State strengthens rules against feeding deer

Wildlife regulators concerned about impact on deer and their environment, as well as threat of disease
Deer congregate on food provided by humans in this undated photo provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Deer congregate on food provided by humans in this undated photo provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

ALBANY — State officials this week adopted new regulations on feeding of deer by the public, reiterating the problems the practice creates for wildlife and ecosystems.

Deer feeding restrictions in New York first were implemented in 2002 to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease. The new regulations, issued Tuesday, strengthen and clarify those original rules.

The Department of Environmental Conservation said CWD remains a concern but the goal is also to prevent deer herds from growing to unsustainable sizes that damage their environs, to discourage changes in winter migratory patterns, and to limit changes in deer behavior such as decreased shyness around humans.

The rules also pertain to the feeding of moose, and to the use of specially designed feeding stations that treat deer with a pesticide that kills deer ticks, which can carry bacteria causing Lyme disease and other serious illnesses.

In a news release Friday, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said:

“Feeding deer and moose can artificially increase populations and change behavior, causing harm to people, wildlife, and the environment. These new requirements strike a necessary balance between preventing the negative effects of deer feeding while recognizing the increased public health threat posed by tick-borne diseases and make an exception to allow the use of certain devices designed to kill ticks on deer.”

The rules issued last week were drawn up after a public comment period, and clarify what is allowed and not allowed as DEC seeks to reduce human feeding of deer.

Some of the differences:

  • Specific exemptions are codified for things such as agricultural activity, plantings designed for wildlife, feeding of domestic livestock, and specifically permitted research or nuisance abatement activity.
  • Feeding birds will be considered a violation only in cases where DEC has issued a previous written warning that the person doing it is creating a deer nuisance situation.
  • Food or edible attractants for deer or moose sold in New York must be labeled with a warning that their use as such in illegal in the state and anyone using them for that purpose is liable to prosecution.
  • The 4-Poster Tickicide system — a commercially sold bait station that drips pesticide on a deer’s head and neck as it eats the corn inside — has generated considerable public interest in areas with a high rate of Lyme Disease. Its use will be allowed by permit under a lengthy list of conditions designed to limit the impact on deer feeding on the nearby environment, ranging from child-protective fencing to minimum distance to the nearest road.

DEC, in its statutory role as protector of state wildlife, remains keenly interested in blocking the spread of chronic wasting disease, a fatal central nervous system disease affecting deer, elk, moose and reindeer. CWD was first observed in New York in 2005, in wild and captive deer in Oneida County, but has not been seen in the state since.

The disease continues to spread elsewhere in the nation, however, and is confirmed in both wild and captive deer in neighboring Pennsylvania. New York regulators have banned import of deer and carcasses from states and provinces where CWD has been reported.

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