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Hunting & Trapping Participation in New York

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According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, hunters spent over 10 million days afield and spent a total of $716 million on hunting-related expenditures in New York State.

The most popular hunting activities in the state were big game (primarily deer) and turkey hunting with hunters spending about 8.5 million days in pursuit of these species, and contributing almost $390 million to the state's economy. Small game hunters in pursuit of species such as grouse, rabbit and squirrel, spent 3.8 million days afield and spent over $90 million on hunting-related expenditures.

Big Game Hunting

There are over 566,000 big game hunters in New York, who average approximately 18 days of hunting per hunter per year. Big game hunting produces approximately 10,800,000 pounds of venison annually and creates over 5,500 jobs. It brings in more than $410.9 million in retail sales, $221.4 million in salaries and wages, $61.3 million in state and local taxes and $56.7 million in federal taxes. Over the last ten years, the average annual statewide bear harvest is 1,141 bears, while the average statewide deer harvest is over 230,000 deer.

Small Game Hunting

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The most popular small game species (in terms of hunting participation) are wild turkey (103,000 hunters in the spring), squirrel (86,000 hunters), rabbit (78,000 hunters), ruffed grouse (75,000 hunters), and coyote (64,000 hunters). Small game hunters spend thousands of days afield in pursuit of various small game species, and as you would guess, the most hunting effort is expended on the most popular species: spring turkey hunting (630,000 days/year), followed by squirrel hunting (570,000 days/year), rabbit hunting (470,000 days/year), grouse hunting (450,000 days/year), and coyote hunting (380,000 days/year). Left: Wesley Smith, age 12, Steuben Co.

Trapping

New York has about 11,000 licensed trappers that pursue 14 furbearer species. Raccoon trapping attracts the largest number of participants (about 3,800 trappers/year), followed by muskrat (3,700 trappers/year), mink (3,300 trappers/year), beaver and red fox (2,900 trappers each per year), and coyote (2,800 trappers/year). Of the six furbearers DEC inquired about in its trapper survey, trappers spent the most time in pursuit of muskrat (132,000 trap-days/year), followed by beaver (111,000 trap-days/year), raccoon (108,000 trap-days/year), fisher (105,000 trap-days/year), river otter (84,000 trap-days/year), and bobcat (74,000 trap-days/year).

The Value of Wild Game

Each year hunters from across New York successfully harvest a variety of mammals and game birds during their respective open seasons, but few people appreciate the value of game taken annually from our landscape. According to surveys conducted by DEC, hunters in New York harvest over 12 million pounds of game each year. As you might expect, white-tailed deer make up the vast majority of this amount at almost 11 million pounds, followed by waterfowl (530,000 lbs), wild turkeys (368,000 lbs), rabbits (170,000 lbs), squirrels (143,000 lbs), pheasants (116,000 lbs), and black bear (93,750 lbs). Other small game including grouse, varying hares and woodcock account for another 100,000 lbs annually. If you think of this harvest in terms of meals, New York's wild game bounty provides over 48 million servings per year. To put a dollar value on this harvest, consider that a pound of ground beef or pork from your local supermarket would cost at least $3.00/lb and boneless chicken or turkey would cost at least $2.00/lb. At these prices, New York's annual harvest of wild game has a value close to $40 million!

Declining Hunter Numbers

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The number of New York hunting license holders has declined an average of 1% per year over the past 25 years from about 800,000 license holders in 1984 to about 600,000 license holders in 2008. This is a trend observed in many states throughout the country. Nationally, from 1991 through 2006 hunting participation rates declined from 7.4% of the total population to 5.5% of the total population. During this period, declines in small game hunters were more pronounced than they were for deer or turkey hunters.

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If this decline continues, state natural resource agencies will face mounting challenges in managing some species of wildlife such as deer. In addition, a significant portion of the funding for wildlife conservation comes from hunting and trapping license sales, and the federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment. The federal funds are apportioned to the states based on a formula that includes the number of hunting license holders. So, declining hunter numbers could also pose substantial fiscal challenges for state agencies tasked with managing wildlife resources. (Left: Logan W. Blount, age 12, Oswego Co.)

One of the approaches DEC is using to help address this issue is the development of the “Hunter Recruitment & Retention Initiative.” In 2010, DEC partnered with the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources to investigate the causes of the decline in hunter numbers and to develop effective strategies to reverse the trend.

For more information on the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation go to http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/National_Survey.htm.

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