer Technical Committee (NEDTC) in 1988 and revised in 2007 by the NEDTC to include new research findings relative to several deer management options. The NEDTC is a group of professional deer biologists from northeastern states and provinces and is committed to the study and wise management of the white-tailed deer resource.

What is a Wildlife Management Unit - WMU?

New York's landscape is quite variable. Deer numbers reflect those differing conditions. To manage for local conditions, we have divided New York into about 92 "wildlife management units" (WMUs). WMUs are geographic areas which have distinct habitat types and land use characteristics.

Too many deer? Too few?

Many biological and social factors determine the appropriate deer population level for a WMU. The recommendation of a group of local citizens is a major consideration.

What is a Citizen Task Force?

A Citizen Task Force (CTF) is composed of people representing the various public interest groups in a WMU. The groups typically include farmers, foresters, hunters, landowners, conservationists, the tourism industry, and motorists. Task forces are convened to help determine the future deer management direction for a WMU.

Task force members poll people within their interest group to identify concerns and gather opinions on how many deer there should be. A DEC deer biologist advises the group on deer and deer management. A neutral party (often a Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent) selects task force members and facilitates their meetings. Representatives present their stakeholder group's interests and concerns to the task force. Then the task force recommends, by consensus, a desired deer population level.

Must female deer be killed?

Can deer numbers be controlled by hunting if only males are killed? Each adult female (doe) normally has two fawns each year. Does can begin reproducing when they are only one year old. If only male deer (bucks) are killed, deer numbers will continue to grow. Thus, female as well as male deer must be removed to control deer numbers.

In most of southern and western New York, about 40% of the adult does must be killed each year to keep deer numbers stable. More must be taken to reduce a deer population. DEC adjusts the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) to be issued to achieve the desired effect on a deer population.

What is a Deer Management Permit?

A hunter with a big game license can kill an antlered (one antler greater than 3 inches) deer. With a Deer Management Permit, he or she can kill an antlerless deer in a specified WMU. DEC issues DMP's in most of southern and western New York, and in several northern New York WMU's - 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H, and 6K.

Deer biologists use deer take data to determine whether a deer population is at, above, or below the desired level. They then determine how many does must be killed in a WMU based on whether deer numbers need to be stabilized, decreased, or allowed to grow.

Deer biologists then review hunter success data to determine the appropriate number of DMPs to issue. In recent years, only about one-third of hunters with DMPs were successful in filling them. Hunters fill about half of those permits with adult does. Therefore, it is necessary to issue about six permits for each adult doe to be killed.

What is the Deer Management Assistance Program - DMAP?

The Deer Management Assistance Program is one tool that wildlife biologists can use to manage white-tailed deer in New York.

In July of 1998, the New York State Legislature passed a law entitled Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). DMAP allows the Department to issue additional antlerless tags to landowners who need improved harvests of deer to meet management goals on their property.

DMAP permits are valid for use only during the open hunting seasons and can only be used by licensed hunters. Only deer without antlers or antlers less than 3 inches in length may be taken under a DMAP permit. DMAP will supplement, not replace, Deer Management Permits or nuisance deer permits on specific sites.

Data Collection

Deer hunting provides recreation to hunters, economic benefits to many small businesses and local communities, and effective management of deer populations. It also provides biologists with important information. DEC staff inspect deer at check stations, meat cutters, and elsewhere and review mandatory "report cards." These yield information on age, sex, physical condition and location of deer harvested. We combine this with information from fieldwork, surveys and public input to assess deer populations and habitat conditions. We refine the deer management program as necessary to provide the best program possible.

If you would like more information about DEC's deer management program, or any of DEC's wildlife programs, please contact your Regional DEC office, or:

Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
625 Broadway,
Albany, NY 12233-4754

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