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For Release: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DEC Announces 2011-2012 Waterfowl Season Dates

Waterfowl Hunting Seasons Provide Diverse Opportunities Across the State

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today announced that information about the upcoming waterfowl hunting seasons, including season dates and updated regulations, is now available on the DEC website.

This year's season selections were developed by a team of DEC biologists from around the state, with input from waterfowl hunters, including hunter task forces. DEC has looked to task forces to help select waterfowl hunting season dates for more than a decade.

"New York's unique configuration of waterfowl management zones provides hunters with open seasons and hunting opportunities in a broad range of areas in the state from September to April," said Commissioner Martens.

Duck Season Outlook:

Most duck populations in New York are doing well this year due to excellent habitat conditions across the continent for waterfowl nesting and brood-rearing. However, breeding populations of eastern mallards and wood ducks - the two most commonly harvested ducks in New York - were lower this spring than in 2009, and Atlantic Flyway biologists are concerned about a long-term decline in eastern mallards that became more apparent in recent years. Sixty-day duck seasons were approved by federal and state authorities for another year, but this situation will be closely monitored in the future. Bag limits for all duck species will be the same as in 2010-11 and can be found on the DEC website.

Goose Season Outlook:

September Canada goose seasons have just ended, but hunters can look forward to another 45 days or more (depending on area) to pursue these popular game birds later this fall and winter. Resident geese remain abundant in many areas of the state, and migratory populations that pass through New York were estimated to be higher last spring. Hunters are reminded that Canada goose seasons are set for different geographic areas of the state than other waterfowl seasons; therefore maps should be closely reviewed.

A special spring season for snow geese will continue for the fourth year in all of upstate New York. These birds have become so abundant that they are causing harm to wetland habitats throughout their range. Special spring seasons have been established in many eastern states and provinces to increase hunter harvest and help reduce this population. The daily limit for snow geese is 25 per day.

Zone Boundary Change in Eastern New York

A minor boundary change was made this year for waterfowl hunting zones in eastern New York. The affected area lies mostly in Washington and Saratoga counties, and a very small portion of Warren County. The new boundary that divides the Northeastern and Southeastern zones extends from Route 28 in Saratoga County, east along Route 29 to Route 22 in Greenwich (Washington County), then north along Route 22 to Route 153, then east along Route 153 to the Vermont line. Waterfowl hunters in this area should be sure to check the new boundaries before going afield. All other zone boundaries are unchanged.

Federal Duck Stamp and State Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program:

Hunters 16 or older must have a 2011 federal duck stamp to hunt during any of the 2011-2012 seasons. Federal duck stamps cost $15 and are available at most post offices and some sporting goods stores. They are also available by calling toll-free 1-800-852-4897 or at the Duck Stamp website which can be found in the right hand column of this page. Stamps must be signed across the face by the hunter before they become valid, but they do not have to be attached to the hunting license.

All migratory game bird (waterfowl, woodcock, snipe, rails and gallinules) hunters, including junior hunters (age 12-15), must register with New York's Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) prior to hunting in any of the 2011-2012 seasons. Hunters must register every year and for each state in which they plan to hunt migratory game birds, and also must carry proof of compliance whenever going afield. To register in HIP, call toll-free 1-888-427-5447 (1-888-4 ASK HIP) or visit New York's Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program website which can be located in the right hand column of this page.

Hunting Safety:

Commissioner Martens reminded hunters to follow simple safety guidelines and to use good judgment when choosing a time and place to hunt. Being considerate of other people enjoying the outdoors or who live nearby can help avoid potential conflicts and ensure a safe and enjoyable season. As coastal areas become more populated, new landowners unfamiliar with the safety, ethics and traditions of waterfowl hunting sometimes respond by seeking to limit hunter access to popular waterfowl hunting areas. Hunters should be considerate and try to minimize disturbance of local residents whenever possible.

Waterfowl Consumption Advisory

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) periodically evaluates data on chemicals in wild waterfowl to ensure that hunter harvested birds can be eaten without concerns about adverse effects on human health. The current advisory states that "Mergansers are the most heavily contaminated waterfowl species and should not be eaten. Eat no more than two meals per month of other wild waterfowl; you should skin them and remove all fat before cooking, and discard stuffing after cooking. Wood ducks and Canada geese are less contaminated than other wild waterfowl species and diving ducks are more contaminated than dabbler ducks."

In recent years, DEC has worked with DOH and other state and federal agencies to conduct chemical testing of meat from Canada geese captured and removed from urban, suburban and park locations around the state. This was done primarily to allow that meat to be donated to food pantries and soup kitchens. Based on favorable results this summer, approximately 2,450 pounds of goose meat (nearly 10,000 servings) were made available to needy people. These findings also affirm that consumption of hunter-harvested geese in accordance with the above guidelines should not be a human health concern.

Recent preliminary data and other studies suggest that waterfowl that reside in the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy may have PCB levels higher than waterfowl from other parts of the state. Therefore, it is particularly important to strictly follow the DOH advice (e.g., to eat no more than two meals per month and avoid eating fat and skin) for waterfowl taken from the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy. To help further minimize PCB exposures, you may want to consider harvesting your waterfowl from other locations, particularly during the early season when many of the available birds are likely to be resident waterfowl. Because PCBs may have a greater effect on young children or the unborn child, it is particularly important for women of childbearing age and children under 15 to minimize their PCB exposures.

For the latest DOH advice on consumption of waterfowl or other game, please visit the Department of Health website which cna be found in the right hand column of this page.

For More Information

New York's 2011-2012 Waterfowl Hunting Seasons and Regulations brochure is available on the DEC website and from most license-issuing agents and DEC regional offices.

For more information about waterfowl hunting in New York, including public hunting areas around the state, you can visit the DEC website or contact any DEC wildlife office. Contact information for all regional offices can be found on the DEC website.

Habitat Stamp:

Commissioner Martens also encouraged all outdoor enthusiasts to 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. 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 on the DEC website.