Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preliminary 2012 PA Four-Day Bear Harvest Results

HARRISBURG – Four days of the statewide four-day bear season have produced a preliminary harvest of 2,639 bears, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission check station reports filed this afternoon.

Last year’s four-day bear harvest total was 3,154; in 2010, which offered a three-day season with a Saturday opener, the harvest total was 2,815.

Harvest results from the early bear season, including the statewide archery bear season, won’t be available until mid-December. Official total bear harvest results will be available in early 2013, after a detailed review of each harvest report is completed. Preliminary bear harvest totals do change occasionally by a few bears.

The preliminary three-day bear harvest by Wildlife Management Unit was as follows: WMU 1A, 3; WMU 1B, 37; WMU 2C, 229; WMU 2D, 152; WMU 2E, 37; WMU 2F, 269; WMU 2G, 744; WMU 3A, 162; WMU 3B, 180; WMU 3C, 63; WMU 3D, 183; WMU 4A, 132; WMU 4B, 74; WMU 4C, 93; WMU 4D, 233; WMU 4E, 45; WMU 5A, 1; and WMU 5C, 2.

The top 10 bears processed at check stations, so far, all had actual or estimated live weights that exceeded 562 pounds. Joseph A. Spano, of East Stoudsburg, has harvested the largest bear so far this season. Taken Nov. 21, in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County, the male bear weighed an actual live weight of 709 pounds.

Other large bears (all but one, are estimated live weights) included: a 706-pound male taken by James R. Weisbrod, of Quakertown, in Greene Township, Pike County, on Nov. 20; a 699-pound male taken by William M. Rising, of Indiana, in Hamlin Township, McKean County, on Nov. 19; a 652-pound (actual live weight) male taken by Timothy J. Moffett, of Barto, in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County, on Nov. 17; a 620-pound male, taken by Robert A. Pitts, of Meadville, in Roulette Township, Potter County, on Nov. 17; a 598-pound male, taken by Michael P. Intallura, of Renovo, in Noyes Township, Clinton County, on Nov. 17; 586-pound male, taken by Brian K. Stuebgen, of Renfrew, in Sergeant Township, McKean County, on Nov. 19; a 576-pound male, taken by Dana L. Landis, of Chambersburg, in Southampton Township, Bedford County, on Nov. 19; a 573-pound male taken by Michael J. Kelly, of Pittsburgh, in Harmony Township, Forest County, on Nov. 21; and a 562-pound male taken by Bryan L. Leabhart, of Dudley, in Carbon Township, Huntingdon County, on Nov. 19.

After four days of the four-day season, the top bear harvest county in the state remained Lycoming with 262. The rest of the line-up of the top five counties for bear harvests, so far, are: Clinton, 229; Tioga, 150; Potter 109; and Centre, 98.
County harvests by region for the four days are:
Northwest: Warren, 88; Clarion, 74; Venango, 62; Forest, 51; Jefferson, 50; Butler, 8; Erie, 7; and Crawford, 6.
Southwest: Somerset, 87; Fayette, 69; Armstrong, 32; Westmoreland, 25; Indiana, 19; and Cambria, 11.
Northcentral: Lycoming, 262; Clinton, 229; Tioga, 150; Potter 109; Centre, 98; McKean, 89; Clearfield, 84; Elk, 73; Cameron, 61; and Union, 60.
Southcentral: Huntingdon, 92; Bedford, 76; Mifflin, 42; Blair, 35; Perry, 29; Juniata, 27; Fulton, 22; Franklin, 14; Snyder, 8; and Adams, 1.
Northeast: Pike, 70; Luzerne, 64; Monroe, 60; Wayne, 42; Bradford, 38; Sullivan, 35; Carbon, 32; Wyoming, 26; Lackawanna, 21; Columbia, 19; Susquehanna, 18; and Northumberland, 11.
Southeast: Dauphin, 25; Schuylkill, 20; Northampton, 4; Berks, 2; Lebanon, 1; and Lehigh, 1.

Hunters with an unfilled bear license may participate in extended bear seasons that run concurrent with all or portions of the first week of the firearms deer season.

For details about those areas open to extended bear hunting and the dates, please see pages 36 and 37 of the 2012-13 Digest. Bear check stations opened during the extended bear seasons can be found on page 38 of the 2012-13 Digest.

Grizzly Bear versus Toyota Sequoia

Submitted by club member Jim Martin...

There are no scratches on the outside of this car, but the vehicle is totaled!

A man in Waterton Park, (south of Calgary), came out to find the inside of his 18 month old Toyota Sequoia trashed.

A grizzly bear had somehow got a door open.Once inside it got trapped when the door shut behind him, probably by the wind.

The Toyota was the Platinum edition, all the door panels were ripped off, the head-liner torn to pieces, all headrests, the leather seats, the dash shredded.
The steering column was twisted Sideways. Two of the six airbags went off, the other four the bear ripped to pieces.

You can imagine a trapped grizzly being hit with an airbag in an enclosed space!
He must have figured he was in for the fight of his life, and by the looks of this car,he won the fight.

When the bear ripped off the door panels he also clawed all the wiring harnesses out.
Toyota figures every wire he pulled or clawed at resulted in alarm bells, voices or sparks.

The head mechanic at Calgary Toyota doubted if they had the expertise to put this vehicle back together, even if they had enough parts to do it. The bear finally escaped by breaking out the rear window.

Fish and wildlife officers have inspected the damage and figure it was a 3 year old Grizzly.
The vehicle has been written off by the insurance company.
The cost of this fully optioned vehicle new was over $70,000, and they stopped count-ing the repair costs at $60,000 plus.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deer That Escaped CWD Farm Quarantine Killed, Will Be Tested

By JEFF FRANTZ, The Patriot-News 

Pink 23, the deer that escaped an Adams County captive farm where Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered, was killed today.
deer hunting paJason Jackson of Dover Twp. and his children, Heidi, 4, and Marshall, 8, and wife Dusty watch as Game Commission personnel at the chronic wasting disease sampling site in Latimore Twp., Adams County, remove samples from a deer that Marshall harvested. (DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News)
Chronic Wasting Disease Sampling SIteOn the first day of rifle deer season, hunters who harvested a deer within the disease management area in Adams and York counties take their deer to a state Game Commission chronic wasting disease sampling site at State Game Lands 249 at Lake Meade Road. (DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News)
The deer will be tested by the Department of Agriculture and the results should be known in about a week, said Carl Roe, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Pink 23 escaped the farm when agents from the Department of Agriculture attempted to kill the deer there after two deer tested positive for CWD, which is similar to Mad Cow Disease. Because CWD was found in the captive population, hunters in most of York County and the eastern portion of Adams County are required to have their deer checked for the disease.
Roe had not heard if Pink 23 was killed by a hunter or one of the professional sharpshooters that had been looking for it. He did not know where the deer was harvested.
Pink 23, the deer that escaped an Adams County captive farm where Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered, was killed today.
Right now, there is no indication Pink 23 -- named for the identifying tags played in its ears at the farm -- had CWD. It was healthy when it escaped the farm. The eight other deer tested all came back negative. There is no way to test a live deer for CWD.
"If it comes back negative, that would alleviate a lot of our concerns," Roe said. "If it comes back positive, we still don't know how many other deer might have been exposed to it, or how many prions it shed."
Prions are the proteins that carry the disease. Scientists believe CWD can survive in those prions for at least 16 years.
Even if Pink 23 comes back negative, the Game Commission will continue to test for CWD for at least the next four years in York and Adams counties.
Purple 4, which has been linked to same captive heard as Pink 23, escaped from a farm in Huntingdon County. So far, it has still not been captured.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Generations Cling To The Dear Tradition Of Opening Day

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

By the time you read this, Ken and Alex Wees will be gone.
The father and son left their Hempfield home on Friday for Camp Coffee’s On, a Forest County retreat, in preparation for Monday’s opening day of deer season.

That’s tradition.
Ken Wees and his son, Alex, of Hempfield prepare for opening day of 
deer season at Bouldin Sporting Equipment in Irwin on November 20, 2012.
 Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Ken’s grandfather started it more than a half-century ago, when trips meant staying in a wall tent heated by a wood-burning stove. The family began going to the camp in 1985, and the trip is not something to be messed with.

“My wife’s cousin was thinking once of getting married on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I wished them well. I said I’d tell them good luck in advance because they wouldn’t see me there,” said Ken Wees, 45, who hasn’t missed an opening day at camp since age 12.

“We don’t hold too many weekends sacred, so to speak, but that’s one.”

What Black Friday is to shoppers, the Monday after Thanksgiving is to hunters. It’s opening day of Pennsylvania’s statewide firearms deer season, when 750,000 or so sportsmen take to the woods. It is, by far, the single busiest day of the hunting year.

It resonates beyond the woods.

Churches, community centers and volunteer fire companies, such as those in Adamsburg in Westmoreland County and Coral Graceton in Indiana County, cater to orange-clad sportsmen early in the day, hosting hunters’ breakfasts of pancakes, sausage and bacon, potatoes, toast and coffee.

Crowds as large as the one tied to opening day of deer season are hard to come by, said Tony Dellafiora, chief at Coral Graceton. The fire company tries to take advantage of it and raise some money by feeding hunters between 4 and 7 a.m.

“We did it for years and then, after a break, started back up four or five years ago. It keeps getting bigger and bigger every year now,” he said.

By evening, the hunters will flock to butcher shops, large and small.

Espey’s Meat Market near Scottdale typically keeps four or five people on staff. That number will climb to 10 between Monday night and Tuesday morning, when about 20 percent of all the deer handled in a year’s time arrive.

“Monday, we just try to get all of the deer skinned and hung in the cooler. Tuesday is our first chance to really start cutting them up,” said Chuck Keefer.

Things get equally busy at taxidermy shops.

“I get to hunt Monday, but then I come home first thing Tuesday morning, and that’s pretty much my hunting season. By then, I have to be ready to go. Deer heads are the bread and butter of our business,” said Kevin Lane of Lane’s Wildlife Images in New Brighton.

The season is all about fun and memories for hunters, though.

Alex Wees, 13, a seventh-grader at West Hempfield Middle School, shot his first deer, an 8-point buck, out of Camp Coffee’s On two years ago. Like other hunters, he hopes for another buck this year.

Yet just being part of another generation at camp is fun, he said.

“We sit around and watch some TV, but mostly I’m outside all weekend shooting my .22 rifle. And sometimes we have a fire and sit around and gab,” he said.

Those memories are what make deer season so important, his dad said.

“We’re all so darn busy these days that, other than the holidays, it’s our time to get together. We just go up, sit around and tell the same stories we’ve been telling for 30 years,” Ken Wees said. “It’s pretty neat.”

Antler Restrictions: Some Hunters Like Them And Some Don't, But Biologists Find Them Successful

Pennsylvania's 2012 deer season marks a decade under the controversial management strategy called "antler restrictions." Game commissioners put the higher standard in place in 2002 when they changed the threshold for a legal buck from one spike of 3 inches or any antler with at least two points, to a three- or a four-point minimum in two hunting regions. 

Commissioners imposed the four-point rule in five Wildlife Management Units in Western Pennsylvania, while placing a three-point restriction on the rest of the state.

Some hunters have applauded the move while others have condemned it. Game Commission biologists have remained steadfast that antler restrictions achieved their objectives.

"The primary goal of antler restrictions was to increase the number of adult bucks [defined as 2.5 years old] in the population," said Game Commission deer and elk section supervisor Chris Rosenberry. "To achieve that, the minimum standard needed to protect most yearling bucks [1.5 years old] from harvest."

PGC biologists initially considered two options -- number of points and antler spread -- as alternative criteria to cut the harvest of yearling bucks.

"The decision to use points instead of antler spread was made because in some units antler spread would have protected more adult bucks than we wanted," Rosenberry said. "The objective was to protect at least half the yearlings but still make most adults available to hunters."
In most states where antler spread is used to identify legal bucks, the antlers must extend to or beyond the tips of the ears. Rosenberry explained that such a rule, while it would have protected yearlings, would have also left too few adult bucks available for hunters to take.
Antler restrictions have successfully altered the age structure of bucks in the state's deer population. According to the PGC, before antler restrictions, fewer than 20 percent of yearling bucks survived the hunting seasons. But observations of hundreds of bucks captured, radio collared and monitored in PGC research projects over the past 10 years show that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of yearlings carrying their first set of antlers now survive a first hunting season to become adults.

"Today, the number of adult bucks taken by hunters is almost twice what it was 15 years ago," Rosenberry said.

In other ways, antler restrictions have not significantly changed the herd's biology. Deer managers initially thought that a higher percentage of adult bucks in the population might influence breeding ecology, avoiding an extended breeding season after which many fawns are born too late the following summer to develop fully or survive their first winter.

But examinations by the PGC of pregnant does following road kills and other non-hunting mortality factors document that timing of breeding remains virtually unchanged. Before antler restrictions, the average conception date for Pennsylvania does was Nov. 17. Does examined since antler restrictions were imposed have shown an average conception date of Nov. 16.
Still, Rosenberry maintains that antler restrictions have brought other important benefits to the deer herd and its habitats.

"For more than 20 years, this agency had in place objectives regarding deer numbers and declining habitat quality that had never been achieved," Rosenberry said. "Past efforts to reduce deer numbers, where needed, had been unsuccessful. Antler restrictions have helped to finally achieve those objectives because they provide to hunters something hunters had not had before -- the opportunity to harvest adult bucks."

Some hunters consider that a fair and needed exchange.

"I can see no good reason to shoot a spike or forkhorn buck instead of a doe," said Denny Fillmore of Enola, a Cumberland County delegate to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmens Clubs who has hunted from a camp in Tioga County since 1960. "But some hunters will still be upset that they aren't seeing the numbers of deer they once did, regardless of having more decent bucks available."

Fillmore is not alone in his acceptance of the change. In several random surveys by the PGC since 2002, hunter support for antler restrictions has never dipped below 60 percent.
Others who gauge hunter attitudes, though, don't see such strong backing.

"I've received more feedback about antler restrictions than any other topic I've written about, and it's about a 50-50 split for and against," said Justin McDaniel, assistant editor of the National Rifle Association's, a website that tracks and comments on hunting issues. A native of Washington County, Pa., McDaniel opposes Pennsylvania's antler restrictions but still hunts in WMU 2A every season.

"The main reason I oppose antler restrictions is because it takes away opportunity from the average hunter," McDaniel said. "A lot of guys can't devote the time it takes for antler restrictions to pay off for them. You're diminishing their opportunities."

Success rates of Pennsylvania buck hunters, though, have remained constant. Before antler restrictions, about 13 percent of hunters tagged a buck each season, nearly identical to today's rate.

"For the hunter that has to pass up a buck, knowing that doesn't help him," Rosenberry conceded. "But overall, in the big picture, hunters have adapted to this well and they're satisfied."

But McDaniel maintains that antler restrictions have other, long-lasting consequences.
"Through our website [], we've heard a lot of comments that hunters are not buying a license in Pennsylvania because antler restrictions have diminished their enjoyment," McDaniel said.

Fillmore is not among them.

"Antler restrictions have in no way reduced my enjoyment of hunting deer," he said. "If anything, seeing nicer bucks has added to the enjoyment. ... They're out there."

Last season, the Game Commission tweaked the restriction in Western Pennsylvania's four-point zones so that hunters no longer need to count a brow tine. In WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, a buck with three points on the main beam is legal to shoot. McDaniel likes the eased requirement.

"I was against the four-point rule, especially, because of the focus on the brow tine," he said. "With the type of hunting we do in Pennsylvania, you may only see a deer for a few seconds and the need to count a brow tine made it a lot more difficult."

From a biological standpoint, Rosenberry sees the change as acceptable.

"Given the data we had, we didn't anticipate the 'three-up' rule would have a big effect on what antler restrictions are meant to accomplish," Rosenberry said. "The main points I want to get across are that hunters, by and large, support antler restrictions. Success rates before and after [antler restrictions] are comparable and hunters are harvesting more adult bucks."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Game Commission Praises Enactment Of New Law To Increase Penalties For Assaulting A Wildlife Conservation Officer

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe offered praise for the recent enactment of legislation to increase the penalties for assaulting a Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) or Deputy WCO. The new law, which takes effect on Dec. 23, increases the maximum penalty for anyone convicted of assaulting a WCO or Deputy WCO to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Under the new law, Act 150 of 2012, the penalty of assaulting a Wildlife Conservation Officer of the Game Commission will be the same penalty for assaulting any other law enforcement official, elected official, personnel of the court, teacher or psychiatric aid.

“The new law is of vital importance to the Game Commission,” Roe said. “It seeks fairness for the law enforcement officers who face dangerous situations in the fulfillment of their responsibilities, as demonstrated by the tragic death of WCO David Grove in 2010.This new law takes a giant step in the protection of Game Commission officers and does so in a way that is consistent with other similar law enforcement personnel.”

Act 150 was introduced as House Bill 1417 by state Rep. Edward Staback, who is the House Game and Fisheries Committee Democrat chairman. The bill passed the House unanimously, and was approved in the Senate by a vote of 45-4. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law on Oct. 24. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Biologists Ask: Please Don't Feed the Deer

By Scott Shalaway,v Pittsburgh Post Gazette

If there's one topic wildlife biologists agree on, it's the folly of feeding deer. Conventional wisdom is unanimous: Don't do it.

Two groups -- animal lovers and wildlife farmers -- feed deer. Animal lovers pity deer when temperatures dip and snow covers the ground. When a big storm blows in, they feel compelled to suddenly offer food. Pallets stacked high with "deer corn" at farm supply stores encourage this harmful behavior. Wildlife farmers see deer as a crop to be fed, fattened and harvested.
In Pennsylvania, feeding wildlife is legal -- only the feeding of elk and bears is against the law.
"But we strongly discourage feeding deer," said Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. "Our executive director has the authority to outlaw deer feeding when disease management is a factor. Presently deer feeding is banned in York and Adams counties."

A detailed explanation by state wildlife veterinarian Walt Cottrell can be found at,

The problem is that deer digestion is a finely tuned physiological process. As the seasons change, deer diet also changes. From herbaceous vegetation in the spring and summer to acorns in the fall to woody browse in the winter, deer require several weeks to slowly adapt to new foods. It doesn't happen in just a few days during a snowstorm. Just the right combination of microorganisms, enzymes and pH enable deer to digest a normal winter diet of woody vegetation.

When offered a sudden supply of corn, a deer's digestive system doesn't have time to adjust to a high carbohydrate diet. The result can be acute acidosis followed by death within 72 hours. Corn makes the deer's first stomach acidic, destroying the microbes needed for normal digestion.

Furthermore, supplemental feeding concentrates deer in small areas where nose-to-nose contact facilitates the spread of infectious diseases. And in traveling to and from a supplemental source of food, deer expend energy they can't afford to lose and become more vulnerable to speeding traffic and predators.

Resist the urge to be kind this winter. A suddenly available supply of corn wreaks havoc on deer digestion and can be deadly. For more information, consult "Feeding Wildlife ... Just Say No!"

Deer Color Can Dictate Decisions

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

There’s no mystery about where white-tailed deer got their name.

The bright white underside of their tails is as distinctive a flag as exists in nature. Many a hunter has despaired to see one of those so-recognizable banners bounding away through the woods.
But deer sometimes can be all or mostly all white, nose to tail.

“Starting about 15 years ago, our history with albinos really began here,” said Doug Finger, manager of Linn Run State Park in Westmoreland County. “From about 1997 through 2010, we always had at least one or two albinos living in the park or Forbes State Forest.”
One of the most impressive was a buck. First spotted as a spike in 2007, it had grown into an 8-point by 2010.

“It had a nice rack. It wasn’t a trophy, but for an albino, it was nice,” Finger said.
A number of hunters were aware of the animal, but Finger is pretty sure no one ever got it.
In some places, they never would have had the chance.

Some wildlife agencies treat white deer — albinos, white deer with otherwise normal pigmentation like brown eyes, and piebalds, which are a mix of white and brown, like a pinto-colored horse — as untouchable.

Illinois, Tennessee and Wisconsin prohibit the shooting of white deer. Iowa takes things further, prohibiting the shooting of any deer that’s even 51 percent white.
There’s no biological reason for such rules, said Tom Litchfield, deer biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

If anything, white deer are inferior animals. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, white deer and piebalds are “frequently associated with other harmful physical conditions, including skeletal deformities (e.g., dorsal bowing of the nose, short/deformed legs, curved spine, short lower mandible, etc.) and internal organ deformities.”
But people like them, and that makes a difference.

“These regulations all happen because a white animal sticks out, and people can latch onto it and want to protect it,” Litchfield said.

Iowa’s law against shooting white deer came about after the public “adopted” one in early 1980s. When a hunter in another part of the state shot a different white deer, state legislators passed a law that prohibited the shooting of any white deer, Litchfield said. It’s remained on the books since.

“I certainly wouldn’t have any problem with the law going away. It’s all a social thing,” Litchfield said.

Bans on shooting white and piebald deer have gone by the wayside in a few places.
Michigan’s was repealed in 2008 after a legal challenge. In Oklahoma, a 1998 law that said hunters could only shoot white and piebald deer after first getting written permission from the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was finally repealed in time for this fall.

Pennsylvania has never had any special protections for white or piebald deer, nor should it, said Chris Rosenberry, the Game Commission’s chief deer biologist. Here, as everywhere, they probably represent less than 1 percent of the overall herd, he added.

The traits that lead to white and piebald deer are inheritable, though, which accounts for their regularly showing up in localized concentrations, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

In Linn Run’s case, the fate of the big white buck that once roamed the park is unknown. Finger said it was bloody when last seen during the 2010 rut as if “maybe he’d gotten into a fight with another buck and taken the worst of it.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more white deer roaming the park, perhaps.
“That same year, a white doe and fawn were spotted, so they might still be out there,” Finger said. “No one’s seen them lately, but you never know.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Check list complete for my deer hunt..

Sent in by club member Mark Trocki...

I scouted the area all summer. . .

I searched out the best location for my tree-stand . . ...

I set it all up a month ahead of time . . .

I trailed the herd . . .

I picked out a trophy buck .. ..

Two days before opening day I rechecked every aspect of the hunt . ..

Everything was in place . . ..

Sunday morning, I woke up at 2 am . .. .

I put on my camo, loaded my pack, set out for my stand . . .

This was destined to be an epic hunt . . ..

As I approached my deer stand . . .

. . . I changed my mind, decided to go to church instead.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Results Of 2012 Elk Hunt Announced

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission officials today announced that 52 elk were harvested by the 65 hunters awarded elk licenses for the recently concluded 2012 elk hunt, which was held Nov. 5-10. Of that total, 19 were antlered and 33 were antlerless.
The heaviest antlered elk was taken by Richard Tratthen, Jr., of Scott Township, Lackawanna County. He took a 840-pound (estimated live weight), 8x8 on Nov. 7, in Jay Township, Elk County.
Other large antlered elk (all estimated live weights) were: Robin Carleton of Mansfield, Tioga County, took a 775-pound 7x7 on Nov. 7 in Covington Township, Clearfield County; Roger Rummel of Nanty Glo, Cambria County, took a 758-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 8, in Covington Township, Clearfield County; Charles Ulrich of Allenwood, Union County, took a 729-pound 7x7 on Nov. 5 in Karthus Township, Clearfield County; and Charles Cahill, Jr., of Upper Darby, Delaware County, took a 720-pound 6x6 on Nov. 7 in Covington Township, Clearfield County.
The heaviest antlerless elk was taken by Sylvester Kronenwetter of Saint Marys, Elk County. He took an antlerless elk that weighed 616 pounds on Nov. 9 in Huston Township in Clearfield County.
Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlerless elk harvested were: Barry Rhoad of Fredericksburg, Lebanon County, 551-pound elk in Gibson Township, Cameron County, on Nov. 7; Terry McLaughlin of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, 549-pound elk on Nov 9, in Benezette Township, Elk County; Ed Roupe of East Fairfield, Vermont, 538-pound elk in West Keating Township, Clinton County, on Nov. 7; and Frank Webster of Greencastle, Franklin County, 520-pound elk in Benezette Township, Elk County on Nov. 7.
“Since 2001, when the first modern-day elk season was instituted, 523 elk have been harvested,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “In 2013, the Game Commission will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the elk restoration project. Watch future issues of Game News and the agency website for more highlights on this major conservation milestone.”
As has been the case every year, agency biologists extracted samples needed for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing, and results are expected early next year.
For more information on elk in Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website, put your cursor over “HUNT/TRAP” in the menu bar in the banner, choose “Hunting,” and then click on “Elk” in the listing under “Big Game.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Suburbs Proving To Be Popular Places For Pa’s Black Bears

Bears have invaded the ’burbs.
Black bears — Pennsylvania’s apex predator, capable of reaching weights exceeding 800 pounds, as big as the average grizzly — increasingly are living in some of the state’s most populous areas. From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, the animals are making themselves at home.
There was a time when that would have been unthinkable. Not now.
A black bear, estimated at 300 lbs. by a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer,
peers over a guiderail on the Route 28 Expressway near the Pittsburgh Mills
in Frazer on Sunday evening. The bear went back into the woods,
headed south 150 yards and crossed behind a group of police officers monitoring
it's travel.                                        ERIC FELACK | VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Three years ago, the Pennsylvania Game Commission kicked off an urban bear study. It went looking for animals living in the Johnstown, State College and Scranton-Wilkes Barre metro areas. The idea was to fit bears — however many that might be — with GPS collars, then monitor things like their home ranges and travel patterns.
The effort netted more than 75 city-dwelling bruins.
“If I’d have told you 20 years ago that we’d catch 75-some bears in those areas, you’d have thought I was crazy,” said Mark Ternent, the commission’s bear biologist. “But bears are flexible enough to use what habitat is out there and can adapt even if that means living close to people.
“That doesn’t mean they’re in these urban areas in high numbers, but they are around.”
The bears aren’t just passing through.
That was thought to be the case for a while. In springtimes past, whenever bears made the news for wandering through somewhere such as Murrysville, it was assumed they were young males, typically 11⁄2-year-olds, kicked out by their mothers, looking to find their own home and winding up in the suburbs almost by mistake.
Not anymore.
Resident populations of bears now exist in almost every county, no matter how many people share the space.
“What I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is a lot of sows and cubs. They’re not transient bears,” Dan Puhala, one of the Game Commission’s wildlife conservation officers, said of the situation in Allegheny County. “There are certain areas — Fawn Township, Tarentum, Natrona Heights — where they are all the time.”
The situation is not unique to Pennsylvania. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and New Jersey Division of Wildlife are — in cooperation with the Game Commission — studying their own growing urban bear populations. The New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at Cornell University has been doing similar work.
Food most often is drawing bears out of the woods.
Bears are omnivores that have proven as willing to eat man-made sources as they are fawns, acorns and berries, said Chris Ryan, supervisor of research for the West Virginia DNR.
“We get over 1,000 bear complaints a year, and it’s always tied to one of three things: bird feeders, pet food or garbage. Bears go where the living is easiest, and if they can find food around people, they aren’t shy about taking advantage of it,” Ryan said.
That’s problematic. While people often thrill to see bears, the animals can quickly become trouble. The Game Commission receives 1,000 to 1,500 nuisance complaints each year.
“We get pounded with those kinds of calls,” said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor in the commission’s southwest region in Bolivar, Westmoreland County. “Many times, solving the problem is just a matter of educating people about bears and bear behavior and explaining why they need to take the bird feeder in at night. But that’s not always the case.”
That’s where hunting can help, biologists hope. It’s about the only thing, aside from collisions with vehicles, that kills Pennsylvania bears besides old age, Ternent said.
Before this fall, hunting bears to control their population hadn’t been much of a factor in urban areas. When Alvin Anthony of Buffalo Township shot a 157-pounder in Fawn last November, it marked the first a hunter had taken a bear in Allegheny County since at least 1949.
In an attempt to make such harvests more common, the Game Commission expanded bear hunting seasons in urban areas starting this fall.
In wild management unit 2B, which surrounds Pittsburgh, and the three units surrounding Philadelphia, the commission gave properly licensed hunters the green light to shoot bears just about any time when they might also be chasing deer. That amounts to months of opportunity.
Across most of the rest of the state, bear season is limited to a five-day archery season and a four-day firearms season.
Hunters have taken advantage of the extra time. Going into this weekend, they had shot three bears near Pittsburgh — one in West Deer in Allegheny County, one around Freeport on the Allegheny-Butler county line, and one in Export in Westmoreland County — and eight in the counties closest to Philadelphia.
“What’s amazing is that, in those four units in all the years we’ve kept records prior to this one, we’d collectively had just 17 bears harvested all time,” Ternent said.
But are those extra opportunities enough? As any white-tailed deer manager knows, you can create all the seasons you want, but if hunters can’t get access to where the “problem” deer are, those populations will continue to grow.
Biologists are trying to determine if urban bears might likewise be out of reach.
“We’ve shown in the past that when we modify seasons we will harvest more bears,” Ryan said. “But when it comes to nuisance bears, we’ve not known if they are going back to the woods at any point, where they are vulnerable to harvest, or whether they are staying within those city limits where hunters just can’t get to them.”
Preliminary data across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey suggests urban bears do move a lot.
Seth Mesoras, a wildlife conservation officer in Cambria County, said one of two bears that attracted national attention for wandering around the Pittsburgh Mills mall this past summer was originally captured and collared near Johnstown. Likewise, the bear shot this year on the Allegheny-Butler line had been trapped there and relocated to Blairsville, only to return, covering about 40 miles and swimming the Allegheny River to do so.
“Older bears, especially the males, they just have a huge home range. They’re moving a lot more than maybe we expected,” Mesoras said. “They might be in your garbage one night and be 10 miles away outside the city the next.”
With the bear population at 18,000 and growing, and human urban sprawl continuing, bears figure to live among people long into the future. The Game Commission needs to be ready to deal with that, Ternent said.
“We don’t want to kill every bear in places like Allegheny County. We still want to allow some to be around because people like to see them,” Ternent said.
“But what we don’t want is for populations to become established and grow. These expanded seasons are meant to scale their numbers back. That will be best for people and bears both.”