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NY hunters' 2020 tally of deer, bear at two-decade highs

Deer seen from N. Midway Rd. on Shelter

Deer seen from N. Midway Rd. on Shelter Island, April 29, 2021. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Hunters killed a record number of black bears and a recent record of white-tail deer across New York State last year, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the populations and issues permits to hunt the animals.

The number of bears killed by hunters jumped to 1,723 last year, an increase from the 1,505 killed across the state in 2019 and a 20-year record. The prior high was 1,715 bears killed in 2015. Only 800 were killed in 2001, the earliest year for which data was available, according to DEC figures released in a report of the 2020 harvest. Bear hunters in the state can earn commemorative patches for submitting premolar teeth of bears they kill to help DEC conduct its population and management surveys. All the bears killed are black bears, which do not inhabit Long Island.

Meanwhile, hunters killed more than 253,000 deer across the state in 2020, a 13% increase from the year before and well above the five-year average of 214,288 annually for the prior five years, according to a separate DEC report.

Hunters haven't taken more deer in a year across the state since 2002, when 308,216 deer were killed. There were 255,959 taken in 1999, 295,859 taken in 2000.

Of the total, 4,525 deer were killed by hunters in Suffolk County, where deer-hunting permits exceeded 13,000 last year, according to the DEC. The agency maintains precise tallies of white-tail deer killed across the state each year, including whether or not they had antlers and the method used for killing. Deer hunting isn’t allowed in Nassau.

Across the state, 68,021 deer were killed using a bow, 19,769 killed using a muzzle-loading rifle, and 108,689 killed with deer management permits that can include a limited number of other permitted firearms.

In a statement, the DEC said the increase in deer hunting overall "may have been due, at least in part, to additional hunters and renewed motivation to harvest venison during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic." Venison is deer meat. The number of licensed hunters across the state rose 7% from 2019, to more than 588,000 last year.

Of the 253,990 deer killed statewide by permitted hunters last year, 116,443 were adult males and 15,935 were male fawns, the DEC reported. There were 106,946 adult female deer taken, and 14,676 female fawns killed.

In 1954, the earliest year provided with records in the DEC report, there were 38,549 deer killed, more than 36,000 of them adult males.

On Long Island, most of the deer killed by hunters were adult females—some 1,909 females killed last year. Adult males killed by hunters numbered 1,861, followed by 386 male fawns and 369 female fawns.

The 2020 figures do not include deer killed by legal culling permits issued by the DEC to prevent damage on individual properties outside of hunting season. That total was 4,966 across the state in 2020, down from the prior year’s 5,160 deer.

The DEC doesn’t release lists of wild fowl killed across the state, but it does publish annual regulations for bird hunters to determine how many they can shoot.

For 2021-22, the DEC issued seasonal rules that allow hunters to kill 15 coots per day, and to possess 45 dead coot; hunters this year can also kill six ducks, sea ducks and mergansers per day, and possess 18 of those dead ducks, and kill 25 snow geese per day, with no possession limit -- all during legal seasons which vary by region. Ducks eligible for hunting include no more than two mallards, three wood ducks, two black ducks, one pintail, one scaup, two redheads, two canvasback, four scoters, four eiders, four long-tailed ducks or two hooded mergansers.

The possession limit is the maximum number of dead birds a person may possess at any one time in the field, at home, in transit or in storage.

For Canada geese, there are three hunting seasons on Long Island, each with different numbers of the birds that can be killed. In central Long Island, for instance, hunters can kill 15 Canada geese per day from Sept. 7 through Sept. 30, but that kill limit drops to 3 during most of November and from Dec. 11 through Feb 3.

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