The Department of Environmental Conservation – and the old NYS Conservation Department that preceded it – has historically depended on the state’s license-buying sportsmen and women to aid in the management of New York’s wildlife. Both agencies also largely depended on the dollars annually generated by sportsmen to fund their division bureau’s budgets. All this may be changing now.
Faced with a radically changing demographic picture, coupled with a rapidly aging licensed sportsmen force, the DEC’s efforts to “manage” is becoming less effective with each passing year. The older sportsmen’s declining numbers are not being replaced by younger ones, and license sales, which saw their prices increased this year, are dropping at an alarming rate. Added together, these spell major problems, for us and wildlife.
While deer are usually the focal point of wildlife management, because of the damage they can do when too plentiful, the bigger picture reflects an across-the-board challenge for managing many wildlife species in the state, both game and non-game species alike. Keep in mind that the habitat and ecosystem variety we have today is a far cry from what your grandparents experienced.
Just the habitat alone has undergone huge changes, from small farms to mega-farms, and from small checkerboard fields and pastures to expanding dense growth and emerging forestlands. And these have created major changes in the species most adapted to prospering in such habitat conditions. Such species as black bear, coyote, grey fox and wild turkey prosper where once red fox, cottontail rabbit, pheasant and ruffed grouse flourished. A decline of trapping and furbearer hunting allows skunk, raccoon, opossum and coyote to expand their populations and range.