HARRISBURG – When Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director Carl Roe recently presented the PGC's annual report to the General Assembly and delivered testimony before the House Game and Fisheries Committee, he stated it had been a positive and productive year for the agency and expected more good news would be forthcoming.
That news has come in the form of hunter success for the 2011-12 deer seasons and the 2011 bear season – with hunters taking a record 4,350 bears to surpass the record of 4,164 taken in 2005. In addition, the final estimated total 336,200 deer is an increase of six percent from the previous season's 316,240.
As please as Roe was with the overall hunter success in most seasons, he was just as pleased with the PGC's success with prosecuting offenders who poach and break game laws in taking came. He credited much of that success because of the cooperation from both the hunting and non-hunting public.
"Overall, our wildlife protection efforts were again strong as we focused our efforts on apprehensions for illegal taking of game, hunting over bait and hunting and taking game with a motorized vehicle," Roe said. Overall, we had 19,128 violations detected with 5,795 citations and 13,333 warnings.
"In this past year, we experienced a 62-percent increase in our Turn in a Poacher, or TIP, program from concerned citizens. We attribute this to the fact that people are putting greater value on our wildlife resources as a result of Act 54's increased penalties and our program of focusing our law enforcement efforts on wildlife protection activities.
"This past fall's elk season was one of the best on record, and in addition to a success rate that was very good, one of the largest elk ever taken will be hitting the record books. We are very happy with the mild winter because the combination of a weak mast crop and a hard winter could have had a very detrimental impact on our wildlife resources."
Roe said the PGC received a positive response from hunters for the introduction of open seasons on bobcat and fishers with a permit. This past year, expanded opportunities for bobcat for our hound's men was the result of input from hunters who expressed interest in dividing the season between trapping and hunting.
"Last year's hunting season was pretty good across the board, and this winter we began a study in the special regulations area of the Southeast to look at the effectiveness of deer hunting in developed areas and harvest rates of deer in rifle vs. shotgun areas," Roe said. "Over the past few years we have made a concerted effort to improve communications about our deer program.
"A number of deer-related hunter surveys were completed during the year to assess hunter behavior and attitudes, and we had sent daily hunting diaries to nearly 2,400 hunters in WMUs 2D, 2G, 3C, and 4B prior to the 2010 firearms season to monitor hunter activities, success and satisfaction. In these 4 WMUs, the firearms season was changed from a 12-day antlered and antlerless concurrent season to a 5-day antlered only season followed by a 7-day antlered and antlerless concurrent season beginning in 2008.
"We also surveyed to assess hunter behavior and attitudes regarding reporting their deer harvests. Additionally we publish the "Deer Chronicle" twice a year to keep the public updated on our program and last but certainly not least is our "ask the biologist" site where the public can ask our biologists any question they have on their mind. All of our deer information and data is available for the public to read and understand on our website."
Roe said that waterfowl hunters, especially those in the Southeast, are especially receptive to the ongoing Snow Goose Conservation hunt introduced two years ago that is held from the end of February to the end of April. This year, hunting opportunities were expanded in the special season to help control the population with the board of game commissioners approved the use of electronic decoys.
"Our mentored youth program continues to grow and is very successful, and this past year we had 31,827 youth permits and that is up from 28,801 in 2010," Roe said. "We are adding fall turkey to the mentored youth opportunities this year, allowing a mentor to transfer a fall turkey tag to the youth much the same as antlerless tags.
"We believe we have had a very positive year in the Game Commission. There are some elements in our strategic plan that we could not accomplish due to resource constraints, but we did continue to get a lot done and continue to update our species management plans for bald eagles, ruffed grouse, beaver and bobwhite quail.
"We know what we need to do to improve conditions for wildlife and in turn provide great opportunities for our hunters and trappers. We want to do more. This is not a matter of will, but a matter of resources available to get the job done."
To view a copy of the PGC's annual report, access the agency's website at www.pgc.state.pa.us.