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Commission Updates

In last week’s column, I mentioned the news that the Fish and Boat Commission will receive $250,000 from the state to relocate and build another launch site somewhere nearby. The commission will match the state’s funding with another $250,000. Don’t plan to launch your boat at the new ramp for at least a couple of years though since it will likely take that long or longer to get the project cleared and completed. I also mentioned that my friend John Arway was resigning as the director of the Fish and Boat Commission — that was last week. Update: a new director has been named; Tim Schaffer will replace Arway as of Nov. 13.

Schaeffer had been serving as the deputy director for water programs at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Schaffer had worked at the Fish and Boat Commission under Arway for a number of years prior to going to DEP. Schaffer has a number of degrees including a doctoral degree from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a master of science in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College. He was picked unanimously from a field of 57 potential candidates.

With this new appointment, I’m sure there will be renewed efforts to convince lawmakers to proceed with a license increase in the days to come. While the commission would like to see lawmakers place license fee increases in the hands of the commission, I suspect that won’t happen. It’s hoped that lawmakers would support an incremental fee increase.

In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is wrestling with some wildlife issues. I don’t have the space to get into detail at this point, but here is a summary.

First, the commission is looking at implementing a new management plan for turkeys over the next ten years. Part of implementing the plan involves inviting input from those outside the commission and includes hunters. The commission wants to get a better handle on turkey harvest rates by leg banding and then tracking birds. They also want to know who the successful hunters are by age and other factors. They are also looking at habitat improvement, and a whole lot more.

Another game animal that the commission is taking a closer look at is the black bear — more specifically is the growing problem of mange in our black bears. In 2017, seventy bears were euthanized or found dead because of mange. It appears that some bears’ immune systems are able to fight off mange and others die from the condition. This summer 24 bears were trapped and radio-collared; half had mange and half did not. Half of the infested bears were treated with a medication used to prevent heartworm in dogs in an effort to find some hope for bears. Next summer, more bears will be collared and tracked. Pennsylvania boasts of a population of around 20,000 bears. More on that in the days to come.

Finally, I don’t have to tell you how wet it has been nor do I have to tell you how bad the mosquitoes have been as a result. Mosquitoes, of course, can also carry West Nile Virus, and that can be deadly for animals and birds as well as humans. Two Pennsylvania residents have died this year so far as a result of West Nile Virus. The virus has been particularly hard on our grouse population, and the Game Commission is asking people to report dead grouse — even road kills to help in the study of the problem. I’m sure we will have more to report on this issue soon.

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