Proposals to protect young deers in New York are causing controversy amongst the state's hunting community.
There are around a million white tailed deer in New York state. Managing thier numbers through hunting is seen as a viable way to keep numbers down. Too large a population and they cause problems for farmers and foresters, damaging a local ecosystem. The goal for the local authorities is to balance deer numbers with the needs of landowners, hunters and other interest groups.
For the first time the Department of Environmental Conservation in the state has produced a draft Deer Management Plan. Based on discussions with hunters and public meetings for the first time the document represents a proposal to provide a comprehensive explanation of their methods and strategy for managing the deer population.
Combining a educational with an ecological approach, the draft plan is designed to manage the deer population, promote deer hunting as an important recreational activity, to develop a public understanding about deer management and manage deer numbers to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation.
The most controversial suggestion has been to implement antler restrictions to hunters.
Antlers grow with age in deer so the older the buck the larger the antlers. Over 22 states in the US have implemented antler restrictions for hunters to protect younger bucks, giving the an opportunity to live into adulthood.
One of those states in Virginia where Allen Biller worked as a Wildlands Fire Management Officer. He has often expressed concerns about the number of young bucks killed by hunters as opposed to older adult deer.
"When 90 percent of bucks taken are in the 6-month to 2 ½-year age classes, that is an indication that deer herd management must change. Antler restrictions have proven to be an effective way to achieve a more balanced deer herd, thereby increasing the enjoyment for the hunting public and ensuring a positive hunting experience".
The proposal in Albany has not been popular. Restrictions were brought in on a trial basis as part of an experimental plan but subsequent proposals have been rejected five times by the annual meeting of the new York State Conservation Council. Their Vice President is Chuck Parker.
"There is no solid biological data that proves that antler restrictions improve deer quality. I don't shoot spike horns, but that's my choice. Someone else who pays the same amount for a license, you're asking him to pass up a deer, when it's not proven that it will improve the quality of the herd".
The draft Deer Management Plan is open for public consultation until the end of July.
Top Image Credit: © Sylvana Rega