Monday, June 25, 2007

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Another Philly Suburb Struggles With Deer

Bow-hunting is one of three deer-control recommendations that East Goshen supervisors will listen to Tuesday night when they hear a report from a township study group, but no decision on the issue is expected until after a public hearing in September.
James McRee, who heads the township deer-management committee, said the group will unveil its plan Tuesday after finalizing it at a meeting of its own Monday.

The recommendations are that East Goshen employ a private hunting club to thin the deer herd with bows and arrows, that property owners use "non-lethal" means such as building fences and spraying repellants on plants and that the township educate its residents about deer.

"We want to do all three" of the recommendations, McRee said during an interview last week.

At the Pennsylvania Game Commission, spokesman Jerry Feaser said a town can permit hunting only on town-owned land - just as a landowner can invite or forbid hunters only on his own property - during a state hunting season.

Feaser offered a standing statement which reads:

"Only the Pennsylvania Game Commission has been empowered to regulate hunting and trapping in the commonwealth. And, while municipalities have the authority to limit the discharge of firearms and bows for target practice or other non-hunting related activities within their municipalities' limits, local officials do not have the authority to impact this activity when it is being done as part of lawful hunting."

The statement noted that "the statewide archery and crossbow safety zone is 50 yards" from most buildings but the zone for all hunters "is 150 yards from any playground, school, nursery school or day-care center."

The question for township officials, Feaser said, is: "Are they trying to impact all township property or are they acting in their role as landowner of township-owned land?"

East Goshen zoning officer Mark Gordon in an interview pointed out that if hunting becomes an option, the township will regulate it only "on township-owned property."

In an interview earlier this year, township manager Rick Smith noted that in 2005, East Goshen allowed archers in tree stands "on three parcels of the township open space. I believe they took 10 or 11 deer over the course of the hunting season."

But an aerial survey on the night of March 25-26 counted 296 deer within East Goshen and 142 nearby.

In a parallel Chester County situation, Schuylkill Township has worked to persuade homeowners to allow hunting by a private group, the White Tail Associates Hunting Club.

Jim Morrison, head of Schuylkill's deer-management committee, said that since 1993 hunters have killed 996 deer, without killing the problem.

"Despite our best efforts over 14 years," Morrison said for an April article, "we still have got a fairly high deer population."

Ellen Sinclair, an elementary school teacher, was a no vote when the East Goshen deer-management committee recently voted 6-2 to make the three recommendations to the supervisors.

"A lot of my reservations for hunting in the township are safety," Sinclair said in an interview. "I don't think we have have a well-developed plan yet."


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