NYSDEC proposed season changes
NYSDEC has published, on the NY State Register, replies to comments re: proposed changes in the Mink, Muskrat & Beaver seasons. Go to www.dos.gov/register.htm to read entire announcement. The reply to comments follow:
Assessment of Public Comment
The Department received 50 written comments from individuals and
two organizations pertaining to this proposed rule. We reviewed the
substance of each comment and organized our responses by topic:
- Changes to Part 6.1: beaver trapping in New York
Beaver season in the Northern Zone should end on April 15th instead of
April 7th as proposed.
The Department considered a beaver season end date of April 15th in
the Northern Zone. However, it was not included in this proposal because
it would also impact otter trapping season in the Northern Zone. Impacts
of changes to otter season dates are currently being analyzed as part of the
development of the Department’s River Otter Management Plan. Any
proposed changes to the beaver season end date in the Northern Zone
would occur within the context of that plan, which is expected to be
released for public review in the coming months.
More liberal beaver trapping season lengths in portions of New York
may lead to potential conflicts with upland and waterfowl hunters and
The Department considered this issue and does not believe the change
will lead to conflicts with hunters. The expansion of the season falls dur-
ing the season closure for ducks. Moving the beaver season start date from
November 25th to November 10th will not overlap with these seasons.
There will be some overlap with goose seasons in portions of central and
western NewYork, but the overlap is the same as portions of DEC Regions
3, 4 and 7 (central and eastern New York), which have had a beaver season
start date of November 10th for several years.We are not aware of conflicts
in those areas and do not expect any conflicts in these areas with the
The season does overlap with upland bird hunting seasons, but all trap-
pers need to follow strict regulations to reduce the chances for conflict
with other users and dogs. There are strict trap size restrictions that all
trappers must adhere to when trapping on land. Body-gripping traps larger
than 7½ inches can only be set in water during an open beaver or otter
season and foothold traps between 53/4 inches and 71/4 inches must be set
Increased trapping opportunities will not reduce beaver damage. ‘Bea-
ver deceivers’ and other non-lethal techniques should be used to reduce
While the Department agrees that the use of non-lethal water control
devices can mitigate beaver damage in some areas, this approach is not
always feasible. These devices work well for preventing beavers from
plugging culverts, but the designs do not work in every situation and
require consistent maintenance, which is not always possible in remote
areas. In addition, water control devices do not prevent beavers from
directly damaging property (e.g., destroying trees). In situations where
non-lethal techniques alone cannot prevent the damage caused by beavers,
trapping is an important management tool.
Beavers are important for maintaining wetlands and creating habitat.
It is the Department’s mission to balance the benefits that beavers
provide to both people and wildlife with the negative impacts they may
have. While beaver colonization does benefit some species, it negatively
impacts others (e.g., brook trout and salamanders that depend on cold
and/or flowing water). In addition, forest stands can be destroyed by the
flooding associated with beaver impoundments.
In addition to impacts on the natural ecosystem, an overabundant bea-
ver population can create safety concerns when roads are flooded and can
damage property by cutting down trees or flooding agricultural areas and
residences. Careful management of the population through a regulated
trapping season has proven to be the most effective tactic to best balance
the needs of different species and reduce human safety and property dam-
- Changes to Part 6.2: mink & muskrat season dates, central and western NY.
Trapping season dates for mink, muskrat, and beaver in central New
York (DEC Region 7) should be concurrent (November 10th – April 7th).
The Department considered this potential option but decided against it
at this time. Extending the season until April 7th would add an additional
52 days to the season from the current proposal. There are currently
concerns that muskrat populations are declining throughout much of North
America, including New York. While this decline is not believed to be re-
lated to trapping mortality, wildlife managers need to better understand
population-level impacts of these declines prior to such an expansion of
The proposed November 10th start date for mink and muskrat is too
early in western New York because fur is not yet prime.
The Department recognizes that fur quality is very important to trappers.
However, a majority of trappers surveyed in 2017 said that they would
prefer a start date of November 10th in western New York. A November
10 start date benefits trappers in general, and youth and new trappers in
particular, by increasing opportunity and access before wetlands and other
aquatic habitats freeze over.
A season start date of November 10th will lead to conflicts with
waterfowl hunters and deer hunters.
The proposed start date of November 10th is unlikely to negatively
impact other users. The Southern Zone regular deer season starts between
November 15th and November 21st, depending on the year. The proposed
start date will give trappers between 5-11 days of additional opportunity
prior to the start of the regular deer season. In contrast, the current start
date of November 25th always overlaps with the regular deer season.
Additionally, the proposed start date should provide additional trapping
opportunity outside of duck season. For example, the 2020-21 duck season
in western New York runs from October 17th – November 8th, and the
second split runs from November 28th to January 3rd. A November 10th
start date rather than November 25th will give trappers an additional 15
days to trap without any conflict with duck hunters.
- Changes to Part 6.2: mink & muskrat season dates, northern zone
Several commenters supported the proposal to change the season start
date from October 25th to November 1st. They felt that mink and muskrat
furs were of higher quality on November 1 and that the proposed date
change “better promotes responsible and wise harvesting and utilization of
our abundant furbearer resources.”
The Department agrees. Trappers, when surveyed, ranked fur prime-
ness as the most important factor for them. The proposed November 1st
start date allows us to meet population goals for mink & muskrat while
balancing fur quality, trapper opportunity, and challenges with
Several commenters expressed opposition to the season date change cit-
ing concern that severe weather would reduce trapping opportunity and
potentially make it unsafe to trap via boat.
The Department does agree that there may be decreased open-water
trapping opportunity associated with the proposed season dates in some
years; however, analyses from the Northeast and Great Lakes have shown
that these areas are trending toward warmer winters, resulting in later
ice-in dates for most areas. An analysis of the Great Lakes region (includ-
ing New York) found that ice-in dates have been averaging 3 days later
each decade. Average ice cover in Adirondack lakes has decreased by up
to 21 days between 1975–2007, driven primarily by later ice-in dates.
With warming trends in the Adirondacks accelerating in recent years,
waterbodies are expected to continue to freeze-up later, allowing for simi-
lar open water trapping opportunity as when the October 25th start date
was first enacted over 20 years ago.
While the Department believes that this trend of later ice-in dates will
lead to similar amounts of time for open water trapping as when the
October 25th season start date was first set and that there will be ample
time to trap via boat, we do recognize that there is significant inter-annual
variability. There will be some years where ice will form early and trap-
pers must use their best judgement to remain safe, just as they do with cur-
Some trappers set pocket sets along streams for mink and/or raccoon at
the opening of mink and raccoon season. The proposed date change will
force trappers to discard mink that have been incidentally caught in these
sets prior to the start of the season.
The Department does not believe that this will be an issue. New York
State regulations state that you cannot set a trap in the water when the
mink, otter, beaver, or muskrat season is not open. Since pocket sets for
raccoons are typically set in water along a stream, these sets would not be
able to be used until after the mink season (and other water trapping
seasons) open on November 1st, when any mink caught could be kept.
A November 1st start date for mink/muskrat will lead to conflicts be-
tween trappers, duck hunters, and deer hunters in the Northern Zone.
The Department recognizes that there will be overlap between users,
but the potential for conflicts is unlikely to be higher with the proposed
trapping start date. The regular deer season in this area starts between
October 20th and October 26th, depending on year. The proposed date
would likely decrease conflicts with deer hunters, as it avoids the opening
weekend of deer season in the Northern Zone, when most hunters are
The Northeastern Zone duck season is split into two open seasons, with
the first split beginning on the first Saturday of October, well before the
current or proposed season, and the second split beginning roughly four
weeks later. Although the second split in duck season will start prior to the
proposed trapping season start date in most years, the Department does
not believe that there will be an increase in conflicts with duck hunters. An
analysis of check station data from Perch River Wildlife Management
Area found that there is a significant decline in waterfowl hunters during
the second split, with a 50-80% reduction in the number of hunters
compared to opening day of waterfowl season.
Several comments were made suggesting moving the beaver and otter
season start date to October 25th to align water trapping season dates,
rather than having these seasons all open on November 1st.
When licensed trappers were surveyed on their season date preferences,
trappers in the Northern Zone selected November 1st as their preferred
start date for beaver and otter. In addition, survey respondents overwhelm-
ingly selected fur quality as the most important factor influencing their
preference for certain season dates. A later start date of November 1st bet-
ter aligns with trapper preferences and helps address trapper interest in
higher fur quality. In outreach conducted during development of the pro-
posal, organized trapping groups also expressed support for a November
1st start date.
The reduction in the mink and muskrat season length would have a sig-
nificant negative impact on new trappers, who often start by trapping mink
While the season start date change will reduce mink and muskrat trap-
ping opportunity by 6 days, the Department does not feel that it will have
a significant impact on new trappers. The mink and muskrat season in the
Northern Zone is one of the longest trapping seasons in the state, ensuring
ample opportunity for new trappers and others to target these species.
- The Department received comments opposing trapping in general.
The Department recognizes that some members of the public oppose
any consumptive uses of wildlife. The Department balances these values
by creating biologically sound trapping seasons that ensure wildlife
populations remain robust for all New Yorkers to enjoy in perpetuity.
Trapping is highly regulated in New York and animal welfare is an
important consideration in regulation development. For over 20 years,
biologists in New York have worked with other state and federal biolo-
gists, conservationists, and veterinarians from across the country to
improve trapping methods through scientific research to develop Best
Management Practices (BMPs) for trapping that improve the humaneness,
selectivity, and efficiency of traps. All BMP-approved traps must meet
certain internationally agreed-upon animal welfare criteria. More informa-
tion on BMPs can be found at https://www.fishwildlife.org/afwa-inspires/