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Outdoors notebook: Pa.'s growing elk herd outpacing habitat gains

| Sunday, June 9, 2013, 10:51 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's new elk biologist, Jeremy Banfield, is going to have an interesting job on his hands.

A native of the Rochester, N.Y., area, Banfield was most recently working as a wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He's now living in DuBois with his wife and 2-year-old son.

He's going to be dealing with an elk herd that's growing, and not necessarily in the right areas. The state's elk herd is estimated at 833 animals. That number — a minimum count — is up from last year's 824.

But “the habitat is not increasing at the same rate as the elk herd, so that presents some challenges,” said Chris Rosenberry, head of the commission's deer and elk section.

The subpopulation that's taken up residence in the Weedville area is especially causing problems. The commission wants to tackle that before it winds up with an unwanted “petting zoo environment,” said executive director Carl Roe.

In an attempt to address those problems, the commission has allocated 86 elk licenses this year and is trying to direct hunters at the problem animals.

Shorthanded

Westmoreland County is without a waterways conservation officer.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission had two full-time officers in the county. But one, Jim Vatter, retired. The other, Tom Crist, has been promoted to assistant regional manager of the commission's southwest region office.

Deputies and officers from surrounding counties are filling the void until the officers are replaced. That may be awhile, though. Because of budget constraints, the commission has canceled plans to train a class of officers to save the $1 million that would require.

Lead ammo

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and six other groups demanding the Environmental Protection Agency ban ammunition containing lead components.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors..

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