View Full Version : PA: Baiting for deer legalized in some counties

Bob S
10-09-2006, 08:20 PM
ARTICLE (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06281/728274-358.stm)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

By Ben Moyer

With a unanimous vote that contradicts hunting tradition but recognizes the complexity of managing deer populations in urban areas, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has approved the use of bait for hunting deer in some southeastern counties.

At its meeting last week in Harrisburg, the Game Commission approved bait use by hunters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties with the intent of increasing the deer kill in suburban communities.

Bait may not be used during the upcoming regular firearms deer season. The change takes effect Dec. 26 of this year, the opening day of the late deer hunting seasons. Use of bait in these counties will remain legal in all subsequent deer seasons through the next three years. A "sunset" provision in the new regulation requires the Game Commission to reconsider bait use in southeastern Pennsylvania before March 31, 2010.

Hunters will be permitted to use bait only on private lands. Bait may be placed or distributed two weeks before the opening of the first day of 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 hunting is the most economical way to manage deer populations, suburban hunters can face many challenges finding access to huntable lands," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "By allowing the use of bait, there is the potential to increase harvest, hunter success and hunter opportunity in developed areas, and thereby provide additional relief to residents in the highly developed areas of southeastern Pennsylvania."

The Game Commission's regulatory change allowing bait could not be made until the legislature first changed state law that prohibited baiting statewide. Two years ago the legislature passed a provision allowing the Game Commission to permit baiting in some southeastern Pennsylvania counties if it deemed the action necessary. That change, however, made no provision for baiting in other urbanized zones, including Allegheny County, and baiting remains illegal there.

The Game Commission, community groups and municipalities view baiting as a way to increase hunter deer harvest in urban and suburban communities while minimizing safety concerns of residents. With bait, such as corn or apples, hunters can lure deer to locations where it is safe to shoot and where disturbance is minimal.

The regional approach to baiting reflects the wide diversity in population density across Pennsylvania. Delaware County, for example, where baiting will be legal after Dec. 25, has about 3,000 people per square mile. In contrast, about 11 persons inhabit the average square mile of Forest County in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Game Commission, as well as many hunters, has long viewed baiting of deer as a violation of ethical concepts of "fair chase." But a growing number of residents in suburban communities have asked for regulatory changes that are more realistic in an urbanized setting.

High deer populations have plagued communities in southeastern Pennsylvania with vehicle crashes, destruction of woodlot and ornamental vegetation, and a rapid increase in Lyme disease. Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease incidence in the nation.

Most Lyme cases occur in the southeastern counties where baiting deer will be allowed. The change also allows hunters to hunt near special feeders designed to put deer in contact with pesticides lethal to the ticks that transmit the Lyme disease organism.

At a series of seminars in southeastern Pennsylvania last year, residents called for additional changes that would provide greater flexibility to communities coping with overabundant deer.

Their recommendations called for longer seasons, more landowner control of the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), and a hunter education program focused on the urban environment, in addition to baiting.