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NY asks hunters to help monitor small game species

From the New York Department of Environmental Conservation

-- New York hunters are encouraged to participate in two surveys for popular game species during the this fall's hunting seasons. Citizen science efforts provide wildlife managers with valuable data and give hunters the opportunity to help monitor New York's wildlife resources. As the state's forests mature, New York is losing the early successional habitats many species depend upon.
 
Tracking grouse and cottontail populations will help the DEC understand how the changing landscape affects these and other species using similar habitat.

New England Cottontail Survey
The New England cottontail is the only native cottontail rabbit east of the Hudson River in New York. However, its range has been greatly reduced by habitat loss and competition with the more abundant Eastern cottontail. New England cottontails look nearly identical to Eastern cottontails and are only reliably identified by genetic testing of tissue, fecal samples or by examining morphological skull characteristics.

DEC requests rabbit hunters in Wildlife Management Units in Rensselaer, Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties contact the department to learn how to submit the heads of rabbits they harvest. A map of the survey area can be seen online at  http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/67017.html. The skulls will be used for identification to assist the department in determining the distribution of the New England Cottontail.

Hunters interested in participating or looking for more information, can call (518) 402-8870 or e-mail fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us and using "NE Cottontail" in the subject line. Participating hunters will receive instructions and a postage paid envelope they can use to submit heads from harvested rabbits. Results of these efforts will be available after the close of the hunting season.

Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log
Annually, around 75,000 grouse hunters harvest 150,000 ruffled grouse, one of the state's most popular native game birds.  The forest species is widely distributed across the state. While some grouse are found in more mature forests, the greatest population densities are in younger forests. These preferred habitats are declining as most of New York State's forests grow older, resulting in a decline in grouse numbers since the 1960s.

The survey asks hunters to record their daily grouse hunting activities on a Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log.  The log requests information such as the number of hours hunted, number of grouse flushed and the number of birds killed. Starting this fall, hunters are also asked to record the number of woodcock they flush while afield. Grouse and woodcock share many of the same habitats, so the information will help monitor populations of both of these great game birds as habitats change both locally and on a landscape scale.

Hunters interested in participating can download a Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log from the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9351.html to record their observations. Detailed instructions can be found with the form. Survey forms can also be obtained by calling (518) 402-8886 or by e-mailing fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us and indicating "Grouse Log" in the subject line.

Habitat/Access Stamp, an optional stamp that helps support the DEC's efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation, are available. The 2010-2011 stamp features a drawing of a pair of Common Loons. Buying the $5 stamp is a way to conserve wildlife heritage. More information about purchasing a Habitat Stamp is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html.

More information is available online. New England Cottontail Survey: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/67017.html. Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9351.html.  Citizen Science Initiatives: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/1155.html.

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