Lake Erie & Niagara River Status Update

lakeriverstatus

New York State Fishery Biologists Outreach Event – June 21, 2016

An upcoming free seminar to update the public about the status of the Lake Erie and Upper Niagara River Fisheries is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at Woodlawn Beach State Park’s Lodge, Blasdell (Erie County), by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The free seminar will begin with informal discussion and poster exhibits, followed by a series of presentation topics on Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River fisheries.  These will include an opportunity for angler input on a variety fisheries management activities.  The meeting will conclude with questions and an open discussion.

“DEC is committed to sound management of Lake Erie and Upper Niagara River fisheries to maintain high-quality angling opportunities and associated economic benefits,” DEC Regional Director Abby Snyder said.  “This event provides an excellent opportunity for anglers to interact with DEC experts who study and manage Great Lakes fisheries.”

Key members of Lake Erie and Niagara River’s fisheries management and research community will present on Lake Erie fisheries management and assessment activities for steelhead, walleye, muskellunge, research initiatives, and habitat improvement projects.  This seminar is sponsored by DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Unit and Region 9 Fisheries offices.  Anyone interested is welcome to attend this free event and registration is not required.

The Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River rank among New York State’s top fishing destinations, especially for walleye, smallmouth bass and steelhead.

A recent survey (2007) of statewide anglers estimated more than 800,000 angler days spent on these waters.  The estimated value of these fisheries exceeded $22 million to the local New York economy.

For further information contact Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader, (716) 366-0228.

NYS: Zero Hunting Fatalities for 2015

2015 is the first year in decades without a reported NYS hunting fatality, marks growing trend of improved hunter safety

The 2015 New York hunting season proved to be one of the safest on record and yielded the first year without a hunting-related shooting fatality since the 1950s, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. DEC’s 2015 Hunting Safety Statistics report (PDF, 141 KB) highlighted a total of only 23 hunting incidents, the third lowest number on record, with 10 incidents self-inflicted and 13 two-party incidents.

“Hunting is a strong and economically important tradition that continues to be safely enjoyed by many in New York State, and I commend hunters of all ages for maintaining high standards in hunting safety,” Acting Commissioner Seggos said. “The trend of declining hunting accidents is proof that our hunter safety education programs are working thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the 3,000 volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors that teach our hunter safety courses every year.”

This is the first year without a hunting-related shooting fatality in New York since record-keeping on hunting statistics began in the mid 1950s. 2015 also continued the trend of declining incidents with New York’s hunting-related shooting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) declining almost 80 percent since the 1960s. The past five-year average is down to four incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.

While hunting is safer than ever, accidents can still happen. It is important to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. As this year’s report indicated that eight of the victims in the multi-party incidents were not wearing hunter orange. Accidents can be prevented if hunters follow the primary rules of hunter safety:

  • assume every firearm is loaded;
  • control the firearm muzzle in a safe direction;
  • keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire;
  • identify your target and what is beyond; and
  • wear hunter orange.

“Sportsman education is an essential and required training course for hunters and teaches future sportsmen and women how to be safe, responsible, and ethical hunters and trappers,” Acting Commissioner Seggos said. “Through our NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, Sportsman Education Programs are being enhanced and our hunting license privileges have been updated to ensure increased opportunities for recreational hunting in the state.”

The declining in hunting-related accidents is evidence that New York has a safety-conscious generation of hunters thanks to the committed efforts of DEC’s volunteer instructors. These trained, DEC-certified instructors teach safe, responsible and ethical outdoor practices and the important roles hunters and trappers serve in natural resource conservation. All courses are offered free of charge and class registration is easy. In 2016, DEC is updating the course curriculum to further enhance the program and implement recommendations identified in a 2015 peer-reviewed analysis if New York’s education program.

For more information on Sportsman Education course registration, access to the course manuals and worksheets, please visit the Sportsman Education Program webpage on DEC’s web site.

New York State Big Game Study Tells Tale

New York Study Plan Result is to Educate and Encourage Hunters to Voluntarily Pass-up Young Bucks 

A multi-year study to guide buck management in New York State found deer hunters prefer to harvest older bucks and that further expanding mandatory antler restrictions is not warranted at this time.  Instead, NYS will encourage hunters to voluntarily pass up shots at younger bucks as a management method to best serve the interests of all deer hunters across the state.

“Through this study, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) engaged with the hunting community to determine the best deer herd management practices to benefit both the deer population and our state’s wildlife enthusiasts,” Acting DEC Commissioner Seggos said.  “DEC staff concluded that promoting voluntary restraint was appropriate given the high level of hunter support for increased availability of older bucks. Using a sound scientific approach to wildlife management is an essential strategy to expand hunting opportunities and growing the hunting economy in New York.”

New York State deer check stations examine deer for health and age, providing important details for successful hunters while gathering data for studies.

DEC and the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University conducted the study in response to long-standing interests expressed by many hunters for DEC to adopt regulations to reduce the take of yearling bucks (male deer younger than 1.5 years old) to increase the number of older bucks in the population  Moving forward, DEC intends to work with several leading sportsmen groups across the state to educate hunters on their important role in deer management, the impacts of their harvest choices and the likely changes in the deer population as more and more hunters voluntarily refrain from taking young bucks.

The study included a statewide survey of 7,000 deer hunters conducted in fall 2013 by the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University, a nationally recognized leader in surveys to assess public opinions and attitudes on wildlife-related issues.

Rich Davenport (left), as co-chairman of the New York State Conservation Council Big-Game Committee, has worked closely with New York State DEC wildlife biologists and law enforcement to provide statistical analysis and other date to help identify the interests of sportsmen and other important stake holders in the world of whitetail deer in the Empire State. Forrest Fisher Photo

DEC considered six alternatives to increase the proportion of older bucks in the population, including mandatory antler restrictions during all or portions of the archery and firearms seasons, shorter firearms seasons, a one-buck per hunter per year rule, promoting voluntary restraint by hunters, and a no change option.  DEC analyzed these alternatives for each of the state’s seven distinct buck management zones. The decision process weighted hunter values 3:1 over potential impacts on population management and costs, but the survey found that hunter values did not strongly lean in any one particular direction.

“The issue of antler restrictions has divided our deer hunting community for too many years and I am pleased to see that the DEC used a very structured, non-biased decision-making process to determine the outcome,” said Larry Becker, Chairman of the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council.  “It is most important that everyone understands that DEC has listened to what the majority of the deer hunters in the State want and that this was the primary factor that drove the final decision.  The hunters spoke and DEC listened.”

DEC and conservation education groups plan to work with sportsmen and women and other stakeholder groups, including the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) and Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), in the coming year to develop a cooperative, educational effort to encourage hunters to pass up shots at young bucks.  It is clear that hunters’ choices can and do affect the age and size of bucks in our deer herd, and when hunters choose to pass young bucks, it can make a difference for other hunters as well.

“The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is pleased New York has engaged its deer hunters at such a high level to learn their values and desires,” said Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Education & Outreach.  “We feel this is a positive step for the DEC and for hunters, and we are extremely supportive of the Department’s proposed educational campaign on the benefits of protecting yearling bucks.”

“The New York State Conservation Council would like to applaud the hard work of both the DEC Deer Team and Cornell University, as well as the hunting community that participated in this important work,” said Rich Davenport, NYSCC Big Game Committee Co-Chairman.  “We look forward to assisting the DEC and other sportsmen groups with educating the hunters of today and tomorrow on the benefits of voluntary harvest restraint and the importance of the management role hunters of New York play.  It’s a critical component to ensure we have healthy deer herds well into the future.”

Detailed technical reports on the analysis of alternatives and results of the hunter survey are both available on the DEC website, along with more succinct summaries of the work that was done.  DEC plans to hold public information meetings later this spring and summer to discuss these results and get hunter feedback on ways to encourage others to pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks.

The meetings will also provide an opportunity for hunters and others to provide input on other aspects of DEC’s deer management plan, which will be updated in the coming year. The current (2012-2016) statewide deer plan is also available on the DEC website.