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Pennsylvania alters fertility control management policy

From the Pennsylvania Game Commission

-- During the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners annual meeting Jan. 26, the board approved a change in using fertility drugs as a wildlife management tool, recommended retaining the use of bait in southeastern counties, elected new officers, and approved a grant for a new breeding bird atlas.

Fertility Control Drugs as Management Tool
The Board added a statement to the agency’s existing policy manual regarding fertility control agents with respect to wildlife population control. Given the number of deer-human conflicts in many communities and the public interest in improved urban deer control, this may be considered a viable option for deer management issues.

The national registration process for mammalian gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH, and the product GonaCon), a fertility control agent intended for use in controlling white-tailed deer in urban and suburban settings, has been completed. The product has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a contraceptive agent, and restrictions limit use to USDA APHIS Wildlife Services and state wildlife agency personnel.

After state Department of Agriculture approval for the use of the product GnRH, municipalities should apply to the Game Commission to use GnRH on deer within their boundaries. Guidelines for use would require that the municipality first exhaust all other options to reduce deer-human conflicts, including lethal and nonlethal means, before the agency would consider approval.

Municipalities also would need to provide approved deer management plans that include a rigorous research and monitoring component, and the funding for the use of GnRH. The Game Commission would not provide any funding for the project.

The statement notes that where safe and appropriate, hunting always is the primary method used to manage wildlife populations in all environments. The Commission recognizes that species overabundance in localized or isolated areas is often largely influenced by landscape features and human manipulation of the environment and these factors may not be easily modified.

When hunting methods do not adequately control wildlife populations, the Game Commission considers alternate methods that complement current management efforts including properly approved and registered fertility control agents. Fertility control agents are only to be used in conjunction with hunting and other wildlife management methods because contraception alone cannot reduce wildlife populations to healthy or socially acceptable levels.

Bait in Southeastern Counties Sunset Provision to be Reconsidered
The Board took preliminary action to remove the sunset provision placed in regulations that first allowed deer hunters to use bait in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, to increase hunter harvest in these large-developed, high-conflict areas.  

In 2006, as recommended in the Game Commission’s Urban/Suburban Deer Management Plan, the Board approved the use of bait, and the Board included a sunset provision requiring that the Board revisit the issue by March 31, 2010.

If approved by the Board in April, hunters will continue to be permitted to use bait on only private lands.  Bait may be placed or distributed two weeks prior to the opening of the first deer season and continue until the deer seasons conclude.  Bait accumulation in any one location will not be permitted to exceed five gallons at any given time.

While illegal in other parts of the state, in 2004, the General Assembly approved a change to state law to authorize the Game Commission to permit the use of bait for deer hunters specifically in special regulations areas counties, except for Allegheny County.  The law specifically prohibits the use of bait for deer hunters in any other counties.
     
New Officers
Commissioner James “Jay” Delaney Jr., of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, was elected president.  Ronald Weaner, of Biglerville, Adams County, was elected vice-president, and David W. Schreffler of Everett was elected secretary.

Game Commissioners are nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to serve an eight-year term.  They receive no salary, but are reimbursed for expenses to attend Game Commission quarterly meetings and other functions. For more information on Board members, visit the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “About Us” in the menu bar in the banner and the click on Commissioners Page.
 
Breeding Bird Atlas
Commissioners approved a $100,000 federal State Wildlife Grant to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in support of the Second Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas analysis project.  The fieldwork for this project was funded predominantly by previously approved federal SWG grants.

Started in 2000, the Second Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas was the most extensive survey of the state’s nesting birds ever attempted. The grid-based survey tracked the changes that have occurred in bird populations since the first atlas was completed in 1989.  Since that time, eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons have expanded their breeding numbers substantially. The project also sought to chart whether the long-term declines of many songbirds reported in the first atlas continue.

It has been supported largely with federal State Wildlife Grant funds awarded through the Game Commission, and organized and coordinated by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History through offices at the museum’s Powdermill Nature Reserve.

When published, the atlas will show changes in the occurrence and distribution of the state’s nesting wild birds and game birds, with additional information about the state’s breeding birds, including habitat preferences and abundance. The use of technologies, such as global positioning satellites and the internet, unavailable when data for the first Atlas was collected, improved this survey.

In other action, Game Commissioners
 --Gave final approval to include the use of crossbows for small game seasons, and make other technical changes to small game season regulations;

 --Gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change to exempt lawfully permitted menageries who also possess a USDA Class C Exhibitor permit and who operate their menagerie facilities as their primary means of livelihood from possession and importation prohibitions;

--Gave preliminary approval to regulations to specifically authorize properly permitted individuals to engage in commercial coyote guiding activities on State Game Lands;

--Gave preliminary approval to hunting hours table and migratory game bird hunting hours table for 2010-11;

--Gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change to allow for over-the-counter applications of unsold antlerless deer licenses for all WMUs beginning the first Monday of October, rather than the first Monday of November.  Over-the-counter sales of antlerless deer licenses for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D will continue to be the fourth Monday of August.

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