The Division of Fish and Wildlife issued a public notice Nov. 1 about proposed amendments to existing regulations related to the management and conservation of wildlife, including activities involving hunting, trapping, fishing, nuisance wildlife control work and activities authorized on division-owned lands. There will be a virtual public hearing at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 13, on the proposed changes.
The proposed amendments fall within sections dealing with definitions, method of take, federal laws and regulations, seasons, wild turkeys, deer, general rules and regulations governing land and waters administered by the division, the Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund, nuisance wildlife, falconry, collection or sale of native wildlife, endangered species, species of special concern, game bird releases, guide license, hunter and trapper license exempt number, and non-native/invasive wildlife. There’s also a new set of regulations being proposed with the creation of a section related to wildlife management zone boundaries.
DNREC has changed hunting and trapping regulations before, but this would be the first time the state's hunting regulations undergo a comprehensive overhaul of this magnitude.
DNREC has not previously proposed changes as expansive as these would be, said Michael Globetti, DNREC spokesperson. The last regulatory revisions similar in scale were proposed and completed in January 2014, and the last time any changes were completed was in March 2019, he said.
According to a synopsis associated with the public notice, most of the changes being proposed will provide additional hunting and trapping opportunities such as establishing new seasons, expanding current seasons, providing additional methods of take, and developing new and improved reporting criteria for harvested game. However, the synopsis reads, some of the proposed changes are needed to minimize negative impacts to some species and to minimize damage to infrastructure and habitats on lands and waters administered by the division.
Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association President Jeff Hague said he’s looked over all the proposed changes from front to back, and while he does have questions, overall they appear reasonable. The comprehensive changes are six years in the making and long overdue, he said in an interview Nov. 14.
While generally accepting of the proposed changes, Hague said he doesn’t remember the state reaching out to stakeholders for suggestions or input. That’s not usually how it happens, he said.
“Many of the changes are nothing more than cosmetic,” said Hague.
A specific section Hague said he doesn’t like is dealing with coyotes. They’re not native to Delaware, he said, and he would like to see regulations treating them as nuisance, which would allow them to be taken year-round.
There’s the addition of the definition of “direct supervision,” which is related to when a hunter may not lawfully hunt alone. According to the proposed definition, “a person will be considered directly supervised while hunting if a person 21 years of age or older is always within 30 yards and in direct line of sight of the supervised person.”
Hague said 30 yards was generally pulled out of thin air and would like to see it increased to at least 100 yards.
Hague said he’s not sure when the new regulations will take effect, but he suspects they’ll be in place by July 1, 2024, when hunting and trapping seasons begin for next year.
Globetti had a similar timeline. Late spring is when the first of the proposed changes would go into effect, said Globetti. Since most of the proposed changes are related to hunting and trapping, revised regulations would be in effect for the 2024-25 seasons, he said.
Public comment will be accepted through the close of business Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Comments will be accepted in written form via email to DNRECHearingComments@delaware.gov, or by using the online form at de.gov/dnreccomments, or by U.S. mail to the following address: Lisa A. Vest, Hearing Officer, Office of the Secretary, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901.