The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday set the2014-15 allocations at levels intended to allow the deerpopulation to increase almost everywhere in the state, even in the chronic wastingdisease management areas in the southcentral region.
Referring repeatedly to hunter comments and legislativepressure in favor of growing the deer herd, commissioners cut the allocationsbelow last year's levels and even farther below recommendations by commissionbiologists.
Commissioners also reduced the length of concurrent openseason on antlered and antlerless deer in two wildlife management areas,including WMU 4A, which includes about 80 percent of one of the state's twodisease management areas. A shorter concurrent period also is expected to allowthe deer herd to grow.
Wildlife agencies in other states have responded toincidents of chronic wasting disease by trying to reduce deer numbers in theareas of those incidents and thus reduce potential spread of the always-fataldisease.
The number of deer confirmed as infected with CWD in WMU 4Ais now five.
Commissioner Timothy Layton recommended allowing the numberof doe licenses allocated for WMU 4A, which contains portions of Huntingdon,Blair, Bedford, Fulton and Franklin counties, to remain at last year's 28,000and below the biologists' recommendation of 36,000.
Earlier in the meeting commissioners had voted to reduce thelength of concurrent buck and doe seasons in that WMU from 12 to seven days.For the shorter concurrent period, biologists likely would have recommended 20percent more antlerless licenses for the WMU.
Commissioner Ralph Martone asked if that was his plan "in a unitwith CWD and new growing cases. I just had to check."
Layton said he hoped the commission would be able to issueadditional doe licenses just for the disease management area, somethingcommission staff later said would not be possible in time for the 2014-15hunting seasons.
Noting that commission biologists estimated the deerpopulation in WMU 4A at 24 deer per square mile of forested habitat, Laytonsaid, "We're not overrun with deer. Do we want to affect deer 50 miles awayfrom a disease management area because of five cases of CWD over two years?"
He commented, "Eventually the disease management area isgoing to be the state of Pennsylvania."
Commissioner Brian Hoover noted that WMU 4A is "one of theWMUs where we got the most complaints about lack of deer.
"We only have one tool (to manage the size of the deer herd:the number of antlerless deer harvested). Are we going to eliminate the deerpopulation in the hopes that (CWD) is not going to spread? I don't think so."
He added that if the commission attempted to eliminate asmany deer as possible in a disease management area as a means of controllingthe spread of CWD, "the echoes and screams in the future will be more for ourheads than they now are."
By wildlife management unit, the allocation approved for2014-15, followed by the 2013-14 allocation in parentheses and then therecommendation by commission biologists: WMU 1A, 47,000, (49,000), 52,000, WMU1B, 30,000, (31,000), 32,000, WMU 2A, 46,000, (49,000), 54,000, WMU 2B, 60,000.(62,000), 61,000; WMU 2C, 38,000. (43,000), 50,000; WMU 2D, 61,000, (61,000), 69,000;WMU 2E, 21,000, (22,000), 23,000; WMU 2F, 27,000, (29,000), 30,000; WMU 2G,22,000, (28,000), 24,000; WMU 2H, 5,500, (6,000), 6,000.
WMU 3A, 18,000, (23,000), 19,000; WMU 3B, 33,000, (39,000),50,000; WMU 3C, 32,000, (35,000), 40,000; WMU 3D, 25,000, (32,000), 37,000.
WMU 4A, 28,000, (28,000), 36,000; WMU 4B, 26,000, (24,000), 31,000;WMU 4C, 25,000, (27,000), 32,000; WMU 4D, 33,000, (35,000), 37,000; WMU 4E,21,000, (26,000), 28,000; WMU 5A, 19,000, (19,000), 26,000; WMU 5B, 49,000,(50,000), 50,000; WMU 5C, 95,000, (103,000), 105,000; and WMU 5D, 18,000,(18,000), 18,000.
Commissioners adopted a slate of firearms seasons for deer for2014-15 that sets a non-concurrent, five-day antlered deer season (Dec. 1-5)and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 6-13) in 14 of the state's 23 wildlife managementunits: 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4A 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E.
The split format is new for WMUs 4A and 4C, andcommissioners said changing the format is aimed at increasing deer numbers inthose WMUs.
They retained the two-week (Dec. 1-13) concurrent, antleredand antlerless deer season in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.
Other deer hunting seasons for 2014-15 will be archery forantlerless deer only, WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, Sept. 20-Oct. 3 and Nov. 17-29;archery for antlered and antlerless deer, WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, Jan. 12-24;archery for antlered and antlerless deer, statewide, Oct. 4-Nov. 15 and Dec.26-Jan. 10.; junior and senior license holders season for antlerless deer, statewide,Oct. 23-25; muzzleloader season for antlerless deer, statewide, Oct. 18-25;flintlock season for antlered and antlerless deer, statewide, Dec. 26-Jan. 10;flintlock season for antlered and antlerless deer, WMUS 2B, 5C and 5D, Dec.26-Jan. 24; and extended firearms season for antlerless deer in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware,Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, Dec. 26-Jan. 24.
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