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Frye: Talking bear cubs, scope safety and wasting disease

| Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 10:36 p.m.

A few interesting things have come through the inbox recently, perhaps worth sharing.

One reader wondered whether shooting a female bear in the fall hunting season dooms any cubs with her to death over the winter.

The answer is no. Cubs whose mother is harvested in the fall are just as likely to survive long-term as are those who spend their first winter with their mother, said Mark Ternent, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bear biologist.

“As long as the cubs are of average body weight, their chances of survival are quite good and comparable to other cubs still with sows. We know this because over the past 30 years we have conducted extensive wintertime reproductive monitoring of bears where we visit dens and ear-tag newborn cubs,” Ternent said.

“In some of these litters, the mother is harvested while still with the cubs, which we know by identifying her ear tags in the harvest,” he added. “We then watch for the ear tags of the affected cubs in subsequent harvest years. Many of them eventually show up, providing evidence that they survived despite their mother being harvested while they were still 11 months old.”

Another reader, in response to a photo that appeared showing a deer hunter looking through his scope “in hopes of spotting game,” as the caption read, called to say that “long-standing” Game Commission rules say that's illegal.

That's not quite true, said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor in the commission's southwest region office.

Using your scope to identify movement or tell whether something in the woods is deer, man or something else is a definite no-no from a safety standpoint, something hunter education instructors stress all the time, he said. That's a job for binoculars, he added.

“But it is not illegal, just unsafe and unwise,” he said. “And it's something we couldn't enforce anyway.”

Finally, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has announced that Purple 4, the farm-raised deer that escaped captivity in Huntingdon County, has tested negative for chronic wasting disease.

The deer — linked to the farm in Adams County where the disease was found earlier this fall — had escaped from an unlicensed deer farm in Alexandria.

It was shot by a hunter last month and tested at the Pennsylvania State Veterinary Laboratory.

The department said it is implementing herd plans for the 24 farms in 12 counties still under quarantine because of similar links to the Adams County facility.

It has not said what those plans might include.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-838-5148.

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