ALBANY — Taking a cue from several other states, lawmakers in New York are proposing a ban on the use of drones for hunting. Drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles — aren’t equipped with rifles or shotguns, but can be used to spot and even flush game, ranging from deer to ducks.
The bill which would “prohibit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for hunting or taking of wildlife” is co-sponsored by two Long Island lawmakers, Republican Sen. Phil Boyle and Democratic Assemblyman Steve Englebright.
“It’s anathema to the standards of fair chase,” said Brian Shapiro, state director for the Humane Society of the United States which supports the ban.
The measure, however, has been proposed for several years and the bill memo concedes that the evidence of drones being used for hunting is anecdotal. And it’s frowned upon by hunters as well as animal-rights supporters.
“I’m not sure that people are doing it,” said Joseph Wendth, who serves on the New York Advisory Council for the Quality Deer Management Association, which advocates for whitetail deer hunting and habitat protection.
Todd Waldron, the New York chapter chairman of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, agreed, saying that said he hasn’t heard of people using drones for hunting, which would be viewed as unsportsmanlike.
“The concern is to uphold fair chase. There’s an ethical concept of fair chase that we feel is critical,” said Waldron, whose group also opposes drones.
Still, supporters of the ban say the legislation is more than a solution in search of a problem.
“It’s not a pie-in-the-sky issue,” said Shapiro.
He noted that other states ranging from Montana and Alaska to New Jersey and West Virginia have already banned the use drones for hunting. One concern is they could be used to flush wildfowl into the open.
A moose was shot after being spotted by a drone in Alaska in 2014, which prompted authorities there to institute their ban.
Shapiro and others also point to a now-notorious incident in 2005 in which a Texas entrepreneur created an internet-based remote-control hunting setup.
He mounted a .30-06 rifle on a swivel at his private ranch, and for a fee, patrons could go online, control the rifle and shoot deer or boar.
The service drew quick condemnation, both from anti-hunting and hunting groups alike and it was shut down.
Conservationists say drones can be a valuable tool for surveying wild areas and taking inventories on wildlife.
But the technology can be misused.
“There are too many unknowns,” Shapiro said, adding that preventing notorious incidents before they occur is important.