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HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY'S COMMISSIONERS MEETING

04/09/2022

HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Harrisburg, finalizing the antlerless deer and elk license allocations for 2022-23 and moving ahead with other business. Highlights from today’s meeting are summarized below.

 

BOARD ALLOCATES 2022-23 ANTLERLESS DEER AND ELK LICENSES

The board voted to allocate 948,000 antlerless deer licenses statewide, which is up from the 925,000 licenses allocated for 2021-21.

Allocations by WMU are as follows, with the allocation from the previous license year appearing in parentheses: WMU 1A – 43,000 (40,000); WMU 1B – 34,000 (32,000); WMU 2A – 39,000 (39,000); WMU 2B – 49,000 (49,000); WMU 2C – 67,000 (67,000); WMU 2D – 74,000 (74,000); WMU 2E – 42,000 (42,000); WMU 2F – 37,000 (32,000); WMU 2G – 25,000 (23,000); WMU 2H – 6,000 (9,000); WMU 3A – 19,000 (19,000); WMU 3B – 33,000 (30,000); WMU 3C –37,000 (33,000); WMU 3D – 41,000 (36,000); WMU 4A – 50,000 (50,000); WMU 4B – 34,000 (34,000); WMU 4C – 31,000 (29,000); WMU 4D – 55,000 (55,000); WMU 4E – 42,000 (42,000); WMU 5A – 31,000 (31,000); WMU 5B – 60,000 (60,000); WMU 5C – 70,000 (70,000); and WMU 5D – 29,000 (29,000).

Hunting licenses for 2022-23 go on sale in mid-June and become effective July 1. After hunters purchase a general hunting license, they may apply for antlerless deer licenses based on staggered timelines, which will be outlined in the 2022-23 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, to be given free to all license buyers.

The board also voted to issue 178 elk licenses (60 antlered, 118 antlerless) across three 2022-23 seasons. For the one-week general season to run Oct. 31-Nov. 5, 31 antlered and 70 antlerless tags have been allocated. In the archery season open only in select Elk Hunt Zones, to run from Sept. 10-24, 14 antlered and 15 antlerless licenses are available. And there are 15 antlered and 33 antlerless licenses available for the Dec. 31-Jan. 7 late season.

All elk licenses will be awarded by lottery, and hunters must apply separately for all seasons they wish to be eligible to hunt. Each application costs $11.97, meaning a hunter can enter all three drawings for $35.91. Individuals can be drawn for a maximum of one elk license per license year.

 

 

ADDITIONAL FALL TURKEY FIREARMS RESTRICTIONS CONSIDERED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would provide the Game Commission yet another tool to respond to below-goal turkey populations.

In years past, reducing the length of the fall turkey season was the primary method to increase turkey populations. But last year, the Game Commission eliminated the use of centerfire and rimfire rifles in fall turkey season, noting that relatively few hunters used rifles, but rifles were responsible for about one-third of the fall turkey harvest. That provides an additional means to protect turkey populations without reducing season length.

The measure the board preliminarily approved today would eliminate the use of other single-projectile firearms – muzzleloading rifles and handguns, and slug guns – in the fall turkey season. It will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

When eliminating the use of rifles in the fall turkey season, the Game Commission noted that relatively few fall turkey hunters used rifles. Survey data suggested only 14% of fall turkey hunters statewide primarily used rifles, but rifles were responsible for 33% of the harvest.

Eliminating the use of other single-projectile firearms in fall turkey season would seem to impact even fewer hunters. The Game Commission has observed very few fall turkey hunters afield with single-projectile muzzleloaders or shotguns. At the same time, eliminating the use of those firearms in the fall turkey season works toward the Game Commission’s goal of finding methods other than season-length reductions to stabilize fall turkey harvest numbers.

“Season length adjustments are a part of managing wild turkey populations, and reducing season length sometimes is a necessity,” said Commissioner Scott Foradora, who represents District 3 in northcentral Pennsylvania. “But through alternative methods such as restricting the firearms that can be used in the season, season length reductions might be avoided, giving all hunters the opportunity to spend more time in the woods.”

 

 

DMAP MIGHT BE MADE AVAILABLE ON LEASED HUNTING LAND

Lands where hunting rights have been leased and where a fee has been charged for hunting might soon be eligible to enroll in the Deer Management Assistance Program, commonly known as DMAP.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would change the regulation that excludes leased hunting land from the program. The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

DMAP enables public and private landowners to better address their own deer-management goals for properties. Lands enrolled in DMAP are allotted a number of antlerless deer permits that can be purchased by hunters.

Landowners can make the permits available directly from license-issuing agents, or they can choose to issue coupons that then are redeemed for permits. In either case, DMAP permits cost $10.97 each. Hunters can obtain no more than four permits each for properties where coupons are issued, and no more than two permits each for other properties. Each DMAP permit can be used to hunt and harvest an antlerless deer during any established deer season.

The change preliminarily approved by the board wouldn’t have major impacts on the DMAP program, but would make a significant difference for landowners who now are excluded.

The Game Commission has determined only about 5% of hunting lands are leased. On those properties, however, the only tool landowners and lessees presently have to address deer-population concerns is WMU-based antlerless licenses allocations, which might not be enough.

Applying the same rules to leased lands and private lands enrolled in DMAP makes sense because public access isn’t required to enroll in the program. Additionally, restricting DMAP to certain lands to encourage public access historically did not lead to significantly more public access or the prevention of leased lands. Leased lands still exist and are part of the Pennsylvania landscape.

 

 

RED TAG PROGRAM REVAMPED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a host of changes that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agricultural Deer Control Program, better known as the Red Tag Program, which helps farmers address crop-damage issues through the hunting of antlerless deer.

The changes, which were recommended to the Game Commission by those who use the program, will become effective in November 2022.

Changes include:

·         An individual hunter no longer would be limited to obtaining one permit for a Red Tag property; they could get up to four. The higher limit is consistent with that used in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), which also helps landowners meet deer-management goals through antlerless deer hunting. Hunters would be able to keep all deer they harvest.

·         The summer period during which Red Tag hunting is closed (currently May 16 – June 30) would be expanded to April 16 – July 31. Permits would be valid from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15, then from Feb. 1 through April 15. Permits would be issued for the license year that begins July 1 and runs through June 30.

·         Landowners no longer would be required to report Red Tag harvests. Instead, similar to DMAP, hunters would report for each permit regardless of harvest success.

·         All licensed hunters, not just hunters who are Pennsylvania residents, would qualify for Red Tag permits.

·         The red snap tags that are the namesake of the Red Tag Program, would be replaced with standard harvest tags issued through HuntFishPA.

·         Landowners no longer would need to enroll in the Game Commission’s Hunter Access program before using the Red Tag program, and Red Tag properties no longer would need to be posted with signs.

“The Agricultural Deer Control Program is designed to allow farmers to manage the deer populations on their property,” said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Matthew Schnupp. “The changes adopted today make it easier for landowners to enroll in the program, while making it more convenient for hunters to participate through an expanded season and increased number of tags.”

 

 

MEASURE COULD ALLOW NEW ROAD-KILLED DEER DISPOSAL OPTION

Permitted professionals hired by those wishing to address nuisance-wildlife problems might soon receive authority to pick up and dispose of road-killed deer.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today preliminarily approved a measure that would allow nuisance wildlife control operators, who already are regulated by the Game Commission, to offer road-killed deer pick-up from roadways and private property.

Presently, the responsibility for picking up and removing deer carcasses from roadways is split between the state Department of Transportation and the Game Commission, which sometimes hires contractors to collect and dispose of deer.

Each year, the Game Commission receives thousands of calls from the public concerning deer carcasses along roadways and on private property. The agency often will assign its wardens to collect and properly dispose of these carcasses as their schedules and work duties permit, which in some cases doesn’t meet residents’ expectations.

Nuisance wildlife control operators could provide the public an additional resource for road-killed deer removal.

The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

 

 

BOBWHITE QUAIL RECOVERY AREA ESTABLISHED PRELIMINARILY

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure creating a bobwhite quail recovery area surrounding Letterkenny Army Depot in Greene Township, Franklin County.

The goal of the recovery area is to help quail – a native species considered extirpated from Pennsylvania since perhaps the 1990s – and a host of other grassland-dependent species, some of which also are in real trouble.

 Field sparrows, eastern towhees, yellow-breasted chats, dickcissels, eastern meadowlarks, cottontails, American woodcock and assorted pollinators all use the same kind of old-field habitat as quail. And most need assistance. Many of those songbird species are, at least, “species of greatest conservation need” here, while others are outright threatened or endangered on a state level.

Populations of yellow-breasted chats, for example, have declined across Pennsylvania by about 6 percent annually since 1966. Helping quail helps them, as they use similar habitat.

The boundary of the recovery area was developed using major roads surrounding the Letterkenny Army Depot that are easily identified. The recovery area boundary extends no less than 7.4 km beyond the depot boundary, a distance that should – based on average spring quail dispersal – offer two benefits.

First, it will protect wild quail imported from other states and released onto Letterkenny from harvest. That reintroduction of wild birds is planned to begin in spring 2023 and continue for four years, total.

Second, it will minimize any potential negative genetic effects from interbreeding with captive-reared bobwhites originating outside the boundary area.

All told, the wild bobwhite quail recovery area will cover 177.65 square miles.

This proposal will go before the board again in July for a final vote.

 

 

MONTHLY REPORTS MIGHT BE REQUIRED

Those who hold wildlife capture and transportation permits will need to begin making monthly reports to the Game Commission, based on a measure preliminarily approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.

The board voted unanimously today to require monthly reporting. The measure will be up for a final vote at the July meeting.

The reporting requirement will help ensure wildlife capture and transportation permit holders aren’t exceeding the limitations of their permits. While these permit holders are authorized to pick up wildlife anywhere statewide at any time and transport it to the closest properly permitted wildlife rehabilitator, the Game Commission has observed instances where wildlife capture and transportation permit holders used their permits to pick up wildlife, then held it rather than transported it, acting as a wildlife rehabilitator, but without the required permit.

If adopted, monthly reports to the Game Commission would require documenting the species and quantity of all wildlife captured or transported, the locations where wildlife was captured, the locations to where wildlife was transported, and the disposition of deceased wildlife.

This proposal is supported by the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Educational Council, an advisory council to the Pennsylvania Game Commission in matters concerning wildlife rehabilitation permits and wildlife possession permits for public education use.

 

 

AMENDMENT REFLECTS CHANGES IN ELK HUNTER ORIENTATION

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that updates pre-season requirements for hunters who are drawn for Pennsylvania elk licenses.

The Game Commission always provides training to elk hunters prior to the start of the hunting season.

Originally, training was provided through an in-person orientation that, over the years, transitioned to hunters receiving necessary instructions by mail with their licensing materials. The adopted change updates regulations to reflect the existing process.

 

 

MINOR CHANGES VIEWED FOR SGL 176 SHOOTING RANGE REGS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved adjusting regulatory language so that the State Game Lands 176 shooting range is governed by the same regulations as all others on game lands.

Existing regulation calls for the range to be open during set hours Wednesday through Sunday, instead of seven days a week during set hours.

If the board adopts the measure, the window within which groups or organizations could reserve the range would be limited to Jan. 1 through Oct. 1, instead of year-round.

The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

 

 

GAME COMMISSION COOPERATING IN CWD SURVEY

Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Social Sciences is conducting a survey of New York state residents who hunt in Pennsylvania to assess the degree to which their behaviors minimize the risk of spreading CWD, as well as the factors that influence those behaviors.

To help this effort, the Game Commission will provide the name, age, address, phone number, date of birth and gender for the sample of 3,000 New York state residents who bought 2020-21 Pennsylvania hunting licenses.

The commissioners made the decision earlier by notational vote and it was listed on today’s meeting agenda as an informational item.

 

 

FALCONRY COULD REMAIN OPEN DURING DEER SEASON

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners also approved a measure that would allow falconry hunting seasons to remain open during the regular firearms deer season.

The Game Commission has determined the expansion, which was requested by falconers, will not significantly impact other hunting opportunities during the regular firearms deer season.

The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote. If adopted, the change is expected to take effect in the 2023-24 license year.

 

 

MORE THAN 1,000 ACRES ADDED TO GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today and recently approved of acquisitions that would add more than 974 acres to state game lands. Among them are:

·         A 4.59-acre tract in Bell Township, Clearfield County. This parcel within State Game Lands 87 is being donated by Diversified Production LLC.

·         A 158-acre parcel in South Londonderry and West Cornwall townships, Lebanon County, and Rapho Township, Lancaster County. This land, which adjoins State Game Lands 145, is being offered for donation by Natural Lands, which can acquire the property through partnership grants provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

·         A 278-acre tract in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County. This land, which adjoins State Game Lands 91, was offered by Natural Lands for the option price of $42,000 lump sum. Natural Lands can acquire the property through partnership grants provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Open Space Institute.

·         A 54-acre tract in Miller Township, Perry County. This land adjoins State Game Lands 281 and was offered by the estate of Pauline Ayers for the option price of $260,000 lump sum to be paid with remaining escrow funds from a prior land exchange on State Game Lands 176 with Penn State University. It will require approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

·         Two tracts totaling 192 acres in Greene and Whiteley townships, Greene County. This land is adjacent to State Game Lands 223 and was offered by Greylock Pipeline LLC in exchange for a License for Right of Way associated with a natural-gas pipeline.

·         A 288-acre tract in North Bethlehem and West Bethlehem townships, Washington County. This land adjoins State Game Lands 297. It is subject to a life estate reserved by Springflow Realty LLC for the life of Richard C. Beinhauer. It will not become game lands until the life estate ends or is terminated. The land is being donated. As part of the agreement, the Game Commission will maintain the lodge on the property in its current condition. The commissioners approved the donation of this property by notational vote in September 2021.

Additionally, the Game Commission acquired one-ninth interest in the 39.76-acre Lola L. Woodring estate property adjoining State Game Lands 311 in Benezette Township, Elk County. This interest was purchased at auction in September 2021 for $24,963, which was donated by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance. The Game Commission now owns five-ninths interest in the property.

The Game Commission also has acquired a portfolio of oil, gas and mineral rights in Erie Crawford, Venango, Forest, Warren, McKean and Elk counties. These interests, which were donated by Payday Holdings LLC, of Frisco, Texas, are not surveyed and have not had exhaustive title searches conducted. The commissioners accepted the donation by notational vote in December 2021.

 

 

ENERGY AGREEMENT TO BRING BENEFITS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved an energy agreement that will add revenue to the Game Fund and result in other benefits.

Seneca Resources Co. LLC, of Pittsburgh, will develop oil/gas interests beneath about 409 acres of State Game Lands 313 in Delmar and Chatham townships, Tioga County. The agreement will result in a $730,500 bonus payment, and royalties paid to the Game Commission over the 10-year term of the agreement.

 


GAME COMMISSION ADOPTS RHD RESPONSE PLAN

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted a plan that will guide agency decisions in the event of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) appearing in the Commonwealth.

The agency’s draft RHD Response Plan was introduced at the September meeting and opened for a period of public review and comment. The board was unable to adopt the plan in January due to unfilled vacancies leaving the board without a quorum.

RHD Is a highly contagious foreign animal disease that infects rabbits, hares and other lagomorphs. It has not been detected in Pennsylvania, but it has been responsible for mass die-offs of domestic and wild rabbits and hares in several countries since it first was detected in France in 2010.

The current RHD outbreak in the southwestern United States is attributed to the RHDV2 variant, which cannot infect humans or other animals, but it is highly contagious among lagomorphs, and no specific treatment is available. The Game Commission last year enacted an executive order that prohibits the importation into Pennsylvania of any wild lagomorph, or any of their parts including meat, pelts, hides or carcasses from any state or country where RHDV2 has been detected in the past 12 months.

The RHD Response Plan serves to protect Pennsylvania’s wild rabbits and hares and their habitats.

 


BOARD DISCUSSES NEW BUSINESS

After voting on today’s agenda items, the Board of Commissioners discussed new business.

Commissioner Dennis R. Fredericks, who represents District 2 in southwestern Pennsylvania, asked agency staff to study the impacts that the new limit of six active antlerless deer licenses has had in the state’s Special Regulations Areas, while Commissioner Michael F. Mitrick, who represents District 6 in southcentral Pennsylvania, asked staff to prepare a report on the hunting use of natural and synthetic deer attractants, as they relate to the agency’s efforts to manage and attempt to slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Staff will report their findings back to the board.

 


BOARD REORGANIZES FOR 2022

Today’s meeting was the board’s first of 2022, and the board reorganized and appointed officers for the new year.

Commissioner Michael F. Mitrick, of York, who represents District 6 in southcentral Pennsylvania, will serve as president; Commissioner Kristen Schnepp-Giger, of Warren, who represents District 1 in northwestern Pennsylvania, will serve as vice president; and Commissioner Dennis R. Fredericks, of Amity, who represents District 2 in southwestern Pennsylvania, will serve as secretary.

MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541

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