DEC announces new process for gathering input on desired deer populations in St. Lawrence County
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 6:16 am

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and researchers at the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University are implementing what DEC describes as “a survey-based process for gathering information on citizens’ preferences on desired deer populations that will help DEC biologists set deer population objectives across the state.”

The survey is being phased in across the state and is currently being mailed to citizens in one third of the state. The rest of the state will be surveyed in 2019. The survey asks respondents about their deer-related interests and concerns, how they would like to see the deer population in their area change over the next several years, and how important deer management issues are to them. Survey results, in combination with data on deer impacts on forest regeneration, will be used to guide deer population management decisions. Because deer can have profound and long-lasting negative impacts on forest ecosystems and personal property, keeping these impacts at a sustainable level is a top priority for DEC deer managers.

New York’s 92 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) have been grouped into 23 WMU areas for the purposes of collecting and analyzing data relevant for deer population management. These selected areas were defined based on similarities in ecological conditions and human and deer population characteristics. The priorities of people who reside in each area in combination with local forest conditions, will determine the desired direction of deer population change (up, down, or no change) for the subsequent five years. DEC will issue Deer Management Permit (DMP) quotas designed to achieve the desired change. The WMUs will be re-surveyed periodically and management directions will be adapted as necessary based on new data.

Previously, DEC used citizen task forces to involve state residents in the process of determining appropriate deer population sizes. Each task force was composed of a small group of citizens chosen to represent a range of interests (farmers, hunters, landowners, motorists, etc.) concerned with deer population size in an individual WMU.

In 2015, DEC began collaborating with Cornell to design an improved method for gathering public input. A pilot project that combined a mail survey of the public with a group of citizens similar to a Citizen Task Force highlighted the difficulty of adequately representing the spectrum of public interests and values in a small group. Accordingly, DEC decided to adopt a survey-based process. More information is available at