Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pennsylvania Boar Hunting Ban Nears Approval

Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The end of hog hunting in Pennsylvania is one step closer to being reality.
Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval at their last meeting to regulations that remove protection from the animals statewide and, most importantly, prohibit the importation, possession and release of feral swine and wild boar into the wild.

The ban on importation and possession — if given final approval in April — would eliminate hog hunting on game preserves.

The commission wants to get rid of hogs because it fears they will escape into the wild and become established, as has happened in other states. It views their eradication as necessary “to prevent further harm to our natural resources, agricultural industry, forest products industry and threats to human health and safety,” said executive director Carl Roe in an official statement.

A couple of hunting preserve owners who spoke at the commission's most recent meeting said keeping hogs out of the wild is a good idea, but a total ban is not the right decision.
Mike Gee of Tioga Ranch in Tioga County said the state should license hunting preserves so it can monitor them, he said. Responsible owners would welcome that because of their investment in their facilities, he said.

“Animals are very expensive. Ranchers go to great lengths to keep them inside our fences,” Gee said.

William Snyder, owner of Double Boar Ranch in Shippenville, agreed. Wild boars make up about 98 percent of his business, he said, because they don't grow antlers that fall off each year, and they're good eating. That makes them popular with hunters year-round, he said.
“I don't feel it's responsible to take someone who's got all of their money invested in their livelihood like me and put me out of business,” Snyder said. “It's a chemotherapy for my industry. I think there are better solutions out there.”

Commissioner Ralph Martone of Lawrence County praised Snyder's operation. The problem is not all facilities are that well maintained, he added. Lesser ones are responsible for the boars roaming in the wild already, he said.

The commission must develop rules that account for those kinds of operations, Martone said.
Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County agreed and said it's incumbent upon the commission to protect the state's wildlife and hunting industry, where “millions or billions of dollars are at risk.”

“The Game Commission has a very serious duty to protect that,” Putnam said

Unlikely allies
The debate about keeping wild boars or hogs out of Penn's Woods has put a couple of organizations who often have opposing views on the same side.

The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and Humane Society of the United States support proposed regulations aimed at keeping wild boars out of the state. Their reasons are not identical, however.

“Many other states that failed to react to illegal and accidental introduction into the wild are now paying the price of having expanding populations causing devastating damage to wildlife habitat and wildlife,” said Chuck Lombaerde, president of the Federation.

The Humane Society cited the need to protect native wildlife as one reason for supporting a hog ban. It also has a long-standing opposition to any kind of “canned” hunts at preserves.

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