Thursday, April 10, 2008

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Game Commission Approves Management Audit

Rooney: Get ready for a repeat of the Wisconsin experience.

Dan Moul used to hunt near Sinnemahoning in northcentral part of the state, but he stopped going a few years ago.

"There were more deer down here than there were up there," said Moul, a Republican state House representative from Conewago Township.

Other hunters stopped going, too, and several businesses in the Cameron County town have shut down as a result.

"The white-tailed deer is what a lot of these towns survive on," Moul said.

Moul said he's talked to representatives from the Game Commission about how displeased constituents are, but "I may as well have been hitting my head on the wall."

The state House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution earlier this week that calls for an independent, out-of-state party to conduct a study on the controversial deer-management program.

The Game Commission's goal has been to reduce the white-tailed deer population to ensure the herd is healthy, that the forest habitat can sustain wildlife and that the run-ins between humans and deer would diminish.

But some hunters argue the Game Commission has gone too far in reducing the herd, especially in the northern tier of the state.

Stephen Mohr, president of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, said he's pleased the House approved the audit, which his organization pushed for. He questions how the Game Commission can determine how many tags should be sold if the management of the herd isn't based on numbers.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hired a company several years ago to use video cameras and infrared equipment to help take a census of the deer during a flyover.

In some places in the northcentral area of the state, it found zero deer per square mile, Mohr said.

Anything below 15 deer per square mile is not considered a huntable population, he said.

The Game Commission welcomes the independent audit as long as it's done by a scientific group, spokesman Joe Kosack said.

If the study validates the Game Commission's program, that's great, Kosack said. If there are changes to consider, "we'd be willing to listen to them," Kosack said.

He said things are constantly changing and, in looking at the history of deer management, the Game Commission cannot please everyone.


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