Thursday, February 07, 2008

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Plumstead Looking to Control Deer

Plumstead, like many communities in Central Bucks, is worried about a deer problem.

On Wednesday, the township's environmental advisory council heard two approaches to addressing the high number of whitetails, which are blamed for traffic accidents, slow reforestation, Lyme disease and crop damage.

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, a Bucks Republican, touted a state law he helped pass last year that makes it easier for farmers and other property owners to cull deer from their properties year-round.

A Bedminster animal control group pushed a bow hunting program they successfully instituted in Upper Makefield this fall.

The overall message was one that has been heard in many local communities as deer populations have soared amid declining hunting and increasing land preservation.

“We're dealing with a major problem, an epidemic really,” said Tom Lurz, a member of the environmental board.

Before this year, the state allowed farmers to shoot deer throughout the year in order to keep down crop damage on their properties.

Now, farmers and other property owners in the region will be able to appoint two designees who can also bag deer on the land.

McIlhinney, the chairman of the Senate Games and Fisheries Committee, said the new rules recognize the high degree of property damage that is being delivered by deer in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Allowing a designee frees up property owners who may not have the time to address a widespread problem, he said.

Only property owners that can demonstrate deer damage to the state are allowed to participate.

The designees must have hunting licenses and be without game code violations, but they are allowed to shoot seven days a week, can bait and also use rifles, McIlhinney said.

The law change won praise from committee members, as did the archery program offered by Eccologix, which charged Upper Makefield $48,000 to coordinate bow hunting on properties in that township during the sport season.

Jody Maddock, Eccologix's wildlife management director, said the archers were able to bag at least 450 deer on 70 properties. Police, meanwhile, have tallied a 60 percent drop in the number of road-kill reports, he said.

EAC members said a next step for Plumstead may be to query large landowners to see if there is interest for a similar program in the township.


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