CONTACT:
Mark Ellingwood: (603) 271-2461
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 12, 2008

NOTE (posted 03/21/08): Click here for recommendations for possible changes to the initial proposal stemming from winter severity.

Public Hearings Set for Proposed Wildlife Rule Changes

CONCORD, N.H. -- Proposed rule changes affecting wildlife and wildlife management in New Hampshire for 2008 and 2009 will be discussed at three public hearings being held by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department on the following dates and locations:

  • Monday, March 31, 6:30 p.m. - N.H. Fish and Game Region 1 Office, North Country Resource Center, 629 B Main Street, Lancaster, N.H.

  • Tuesday, April 1, 6:30 p.m.  - Keene High School, 43 Arch Street, Keene, N.H.

  • Thursday, April 3, 6:30 p.m. - N.H. Fish and Game Department Headquarters, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H.

"Hunters, trappers and other interested constituents are encouraged to attend the hearings and offer their input on the proposed rules.  Public input is considered during the formulation of final department proposals," said Wildlife Programs Supervisor Mark Ellingwood.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reviews the state's hunting seasons every two years to ensure that they are in line with wildlife management objectives, including those specified in the state's Big Game Management Plan.  The big game plan guides deer, moose, bear and turkey management in New Hampshire through the year 2015.  Some of the highlights of the rule proposals, by species, include:

DEER:  On the heels of a near-record deer hunting season, Fish and Game has proposed modest increases in either-sex days in 6 wildlife management units (WMUs). 

Antler point restrictions that were implemented in WMU A during the 2007 season are proposed to continue in 2008/09 in a continued effort to achieve and retain an appropriate balance of mature antlered males in the local deer population.  Fish and Game also proposes that the existing 1-week reductions in WMU A's archery and regular firearms deer seasons be retained, but that the muzzleloader season be returned to its pre-2007 length of 11 days.

The number of special antlerless-only deer permits issued in WMU M would increase from 5,500 to 6,000; and Fish and Game would for the first time issue an additional 500 antlerless-only permits in WMU L.  Applicants would be required to state WMU preference on their application.

N.H. Fish and Game Deer Project Leader Kent Gustafson notes that the season proposals may need some last-minute adjustment, depending on how hard the rest of this winter is for deer.  Deer populations in New Hampshire are heavily influenced by winter severity, which is measured from December through April. Winter severity often varies markedly in different parts of the state, and the length of winter weather plays a key role in overall herd impacts.

"Updated information is a critical consideration in determining the proper hunting season regulations to achieve deer population objectives.  This initial proposal for deer seasons assumes average winter conditions," said Gustafson. "This winter appears more severe than average at this point, but we won't have the updated information we need to determine herd impacts until just before the public hearings on these rules. If necessary, we will discuss how we might have to adjust for severe winter impacts on the deer herd and how these data might affect the initial proposal."

MOOSE:  Fish and Game proposes to reduce the number of moose permits issued from 675 in 2007, to 515 permits in 2008.  This represents a net reduction of 160 permits, including 75 from the Connecticut Lakes Region and 80 from the North Region. These reductions reflect Fish and Game's desire to stop a measured decrease in the Connecticut Lakes Region moose population, as called for by the Big Game Management plan.  The North Region population has dipped below the established goal for the region, so the number of permits is being reduced to reverse the decline and bring the moose population back to goal.

BEARS: Proposals for the North and White Mountains region black bear seasons provide for more days in the still-hunting season.  In an effort to move the Central Region closer to its bear population goal, Fish and Game proposes to shorten the baiting season by one week.  Bear populations in extreme southern New Hampshire are below management goals, so shorter seasons have been proposed in the Southwest-2 and Southeast regions in an effort to facilitate modest bear population growth.

SMALL GAME: The proposal would establish a statewide hare season from October 1 to March 31 (currently the season ends on March 15 or March 31, depending on WMU). Cottontail and snowshoe hare seasons have been simplified and modified to better reflect the current distribution and abundance of these species.  Under the proposal, the gray squirrel season would open statewide (including 3 WMUs in northern New Hampshire that had previously been closed).

FURBEARER SEASONS: Trapping proposals are intended to simplify existing seasons and to accommodate management on a regional basis.  Land mammal (red and gray fox, weasel, skunk, opossum and raccoon) seasons would run from November 1 to January 15 in the Central, Southwest and Southeast regions; and from October 15 to December 31 in the White Mountains and Northern regions.  Aquatic mammal (beaver, muskrat, otter and mink) seasons would run statewide from November 1 through April 10.  The fisher season bag limit would be reduced in all regions, except the North Region, to a total of 5 animals.  This restriction reflects declines in regional fisher populations, based on catch rates over the past several years.

WILD TURKEY:  Fish and Game proposes that the spring gobbler season in WMU A be increased from 2 to 4 weeks, which would give New Hampshire a statewide spring turkey season from May 3-31.  The minimum draw weight for bows used for taking turkey would be reduced from 40 to 30 pounds.

The complete rulemaking notice forms, with original and proposed rule language, can be viewed on the Fish and Game website; click here and on rule title ("2008/2009 Wildlife Rules" or "Wild Turkey Rules").

Written comments must be received by April 14, 2008.  Send to: comments@wildlife.nh.gov. (use subject line "Comments on Wildlife Rules"); or write to Executive Director, N.H. Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301; or fax to (603) 271-1438.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.

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