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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 and human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of all citizens 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. It also 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.
  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. 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. 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). The purpose was to further explore specific issues that emerged during the public meetings. Input from the public and results of various hunter 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 the 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 ensure that the positive values of deer, such as viewing and hunting, can be realized, while minimizing the negative impacts, such as undesirable habitat alterations and deer/vehicle accidents. Management programs have historically been highly successful in balancing deer populations with other interests. Importantly, these programs have never posed a threat to the existence of deer.

Management actions reflect a variety of interests:

  • protecting human health and livelihood
  • protecting plant and other animal species
  • providing recreational opportunities
  • maintaining healthy deer herds

The Need for Deer Population Management (PDF, 171 KB)

How are Deer Numbers Controlled?

cover of community deer management handbook
Click on the image above to view the
Community Deer Management Handbook (PDF).

Deer numbers in most of New York are controlled by regulated recreational hunting, which is the most practical means of controlling deer populations over large areas. However, deer have become overabundant in many urban and suburban areas where there is little hunting. Many communities are developing deer management programs to address the negative impacts of overabundant deer in their communities. DEC has created a Community Deer Management Handbook (PDF, 3 MB) to help guide communities through the process of evaluating options for addressing deer-related impacts and developing a management plan.

An Evaluation of Deer Management Options (PDF, 705 KB) is another 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. It was revised in 2007 by the NEDTC to include new research findings relevant 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 an area. DEC surveys citizens to find out their interests and concerns related to deer and whether they want their local deer population size to change. Deer management decisions are based on this information and data on deer impacts on forests in the area.

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 DMPs in most of southern and western New York, and in several northern New York WMUs - 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 is meant to 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 write to:

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

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