Wednesday, April 18, 2007

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Game Commission Board of Directors Vs. Biologists

Rooney's two cents: Hey Thomas Boop--of course you would never run a business this way. Then again, (1) this is not a business, which is a good thing, because (2) the price of deer tags does not include many of the economic costs of deer damage, such as auto collisions and medical treatment, crop and landscape damage, disease transmission to humans and livestock, and damage to forests and forestry. I'm all for your proposal to fix the "fatal flaws" in the deer management program if you are all for adding these externalities into the price of tags. I think hunters might balk at the $200-300 price per tag, though (based on some back of the envelope calculations).

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The president of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's board of directors said Tuesday the agency's controversial deer-management plan is "fatally flawed."

"We would never run a business the way we're running our deer-management program," board president Thomas E. Boop said.

Just a few hours after Boop delivered his stinging criticism of the program, the agency biologists responsible for that program recommended continuing it with virtually no changes for the upcoming 2007-08 hunting season.

"We're going to base our information and recommendations on the best science that we can and on the best data that we can," said Cal DuBrock, head of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management.

Tuesday was the first day of the Game Commission's annual, two-day spring meeting, at which hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for the state's game animals are set for the following fall and winter. The commissioners will vote today to set those seasons and bag limits.

As has been the case over the past decade, deer and deer management proved to be the most discussed and most controversial topics of the meeting's first day.

Hunters lined up to tell the commissioners the deer herd across the state has been decimated by years of overhunting.

"To stay the course (with the management program) would adversely affect the sport of hunting for all ages in our state," said East Hempfield Township resident Charles Bolgiano, who is legislative liaison for Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania.

Likewise, forest managers and people interested in seeing diversified wildlife and plant life lined up to encourage the commissioners not to alter the course of the deer-management program.

"We are finally seeing signs of recovery in forest regeneration," said Jim Chapman, a forest manager who works for a lumber company in Warren County.

Wildlife biologist Chris Rosenberry, who heads the Game Commission's deer-management division, agreed with Chapman's assessment, and said now is not the time to reverse course on the program.

The health of the state's deer and the health of the state's forest, Rosenberry said, indicate the Game Commission must keep up the current amount of hunting pressure applied to the deer herd.

As a result, Rosenberry recommended the commissioners vote today to maintain last year's slate of hunting seasons, with the exception of extending it in part of the southeast region, where deer numbers are particularly high.

He also recommended the commissioners allocate 6,000 more antlerless deer licenses than they issued last year, for a total of 865,000 licenses.

The Game Commission controls the state's deer population by regulating the number of female deer that are killed each year.

Each license allows a hunter to kill one antlerless deer, which is either a doe, a buck that's too young to have grown antlers or an older buck that has lost its antlers.

State Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County, who is the minority chairman of the House Game & Fisheries Committee, said more people from across the state complain to him about the deer-management program than any other issue.

Hunters are complaining to their legislators about the lack of deer, Rohrer said, because the hunters believe the Game Commission isn't listening to their opinions.

Rohrer said the Game Commission's data regarding the state's deer herd sometimes contradicts itself. He recommended the agency submit to an independent audit of its facts and figures.

Boop supported Rohrer's proposal, saying he "can't make any sense out of the data I've seen."

Rohrer said he believes the Legislature would help finance and facilitate the audit if the Game Commission would submit to it.

And he recommended the agency suspend all antlerless deer hunting by adults during the annual two-week firearms deer season this fall until the audit is conducted.

"All I'm asking for is a little bit of a break in the program so that we can focus on the data collection," Rohrer said.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NEW ZEALAND NEWS: Cull on Secretary Island Nets Over 340 Red Deer

The Department of Conservation has culled more than 340 red deer off the 8140ha Secretary Island in Fiordland since November as part of an ambitious plan to eradicate the species and create another predator-free sanctuary.

In its proposal document, DOC says it also plans to test and develop methods for "intensive control of deer" during the eradication.

Secretary Island is off the Fiordland coast at the entrance to Doubtful Sound.

In 2004 Conservation Minister Chris Carter granted $7 million for the pest eradication work on 8140ha Secretary Island and 20,860ha Resolution Island, in Dusky Sound. An earlier attempt to eradicate deer, during the 1970s and 1980s, was unsuccessful. The first stage, a stoat eradication project for Secretary Island, was initiated in 2004-05.

DOC project manager Dr Kerri-Anne Edge said 341 deer had been shot from the air and ground-hunted since November – representing a significant denting of the deer population.
DOC estimated there had been a total population of between 600 and 700 deer on the island but the species was also breeding rapidly.

The eradication of red deer from Secretary Island is designed to protect the ecological values of the island, and to test and develop "methods for intensive control of deer" , DOC says.
Main methods being tried during the knock-down phase will be ground hunting, helicopter hunting and possibly the use of foliar baited 1080 gel as a promising option. Aerial 1080 drops have been discounted.

Ms Edge said deer pens were being put on the island and self-attaching radio collars would be used to help track deer. The work would continue into next year, she said.

To have the two islands free of all pests would add to a list of important island sanctuaries, including 1336ha Codfish, 1150ha Anchor and 475ha Chalky islands. The island projects are expected to be complete by about 2014. Work on eradicating deer from Resolution Island would start in July, she said.