HARRISBURG –New legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett has resulted in the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners to review possible amendments to put on hold any changes to regulations for feral swine and wild boars.
This action was taken at Tuesday's quarterly meeting by the BOC, which at its January meeting proposed regulatory changes for feral swine and wild boars, which are not native to Pennsylvania, but sometimes escape to the wild from fenced hunting preserves. Its action was based on the conclusion that escaped and feral swine are destructive to native wildlife species and their habitats, pose health risks, are threats to domestic and farm animals and are prolific breeders and can quickly establish wild populations once escaped.
Proposed rulemaking by the BOC, which was tabled by a unanimous vote, included the statewide removal of protection for feral swine and wild boars. It also called for a ban on the importation of wild boars and feral swine, then, a year later, for making it illegal to possess the animals.
What the new law does is relieve the PGC from its responsibility of having to manage these hogs, which no longer classifies them as wild animals. Now it is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to manage these animals and oversee how the preserves conduct their business regarding hog hunting.
Senate president Joe Scarnati, Jefferson County Republican, sponsored the bill that no longer classifies captive feral swine of the type used by hunting preserves as wild animals and therefore do not fall under the auspices of the PGC. Had the new law not gone into effect, the two preserves specializing in hog hunts, both of which are in Scarnati's district, would have gone out of business.
"Obviously, a ban would have a negative impact on those two preserves in Tioga County and others statewide," Scarnati's director of policy and legislative affairs Casey Long said. "We think the Game Commission's regulatory solution was heavy-handed, and we saw some middle ground, which doesn't include a ban in the state."
Under the new bill, one of the requirements for preserve owners is to sterilize boars before they are released for hunting. Still, these animals can escape and the PGC will continue to classify them as feral hogs and remains its responsibility to manage hogs that escape into the wild.
While the PGC is not opposed to preserve hunts, it is opposed to the threat escaped hogs are to native wildlife, farm and domestic animals, crops and the environment. Executive director Carl Roe made it clear these animals are not protected.
"Any hog that escapes from a preserve is considered a feral hog and may be shot with any legal sporting arm," Roe said. "This can be done in most of the state, other than the few areas where only trapping is allowed.
"Trapping remains the best way to eliminate hogs that have escaped or been released, but they can be shot for the meat. We want to have them removed from the wild."
Feral swine can be taken with any lawful firearm, bow or by trapping and taking them is not defined as "hunting" by the PGC. Those who take feral swine and wild boars must report it within 24 hours of the kill to the local PGC Region Office, and the carcasses of all feral swine and wild boars taken must be made available to the agency for disease sampling if requested.