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North Hills

Game warden to talk deer management in wake of Ross feeding ban proposal

Tony LaRussa
| Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 2:57 p.m.

A Ross Township commissioner has invited a state game warden to conduct a seminar to help residents better understand the municipality’s proposal to outlaw feeding deer.

The public meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 9 will be led by game warden Dan Puhala, who will discuss managing the deer population in Ross and problems related to feeding deer, said Commissioner Dan DeMarco, who introduced a measure in May that would make it illegal for residents to feed deer.

DeMarco cited public safety and health concerns as the primary rationale for imposing the ban.

He noted that deer roaming in the densely populated municipality places motorists at risk and can spread disease through the ticks they carry.

Lyme Disease is transmitted through the bite of infected black legged ticks, which are commonly known as deer ticks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Symptoms of Lyme include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, according to the CDC.

Previous efforts by the township to stop residents from putting out food for deer were defeated, in part, because the proposed law was too broad.

The first failed attempt to impose a ban occurred about a decade a go. The measure was revived in 2011 but was defeated by a one-vote margin because it went beyond deer control to include a prohibition about feeding other wildlife, including feral cats.

The current ban being considered deals exclusively with deer.

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed.

A majority of residents who commented at public meetings at which the issue was discussed urged the board to enact the ban because the growing deer population has become a menace to drivers, led to the destruction of expensive landscaping and increased the risk of being exposed to Lyme Disease.

Others opposed the ban, saying excessive development in the township has destroyed the habitat for deer, forcing them into populated areas where food can be scarce.

DeMarco said while Ross is pursuing a local ban on feeding deer, it may eventually be dealt with at the state level.

“This is a very important public safety and health issue,” DeMarco said. “It’s headed toward being a statewide ban, which is happening in a lot of states.”

While Pennsylvania has not enacted such legislation, the state game commission supports local bans.

Feeding deer can spread Chronic Wasting Disease, a contagious condition that is fatal to deer, because it is spread through saliva, state game warden Tom Kline told the Tribune-Review in May.

If an infected deer eats from a pile of food, every deer that eats from that pile is at risk of getting the disease, he said, adding that consuming food other than what is available naturally also can result in serious digestive problems for deer during certain times of the year.

Deer also can become habituated to eating from artificial food sources and stop searching for food in the wild, further risking their ability to survive, Kline said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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