The mysterious decline in wild turkeys led state officials Wednesday to adopt new hunting regulations.
The new rules shorten the fall hunting season for most of the state but extend it a bit for Long Island, the Department of Environmental Conservation said. Turkey hunting dates have been staggered across the state, with hunting on the Island allowed only in Suffolk, from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4, the state said. That's 14 days instead of five days under the old rules, the state said.
The changes are part of a four-year study to manage declining wild turkey populations and monitor factors that may be causing their numbers to fall dramatically over the 15 years studied, including the impact of weather on their habitats, state officials said.
Researchers have been banding more than 450 hen turkeys, including attaching satellite radios to some, to track their survival and harvesting rates, the DEC said.
Numbers of turkeys killed per county each fall show a general decline that reflects the drop in the fowl and hunter numbers, the DEC said. IN 2009, the number of turkeys bagged in Suffolk was 102; in 2013, it was 30, state figures show.
Details on why Long Island's hunting period was extended was not immediately available from the DEC.
Out of about 120 comments submitted recently on the proposed rules, most expressed concern about the state of wild turkey populations and backed hunting restrictions, state officials said.
"It is important to responsibly manage New York's wild turkey populations to ensure that future generations of hunters have the opportunity to go afield," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a news release.
State officials ask the public to fill out surveys if they see a wild turkey. The survey is at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48756.html.