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DEC Accepting Pheasant Release Applications

DEC Accepting Applications for Annual Pheasant Release Program

Applications are now available for DEC's cooperative Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program, which allows people to participate in raising and releasing pheasants to enhance fall hunting opportunities.

Day-old chicks are available at no cost from the Reynolds Game Farm. Approved applicants will receive the chicks in April, May, or June. No chicks obtained through the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program can be released on private shooting preserves and all release sites must be approved in advance by DEC and be open for public pheasant hunting opportunities. Applicants are required to provide shelter and daily care to the rapidly growing chicks, monitor the birds' health, and ensure the chicks have adequate feed and water.

Individuals interested in the program should contact the nearest DEC regional office for applications and additional information. Applications must be filed with a DEC regional wildlife manager by March 25.

A "Pheasant Rearing Guide" and applications are available on DEC's website. For questions about the program or eligibility, email or call 607-273-2768.

Changes in Atlantic Population Canada Goose Zone Seasons

Atlantic Population (AP) Canada geese nest throughout northern Quebec and winter from New England to South Carolina. The largest concentrations of AP geese occur on the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware and the eastern shores of Maryland & Virginia). Biologists in the Atlantic Flyway divide harvest zones based on the population that is most frequently harvested in an area.

Although the zone boundaries may appear to be arbitrary, they were carefully developed using information from hunter band recoveries, neck collar studies, and satellite telemetry. The goal of zoning is to provide maximum opportunity in areas that mostly harvest resident population Canada geese (i.e. the birds that nest in southern Canada and Northeast US states) while protecting the more vulnerable populations of migratory geese.

New York is located in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway and thus serves as a major migration corridor for AP geese. These geese are a significant proportion of the harvest throughout upstate New York, especially in the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and the Hudson River Valley regions.

Season length and daily bag limits are more restrictive in these areas to protect migrating birds. While our local Canada geese are incredibly productive and have extremely high survival, the migratory Canada geese (that look nearly identical) are not so lucky. They take longer to sexually mature, have smaller clutch sizes, and lower survival. In some years, their breeding habitat isn’t thawed until late June. In those years, productivity can be near zero, as was the experience in 2018. Based on weather data, productivity in 2020 was also very low.

The population of AP geese has fluctuated from as few as 35,000 pairs in the early to mid-1990s to over 200,000 during the 2000s. As a result of the low population in the 1990s, the hunting season was closed for a number of years while the population recovered. By 2002, the population had rebounded to ~180,000 breeding pairs and remained near that level until 2016. From 2010-2019 we have experienced a number of below average productivity years compounded by increased harvest.

The combination of poor productivity and increasing harvest caused a precipitous decline in the population from 2016 (192,000 pairs) to 2018 (112,000 pairs). If weather conditions would have resulted in average to above average productivity, we may not have experienced such a decline, however managers need to be responsive to protect the resource.

In an effort to avoid closed seasons, the Atlantic Flyway Council and the USFWS recommended dropping down to a restrictive package of 30 day seasons with a two bird bag limit in northern states and a 30 day season and one bird bag limit in southern terminus states in 2019.

Historically, to maintain equal opportunity to harvest AP geese, northern states were afforded slightly more liberal season structures than the Delmarva region. However, during the first year of the restrictive seasons (2019-2020), the distribution of harvest shifted from being predominantly occurring in the Delmarva, to more birds being harvested in northern states for the first time and the harvest rate (~five percent in 2019) exceeded what is predicted to be necessary for the population to rebound (three percent allowable harvest rate).

Due to excessive harvest rate and shift in harvest distribution, the Atlantic Flyway Council recommended that when seasons are restrictive, all states should have the same regulations to allow populations to rebound as quickly as possible. Therefore, the regular Canada goose season will be reduced to a 30-day season with a daily bag limit of one in the West Central, East Central, Northeast, Lake Champlain, and Hudson Valley zones. Harvest restrictions have also been made in Quebec and Ontario. The reduction in harvest will hopefully shorten the amount of time we are in a restrictive package. When the population rebounds, we anticipate season lengths and bag limits will be liberalized.

Hunting and Trapping Essay Contest Deadline Approaches

Connecting with nature, conservation, healthy organic meat, and tradition are just some of the motivations that send over 500,000 licensed New York State hunters and trappers afield each year. What is yours?

Don’t miss the January 31st deadline to share your story of “Why I hunt’ or “Why I trap” with a short essay and photo. Participating hunters and trappers may submit photos and essays in one of four categories:

  • Youth (under 17, non-first year)

  • First-year hunters (youth)

  • First-year hunters (adult)

  • Adults (non first-year)

Each contestant may submit up to two photos with their essay entry. DEC staff will select the best photo/essay in each category. Winning entries will appear in the 2021-2022 New York Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, which is read by more than half a million people each year. Contest specifications:

  • Essays should be non-fiction, original material (not previously published), and told from a first-person perspective;

  • Essays should be between 50 and 500 words in length;

  • Limit of one entry per person;

  • Maximum of two photos per entry; and

  • Photos must be taken in New York State.

Submissions should be made using this link. The deadline for contest entries is Jan. 31, 2021. Visit DEC's website for helpful guidelines about how to take photographs that best capture the reasons why you hunt or trap.

DEC is deeply committed to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness and encourages entries from people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and genders. All photo submissions become the property of DEC and may be used in future DEC publications, electronic, and print outreach materials. In addition, DEC reserves the right to edit essays for content, clarity, length, and style. DEC retains first rights to written submissions, and written submissions may also appear in a future issue of Conservationist magazine or other DEC publications, media, and social media.

For more information about the "Why I Hunt" and "Why I Trap" contest, call (518) 402-8963, e-mail, or write to: Hunter Education Program, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

Look for Wildlife Tracks this Winter

Now is a great time to search for winter tracks (PDF) or other animal signs visible in the snow. It can be fun to be a detective and figure out what animals have been walking through your yard or across a trail. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Snow conditions can make a difference in a track’s appearance – wet snow captures a print better than powdery snow.

  • Members in the dog family (coyote, fox, or dogs) will usually leave claw prints above the toes, while the cat family (bobcat, housecat) will not. You should see four toes on both front and back feet for both families.

  • Rodents, such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, muskrats, and voles, usually have four toes on the front feet and five on the back. Claws may or may not be seen.

  • Bring a notebook, camera, or field guide with you.

  • Sometimes an animal’s droppings, or scat, can help you identify it - a rabbit’s looks like small balls of sawdust.

Find out more in the Become a Winter Wildlife Detective (PDF) issue of Conservationist for Kids. Also, in case you missed it, check out the recent Winter Wildlife Tracks and Scat Identification Video on DEC’s Facebook page. Photo by Sandy Van Vranken.

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