Game Commission proposal to ban feeding deer, turkeys draws interest |

Game Commission proposal to ban feeding deer, turkeys draws interest

Stephen Huba
Stephen Huba | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania deer biologist Jeannine Fleegle gestures while talking to Pete Skrgic, of Greensburg, at a Wednesday night open house at the Delmont Volunteer Fire Department. The meeting was held to take comments on a proposed wildlife feeding ban.

A Pennsylvania Game Commission proposal to ban feeding big game animals in the state is generating plenty of interest among hunters, if Wednesday night’s open house in Delmont is any indication.

Nearly 40 people, many of them hunters, attended the open house at the Delmont Volunteer Fire Department to inquire about a proposal that would ban the feeding of deer and wild turkey — something that is already illegal for bear and elk.

Pete Skrgic of Greensburg said his practice of spreading shelled corn at his hunting camp in Armstrong County probably would be prohibited under the proposed ban.

“I can live with it,” he said.

The game commission has proposed the ban in the belief that wildlife feeding — on the part of hunters and nonhunters alike — is contributing to the spread of diseases such as chronic wasting disease among deer and mange among bears.

“The agency is not trying to stop all wildlife feeding,” said Patrick Snickles, state game warden supervisor for the commission’s Southwest Region. “… This is really about trying to eliminate the congregation and habituation of big game animals.”

Feeding deer for the purposes of hunting or wildlife watching creates artificial conditions in which animals come in close contact with each other and have greater potential to spread disease, according to the game commission.

Unintended consequences

In addition to enlisting the help of hunters, the state wants the public to be more aware of how wildlife feeding affects animal behavior and can have unintended consequences.

Skrgic said more money and effort needs to be put into research to determine the causes of chronic wasting disease.

“I don’t think Pennsylvania is doing near enough,” he said.

Frank Lopresti, 42, of Monessen attended the open house to learn more about the proposal and to submit a written comment. He hunts deer, bear and turkey, mostly on public lands in Fayette County.

“I know a lot of people feed deer for their own purposes. Some hunters do it for scouting purposes, as a way to see what deer are on their property,” he said. “There’s going to be some pushback on that.”

Washington Twp. man skeptical

Joe Schultheis of Washington Township hunts in Elk County and is skeptical of the game commission’s proposal.

“Where is the proof that deer are transmitting the prions (for chronic wasting disease) through eating corn? I want the biological evidence that they know that,” Schultheis said. “I would like to see an independent authority say that.”

The last open house on the feeding ban is scheduled for Thursday, after which the game commission plans to solicit more comments online.

A final recommendation will be submitted to the game commission executive office by October, but no action is expected from the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners until next spring.

If the change is approved, it would add two words — deer and turkey — to the regulation that already bans the feeding of bear and elk.

The proposed ban would not apply to bird feeding, food plots — small pieces of property planted with crops specifically for deer consumption — or regular agricultural activity.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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