February 10, 2014 – The Catskill Mountain Club has issued a comment regarding the proposed NYSDEC black bear management plan. While supporting several initiatives to better manage the black bear population in the Catskills including an increased bag limit and greater promotion of the sport of bear hunting, the CMC opposes the creation of a new black bear hunting season. If approved, the current proposal by the DEC would establish a new hunting season that would run from the first Saturday after Labor Day for 16 days. The new season would coincide with one of the most used and beloved times of the year for hikers and many other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
We encourage our members to comment individually on this issue in support of the CMC’s position before the deadline of February 21, 2014. Comments can be made at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Catskill Mountain Club
Comments on NYS Black Bear Management Plan for 2014-2024
February 7, 2014
The DEC has proposed that a new hunting season be created for the purpose of reducing the bear population in New York. The Department’s proposal states that the number of bears is causing an increase in the incidence of human and bear conflicts. In most of the state this issue pertains to agriculture. In the forest preserves these problematic interactions have more to do with encounters that occur in communities located in and near the preserves. Specifically, there are problems with bears raiding garbage containers, bird feeders and other human supplied sources of food. These incidents occasionally include cases where bears enter houses in search of food. While we feel that the best solution would be the alteration of human behaviors that contribute to the problem, we recognize that such an approach to reducing incidents of conflict will take time and that it will be successful only when the vast majority of people in the affected areas comply with best practices.
Even as we agree that these are serious problems that require an effective response, we feel that the establishment of a new hunting season in the Catskills, such as the one proposed, will interfere with other recreational uses. Lasting for sixteen days beginning on the first Saturday of September, the new season comes at a time of high use by other recreational users, particularly hikers. Many hikers and hiking clubs suspend hiking during regular deer and bear hunting season. The concern about personal safety that causes this suspension is a real one, grounded in the incidents of accidental shootings that occur every year and in the use of high powered rifles during big game season. For many hikers, the reward is simply not worth the risk.
Aside from the issue of public safety, we are concerned about the economic impacts on local businesses that rely on these early autumn tourists. We feel that many of these customers, including hikers, bird watchers, fishermen, nature photographers, cyclists and others, would stay away from the forest preserves and thus the community businesses that they support.. These various users represent a far larger group than do hunters.
We strongly feel that a new hunting season is not an optimal solution to this problem. In recognition of the need for a reduction in bear populations in the Catskill Park, we propose that other measures be taken to achieve that goal. We propose that the following measures be prioritized and used, along with others that the DEC may recommend and that do not create a new hunting season for big game, including bear.
1) Increase the bear bag limit within the WMUs of the central and southern Catskills. And make the hunting public aware of this new opportunity through appropriate promotional efforts.
2) Expand the regular deer and bear hunting season into the muzzleloading season.
3) Increase efforts to enforce existing regulations pertaining to the availability of food supplied by homeowners and businesses within the blue line. And conduct an extensive effort to inform and educate the public about the need for the policy and the regulations.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.