License changes could spell disaster for deer in need of help
By Patsy Nicosia
April showers bring May flowers.
And this year, for wildlife rehabilitators, May's fawns will also mean headaches.
That's because DEC has changed the rules for New York State-licensed rehabbers who handle deer.
The changes are restrictive enough that many rehabbers may decide to turn fawns away, said Kelly Martin of Middleburgh, a longtime wildlife rehabilitator and president of the New York Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.
"That's never a good situation," Ms. Martin said.
"If people end up with a fawn-whether it really needed help or not-and they can't find a rehabber to take it, we know from experience that they're going to try to raise it themselves. And that's a recipe for disaster."
(See related story for help on deciding whether wildlife needs help.)
Though the license changes had been rumored for a while, most rehabbers-who weren't involved in writing them--didn't find out about the new restrictions until January.
Under the changes, rehabbers are now prohibited from rehabbing adult deer-though they are permitted to free entangled or entrapped deer on-site and then leave them there.
The license changes also:
*Require volunteers to notify DEC every time a fawn is taken in and again, when it's released--something NYSWRC argues would put an undue burden on both them and DEC staff; rehabbers already have to submit an annual log of their cases.
*Set mandatory release-by dates for fawns, regardless of their age, size, or condition.
*Require that fawns be released within 20 miles of where they were found.
Ms. Martin said the last requirement will be nearly impossible for rehabbers to meet.
People are often vague or uncertain about where they picked up a fawn, she said, and if it was near a road where the mother was hit, that's hardly a safe environment to return it to.
Also, she said, often fawns have already been transported more than 20 miles before they even make it to a rehabber.
Additionally, rehabbers work together, with one accepting a locally-found fawn and another, someone with the necessary facilities, doing the actual rehab before it's released.
DEC's changes come in response to a few high-profile cases of rehabbers who violated the conditions of their license-and then lost their license.
They're also intended as a way to control disease spread by deer by limiting their movement.
But more likely, Ms. Martin argues, the new regulations will have the opposite effect.
DEC has already said its staff won't respond to wildlife calls, and if someone who's found a fawn can't get a rehabber to take it, they're likely to try to raise it themselves, she said, leading to tame deer that no one knows are out there.
NYSWRC reps outlined their concerns in a March 23 meeting with DEC officials and were promised an April 8 answer on whether there would be any changes to the new conditions.
As of Monday, Ms. Martin said, they were still waiting.