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Wednesday, February 26, 2020


DEC, locals at odds over deer feeding

Jan 23, 2020

By Joseph Abraham  - co-editor

SULLIVAN COUNTY -- To feed deer or not to feed deer, that is the question...
That's been a topic of much debate, especially here in Sullivan County. A ruling by former Sullivan County Court Judge Hon. Frank LaBuda in 2012 made Sullivan County the only county in the state where deer feeding was allowed.

That was until a new regulation was adopted on Dec. 24 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Last month, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the adoption of a regulation to, “reduce problems caused by wildlife feeding and establish strict procedures for the use of tick-control devices designed to treat deer.
“Prohibiting the feeding of wild deer and moose is a best management approach to reduce risks associated with communicable wildlife diseases like chronic wasting disease, minimize conflicts with deer, and protect wildlife habitat,” Seggos said.
According to LaBuda, who recently transitioned from the bench to the role of Chief Council at Sobo & Sobo LLP, the old law and cases interpreting it, like the one he decided eight years ago, is not strictly applicable to the new law, although it could be used as precedent to understanding and interpreting it.
Long story short, deer feeding in Sullivan County is once again prohibited.
Here are both sides of the argument ...
THE DEC's side
Commissioner Seggos believes feeding deer and moose can artificially increase populations and change behavior, causing harm to people, wildlife, and the environment.
“These new requirements strike a necessary balance between preventing the negative effects of deer feeding while recognizing the increased public health threat posed by tick-borne diseases and make an exception to allow the use of certain devices designed to kill ticks on deer,” he said.
DEC first prohibited deer feeding in 2002 in response to the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) because concentrating deer or moose at feeding sites increases the risk of disease transmission.
Following a public comment period earlier this year, DEC adopted the new regulation to, “...provide a clearer definition of what does and does not constitute illegal feeding of deer or moose.”
For example, the requirements provide exemptions for wildlife plantings, bona fide agricultural practices, livestock husbandry, and research and nuisance abatement actions permitted by DEC.
It clarifies that incidental feeding such as the attraction of deer or moose to a birdfeeder will only be considered a violation if DEC has previously issued a written warning to the person responsible for the incidental feeding.
This will allow nuisance situations to be appropriately addressed without limiting bird feeding in general.
To reduce the sale and marketing of products that are illegal to use and to protect consumers from being misled, the new regulation requires retail products packaged for sale as food or edible attractants for wild deer or moose to carry a label clearly stating that such use is illegal in New York.
LaBuda, who was complimentary of the DEC for their work regulating and protecting state residents' privilege and right to hunt under the law, notes that the deer feeding issue affects everyone, not just hunters.
One such group is conservationists who strive to preserve wildlife. In fact, the case LaBuda presided over eight years ago involved an elderly non-hunter.
LaBuda referenced the changing landscape in Sullivan County and vanishing deer feed and cover, which makes starvation a real issue.
“We need a viable solution to that particular problem,” he said. “To ban all feeding, in my opinion, is not the proper solution. I think that concerned sportsmen and conservationists can help the DEC formulate an effective deer feeding regulation.”
LaBuda added that in the case eight years ago, the DEC regulation was represented by the state attorney general's office, and after they lost the case, chose never to appeal it.
Allan Schadt, who is on the board of directors at Excelsior Hunting Club (located between White Lake and Eldred), said they always fed the deer when it was legal.
He noted that “It stinks,” that they can no longer do it as he said it's important to maintaining the deer herd.
He notes that on their southern side of Route 17B, there is not as much farmland, and in the winter months the deer have to graze longer to find food. Schadt said one year when deer feeding was illegal, someone from the club had found six deer dead from starvation and when allowed to feed, they found fewer carcasses in the woods. He keeps cameras in the field and says he's lucky to see 1-2 deer a day.
“I wish we could feed them, but we can't,” he said.
Walter Sipple, who lives and belongs to a hunting club in Mileses, is also in favor of feeding deer. He recalled a time in the 70s when the DEC used the railroad to drop off alfalfa for people to take and use to feed the deer, wondering what changed.
He adds that if you don't intentionally feed deer, they'll still come and eat your plants or food in the bird feeder, etc.
“I don't see a problem with feeding deer,” Sipple said, adding that deer are going to herd together no matter what. As for the concern for CWD, Sipple said, “I don't think it comes from feeding deer. The DEC ought to put someone in there who knows about the environment.”
Sipple believes you see more deer in villages these days then out in the woods.
As for throwing food out in the backyard, Sipple said, “Far as I'm concerned I'm not feeding the deer, I'm feeding the crows. Just being neighbors to them.”
Local lawmakers have heard the call from county residents in favor of deer feeding.
“I am currently carrying a bill in the Senate (Bill No. S06913), first introduced in the Assembly (Bill No. A3106) by Aileen Gunther in 2017, that would allow folks to feed white-tailed deer,” New York State Senator Jen Metzger said. “The DEC has recently passed regulations restricting all feeding, which we disagree with, and I plan to amend the bill to change this regulation and allow feeding during the winter months as discussed with the Federation when I met with them last August.”
Jack Danchak, President of the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County, Inc., has been a consistent critic of the DEC's ban on deer feeding.
“I think their (DEC) regulation is ridiculous and their deer feeding policy is antiquated. It may have worked many years ago, but the deer habitat environment has changed and the negatives the DEC claim that may occur from domestic deer feeding, has never occurred during the 40 some years that we have been feeding deer here in Sullivan County, NY,” Danchak said.
“The DEC is using CWD as an excuse to stop people from feeding deer. CWD has never been detected here in Sullivan County and hundreds of people who are feeding deer and other wildlife want to know why the DEC wants us to stop feeding our healthy deer and other wildlife, especially during winter months, to help prevent them from starvation? ” Danchak said.

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