New York Plans Early September Bear Hunt in Catskills; Conflicts Seen with Peak Hiking Season


Earlier this year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a draft Black Bear Management Plan for public review.  The Trail Conference, along with a number of individuals and organizations from across the state provided feedback, suggestions and comments on the plan.  The Trail Conference’s concerns are specific to the creation of an early hunting season for Black Bears that would run for 16 days from the Saturday after Labor Day in September.  

Our Comments in Words You May Want to Use Too

The Trail Conference stated in our comment letter to the DEC that: Although the Trail Conference accepts new mechanisms to increase bear hunting, we feel that the establishment of a new hunting season in the Catskills, such as the one proposed, will interfere with current non-hunting recreational uses during that time. Lasting for sixteen days beginning on the first Saturday of September, the proposed new season comes at a time of high use by other recreational users, particularly hikers and fall foliage seekers.

Currently, many hikers and hiking clubs suspend hiking during regular deer and bear hunting season. The concern about personal safety that causes this suspension is a real one, grounded in the incidents of accidental shootings that occur every year and in the use of high powered rifles during big game season.  For many hikers, the reward is simply not worth the risk. 

Aside from issues of public safety, we are concerned about the economic impacts on local businesses that rely on these early autumn visitors to the region. There is a potential that many of these visitors, including hikers, bird watchers, fishermen, nature photographers, cyclists and others, would stay away from the Catskills and thus the community businesses that they support during this new hunting season. These users represent a far larger group than do hunters.  We strongly feel that a new, early hunting season is not an optimal solution to this problem.

What's Next?

The DEC reviewed the public comment and finalized the Black Bear Management Plan for New York State.  That final plan includes the recommendation that a new early bear season be created, starting this September (2014). 

In order to implement the new bear plan, the DEC is now proposing rule changes that would establish bear hunting seasons in all of upstate New York, create a supplemental early firearms season for bears in the Catskills and Western Hudson Valley area, and provide a uniform start for bowhunting and early bear seasons in the Northern Zone. 

DEC will accept written public comment on the proposed hunting rule changes through July 7, 2014. The rulemaking documents can be seen on the DEC website at

What You Can Do

Citizens who wish to make formal public comments may do so by sending an email to: [email protected] or by writing to: Mr. Bryan L. Swift, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

The Trail Conference plans to call for the rejection of the proposed hunting rule change to create the early bear hunting season in the southern portions of New York, including the Catskill Mountain Region.  We urge our members to do the same with their own comment letter to the DEC.

Issue Updates : 
May 22, 2014: DEC announces decision to start early September Bear Hunt season. Deadline for comments is July 7, 2014.