Two actions taken by the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners at its January quarterly meeting affect Wildlife Management Unit 5C, including one that effects any urban area where the deer population is out of control. Effecting 5C in particular is preliminary approval being given to remove the sunset provision that allows the baiting of deer for hunting on private land in the Special Regulations Area of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
In 2006, as recommended in the PGC's Urban/Suburban Deer Management Plan, the board approved specific regulations to allow the use of bait in these counties. At that time, the board included a sunset provision that required reviewing the issue by March 31, 2010, and final adoption will be given Tuesday, April 20, when seasons and bag limits are finalized for the 2010-11 hunting and trapping seasons.
As for the other action, preliminary approval was given to urban and suburban municipalities with a deer-control problem to petition the PGC to use the fertility control product GonaCon. This 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.
"I believe I can speak for every member of this board when I say this was passed with the greatest reluctance," board of game commissioners president Jay Delaney said. "It just goes against everything we stand for to control deer with methods similar to controlling pests."
PGC executive director Carl Roe said the agency's staff was in agreement with the overall feelings of the board members. He pointed out, however, that before what amounts to birth control be used to reduce the deer herd, communities are required to explore hunting opportunities and present a deer-management plan.
"There have actually been some cases where hunting opportunities have increased in urban areas that allowed bowhunting where no hunting was previously allowed," Roe said. "Where safe and appropriate, hunting always is the primary method used to manage wildlife populations in all environments."
Bluebird nesting boxes are still available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission at its Harrisburg headquarters with a retail price of $7 for assembled boxes or kits that can be assembled as a wood-working project.
"Bluebirds are early nesters, so now is the time put up new nest boxes, as well as to clean and repair existing boxes," PGC Wildlife Diversity chief Dan Brauning said. "These bluebird boxes enable Pennsylvanians to help wildlife in a natural way."
Bluebirds live in open country, and are a beautiful songbird native to Pennsylvania. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and have become less common due to a lack of suitable nest sites. Many nest sites have been lost through changing land-use practices, as well as to urban and suburban sprawl, but the introductions of house sparrows and starlings in 1851 and 1890 have been the primary reasons for the decline of bluebirds.
For more than 25 years, each year about 9,000 boxes are manufactured at the PGC's Howard Nursery and sold or provided to Pennsylvanians to help bluebirds. That annual influx of new nest boxes helps ensure Pennsylvania remains a "keystone state" in bluebird conservation.
Sales will continue while supplies last, and office hours are Monday-Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at PGC headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, just off the Progress Ave. exit of Interstate. To order by phone, call the PGC office at 1-888-888-3459, and to order on the Web access the agency Web site at www.pgc.state.p.us  , select "Birds" from the "Wildlife" drop-down menu, then select "Bluebirds Home."
Nationally known outdoors writer Dave Ehrig is today's guests of Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz on "Experience the Outdoors," from 7:30-8 a.m. on Oldies 1410-AM, Lansford. A rebroadcast will be heard Sunday from 9:30-10 a.m. on WMGH, 105.5-FM, Tamaqua, and is available on the Web at www.wmgh.com  by clicking on the "Experience the Outdoors" link.
Appalachian Promotions Gun and Knife Show is being held today and Sunday at the Pennsylvania Expo Center, 501 Cetronia Ave., off Route 309 and Tilghman St., Allentown, with show hours today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call Appalachian Promotions at 717-697-3088 or access on the Web at www.thegunshows . com.
A trap shoot will be held, Thursday, March 11, beginning at 6 p.m., at Orwigsburg Gun Club, Gun Club Road, off Route 443 East, Orwigsburg. For information, e-mail jafone@comcast. net .
First Frontier Militia, the muzzleloader arm of Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club, will begin its yearly schedule of muzzleloader shoots Sunday, March 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, shoots are schedule for April 11, May 9, June 13, July 11, Aug. 6, Sept. 12, Oct. 9 and 10, Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, all being held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m..
Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club is located on Gun Club Road, off Route 248, Bowmanstown. For information, call Roger Fisher at 610-377-2812.
Sweet Arrow Bass Anglers is conducting its 2010 membership drive for this year's tournament schedule. Membership is open to both owners and non-owners of boats.
This year, the club will fish a 10-tournament schedule in the Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, and the club will conduct its annual youth fishing derby.
This year's "Wildlife Art Expo" will be held, Saturday, March 27, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Environmental Education Center of the Montour Preserve, Washingtonville. For information, call Jon Beam at 570-437-3131.