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:

  1. 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

their dogs.


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

proposed changes.

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

under water.


Increased trapping opportunities will not reduce beaver damage. ‘Bea-

ver deceivers’ and other non-lethal techniques should be used to reduce

human-beaver conflicts.


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-

age concerns.

  1. 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 season.


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.

  1. 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-

rent seasons.


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

and muskrats.


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.

  1. 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/