Albany – New York’s Senate has passed legislation that would
authorize a special extended deer season that could run through
Jan. 31 to control whitetail numbers in agricultural areas.
A spokesman for the sponsor of the bill, Sen. William Larkin,
Jr. (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), said the bill – S443, approved by a
56-1 vote last month – is designed to curb deer damage on fruit
farms in the Hudson Valley and parts of Long Island.
“The deer are eating up everything,” said Larkin’s counsel,
Steve Casseles. “On average, every apple grower in the region is
seeing $43,000 in crop damage every year. And on Long Island, it’s
$60,000-$70,000 in damage to the vineyards there.”
Casseles said the bill is designed to allow for an extended deer
season in which hunters will be able to use unfilled tags “on land
used in agricultural production.”
He added that DEC would ultimately decide when and if the
extended season was to be implemented, as well as in what areas it
would take place.
But DEC Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Gerald
Barnhart said the legislation is unnecessary.
“We currently have existing regulatory authority which we
believe is adequate to manage New York’s deer population. We use
that regulatory authority judiciously and would look at any
legislation counter to that regulatory authority as going in the
The legislation, which has been forwarded to the state Assembly,
which placed it in its Environmental Conservation committee,
underscores DEC’s deer management challenges. While the bill seeks
to appease farmers who contend there are too many whitetails, most
hunters in the state would argue that deer numbers have declined,
citing last year’s harvest that was 14 percent below the previous
The fate of the bill remains unclear; it passed the Senate last
year but died in the Assembly and was returned to the Senate in
Under the proposal, the extended deer season would begin “the
day after the close of all regular and special seasons” and could
run to Jan. 31.
“DEC will have the power to limit the number of deer taken
during the additional special season if deer management practices
suggest that fewer deer should be taken from a particular region,”
the bill reads.
Casseles said the sponsors of the bill wanted to make sure DEC
maintained its ability to manage the deer herd. “They’re the ones
who manage wildlife,” he said. “This would give them additional
authority in the areas we’ve been concerned about.”
Larkin’s memo attached to the bill says deer are causing
agricultural damage each year to fruit trees and vineyards, are
destroying residential lawns and landscaping, causing motor vehicle
accidents and spreading Lyme disease.
“The losses sustained by New York agriculture from deer browsing
damage is also quite high,” Larkin said. “In the Hudson Valley, the
New York Farm Bureau estimates that deer damage is approximately
$68 per acre, or $14 million annually. On a statewide basis, the
total damage to the agricultural industry is approximately $59
million per year.”
The memo also cites a Cornell University study that suggests
“other means of deer management need to be developed and instituted
to stem the loss of life and property/casualty damage due to motor
vehicle accidents, and loss of agricultural crops. This bill is one
method in which deer populations, under the strict scrutiny of DEC,
can be brought back to more manageable and self-sustaining
Larkin previously sponsored legislation that would have created
a governor’s task force on deer management; that bill was
ultimately vetoed by Gov. George Pataki.
Barnhart said DEC already has in place a Citizens’ Task Force on
deer management that makes various recommendations in regard to
He added that he’s aware of the concerns of fruit farmers over
deer damage to their crops.
“We’re planning to put together a one-day deer management
symposium for various interest groups in the Hudson Valley,” he
said. “We know there are concerns over agricultural impacts,
particularly with apple growers.”