Delaware Implements Ban on Recreational Trail Cameras on State Lands

Dover (June 2, 2023) … Following a comprehensive interagency review and consultation, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) have jointly concluded that trail cameras for recreational purposes will no longer be permitted on state wildlife areas, state parks, or state forests. This ban on trail cameras on state lands is effective immediately.

DNREC and DDA emphasize that the prohibition on recreational trail cameras, primarily utilized by hunters during the state’s extended deer season, solely applies to state lands and does not extend to their usage on private properties.

Delaware’s decision to ban recreational trail cameras aligns with similar actions taken by other public land management agencies. Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuges have previously prohibited the recreational use of trail cameras. Additionally, at least five states besides Delaware have implemented bans on the use of recreational trail cameras on public land, while several others are currently contemplating similar measures.

Prior to implementing the ban on recreational trail cameras on state lands, DNREC and DDA took various factors into account, including:

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  1. Recognizing that trail cameras represent a technological advancement in hunting and have proven successful for many Delaware hunters in deer harvesting.
  2. Noting the proliferation of trail cameras deployed on public lands. According to a survey conducted among Delaware hunters during the 2021/2022 season, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates that approximately 11.1% of hunters on state wildlife areas employ trail cameras, with an average deployment of 2.3 cameras per hunter.
  3. Responding to an increasing number of complaints from hunters regarding trail camera usage on public lands. These complaints often revolve around the issue of “ownership/exclusive use” of specific areas on state land once cameras are established, leading to the exclusion of other hunters. Additionally, concerns are raised about the frequent disturbance caused by hunters checking and relocating their trail cameras.
  4. Addressing illegal activities such as the cutting and removal of vegetation from state land during trail camera installation. Trail cameras can also impede habitat management and maintenance, requiring them to be avoided or inadvertently destroyed during these operations.
  5. Recognizing privacy concerns arising from documented instances of trail cameras being used to monitor human behavior in public parking areas and on popular hiking trails.
  6. Considering ethical issues associated with the use of cellular trail cameras for “trophy hunting.” Such cameras have led to the Boone & Crockett Club, the authority on “big game” records, not recognizing animals harvested by hunters who have been assisted by cellular trail cameras.

The DNREC and DDA remain committed to ensuring the responsible management of state lands and maintaining a balance between recreational activities and conservation efforts. By implementing this ban, they aim to address the challenges associated with trail camera usage while preserving the integrity of public lands.

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