Share This Page

Specifics of predatory study still up in air

| Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

Pennsylvania game commissioners and members of their staff have plenty of questions when it comes to predators and what to do about them.

Answers? Those are in shorter supply.

Since April, commissioners have talked about doing a predator study. The idea, they've suggested, would be to see what, if any, impact they are having on deer populations and what might be done about it.

Such a study also would show sportsmen and lawmakers that the agency takes the issue seriously, commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County said.

“I think the perception out there is that we don't care,” agreed commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County.

But specifics are proving hard to come by.

At their work group meeting Monday, commissioners disagreed about whether the study even needs to be done or what questions they want answered.

Chris Rosenberry, chief deer biologist for the agency, offered three options. One would be to do a “bare bones” study examining fawn survival and mortality, looking at how many fawns die each year and what kills them, he said.

Option two builds on that, examining what role habitat plays in whether fawns are more or less likely to survive.

Option three would take things one step further and see how predator densities influence deer deaths.

Cost for the work would range from $125,000 to $355,000 per study area per year, with multiple study areas planned for three years, he said.

Biologists asked board members what they wanted to do.

“We're at the point where we need some guidance,” said Matt Lovallo, head of the game mammals section.

Board members weren't ready to give it.

Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said the board could not offer a preference for a study proposal or a possible budget until after a “scoping meeting” with other experts from inside and outside the state.

“I'd vote for a study. But I wouldn't even know what I'm voting for” until then, he said.

Others said they believe a study is pointless.

Commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County said there's no evidence predators are impacting deer on a population scale. That precludes the need for a study that won't change the “public relations problem” surrounding the commission's deer program, he said.

Commissioner Ralph Martone also said he's opposed to spending millions on a study, in large part because it's unlikely the board can or will do anything with any answers it gets.

“First of all, if we find out what's killing these fawns, be it bears or coyotes, what would we really be willing to do? Those are game animals, too,” he said.

Martone also said if the commission wants to save more deer, it should just reduce the number of doe licenses available, something it can do at no cost.

Ultimately, commissioners directed staff to set up the scoping meeting, with the idea of making decisions afterward.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.