New York Hunters Needed to Help Monitor Small Game Species

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today encouraged hunters to participate in two surveys for popular game species during this fall's hunting seasons.

"Each fall New York's dedicated small game hunters spend thousands of hours afield exploring the state's landscapes in pursuit of game," said Commissioner Martens. "They're uniquely positioned to assist DEC's wildlife managers by providing data on changing wildlife populations and habitats. Citizen science efforts such as these are a great way for hunters to partner with DEC while enjoying their hunting heritage."

New England Cottontail Survey - The only native cottontail east of the Hudson River in New York is the New England cottontail; however, its populations are poorly understood. New England cottontails look nearly identical to Eastern cottontails and are only reliably identified by genetic testing or examining skull characteristics.

Those that hunt rabbits in Rensselaer, Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam, or Westchester counties, can submit the heads of rabbits harvested to help determine the distribution of New England cottontails. Those interested in participating, or for more information, please contact DEC by phone at 518-402-8870 or by e-mailing the Bureau of Wildlife. (please type "NE Cottontail" in the subject line).

Participating hunters will receive instructions and a postage-paid envelope they can use to submit skulls. Hunters will be asked to provide the location and description of the habitat where each rabbit was taken. Results of these efforts will be available after the close of the hunting season.

Ruffed Grouse and American Woodcock Hunting Log - Ruffed grouse and American woodcock are widely distributed across New York State. These species prefer habitats in an early stage of succession such as young forests, shrublands, and old orchards and fields. As New York's forests grow older, these preferred habitats are waning, resulting in a decline in grouse and woodcock numbers since the 1960s.

This survey asks hunters to record their daily grouse and woodcock hunting activities in a "hunting log", including the number of grouse and woodcock flushed and the number of hours hunted. Grouse and woodcock share many of the same habitats, so the information provided will help monitor populations of both of these great game birds as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

Those interested in participating can download a hunting log from the DEC website. Detailed instructions can be found with the form. Survey forms can also be obtained by calling (518) 402-8886 or by e-mailing the Bureau of Wildlife. (please type "Grouse Log" in the subject line).


groovy mike's picture

Let’s hope the decisions made with that information are good!

Thanks for keeping us up to date on the latest from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  Like many other state agencies, departments, and divisions the Department of Environmental Conservation is having some real budget problems and staffing cuts under the current governor’s administration.  I wonder if that is part of the reason for so many recent calls for hunters to participate in surveys.  The Department’s wildlife managers might not have the time to collect their own data on wildlife population changes and so are forced to call on citizen science efforts by hunters, hikers and others to collect the information for monitoring the populations of game birds, rabbits, deer, and other species within New York State.  Let’s hope that the decisions made with that information are good ones guided by things more important than politics and political funding. 

Retired2hunt's picture

  A good effort by the DEC to


A good effort by the DEC to get hunters to assist in the collection of specimens for the biologists to test.  You have to be a committed hunter to be sending in skulls of the rabbits.  It doesn't state but I wonder if these are heads with fur intact or a cleaned up skull. This also saves the DEC a tremendous amount of time, payroll, and energy with the hunters doing the work versus a paid biologist or many biologists going out into the fields to gather their data.  I would think a paid program for the hunters would offer more specimens than having it strictly as a volunteer survey. 


numbnutz's picture

It's good that the DEC is

It's good that the DEC is seeking help from hunters. Biologists can't do all the work themselfs and sometimes need help in understanding cetain spieces and better determine the best coarse of action to manage them. It sounds like the two types of rabbits look the same and are hard to tell which is which. It's seems like a waste of money to do genetics testing on all of the samples so if hunters can help by sending in the heads it will probably help the dept save some money that can be put back into helping the animals.