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Outdoors notebook: Bigger bug problems, electronic deer calls, CWD and more

Everybody Adventures
| Saturday, May 5, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Lyme disease spread by ticks is a growing problem across the United States.
Lyme disease spread by ticks is a growing problem across the United States.

If you think ticks, mosquitoes and fleas are becoming bigger problems than ever, you're right.

According to a new "Vital Signs" report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insect bites from those pests tripled across the United States between 2004 and '16. More than 640,000 cases were reported.

Ticks are behind a lot of that.

The number of reported tick-borne diseases more than doubled in those 13 years. They accounted for more than 60 percent of all reported disease cases.

What's worse, nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during that time.

"Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya — a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea — have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don't know what will threaten Americans next," said Robert Redfield, director of the CDC.

The nation isn't really prepared, he said.

To reduce the spread of disease and respond to outbreaks "will require additional capacity at the state and local level for tracking, diagnosing, and reporting cases; controlling mosquitoes and ticks; and preventing new infections; and for the public and private sector to develop new diagnostic and vector control tools," the report concluded.

Another report, meanwhile, shows one impact of contracting Lyme disease.

The Sleep Research Society — in a study billed as the first of its kind — determined that people with Lyme suffer from poor sleep. That led to fatigue but also worse pain, worsening motor skills and depression.

The problem is significant enough that "sleep disturbance" should be considered a clinical sign of the disease, they said.

Somerset Lake

Somerset Lake in southwestern Pennsylvania is going to be rebuilt.


It's just not going to be as soon as expected.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission drained the lake last fall so its dam could be rebuilt. The goal was to do the work this year and next, then allow the lake to refill in time for fishing to occur again in 2020.

That's not going to happen.

The state Department of Environmental Protection isn't expected finish its permit reviews for the project before the end of this year. In that case, construction would occur in 2019-20, with the lake reopening in 2021.

In a news release, the commission said such delays "are not uncommon" in multi-year projects.

As to rumors that this is a sign the lake isn't going to be rebuilt, that's simply not true, said commissioner Len Lichvar of Somerset County. Funding remains in place, he said.

"On the positive side, this will provide added time for large-scale habitat and other fish-habitat improvements to be completed while the lake is drawn down," he said.

In the meantime, as a safety measure, the lake bed is off limits to the public because of "soft and mucky conditions."

Deer calls

Electronic calls for hunting whitetails?

One Pennsylvania lawmaker is pushing the issue.

Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre County), is sponsoring Senate Bill 1153. It would legalize the calls for hunters "to enhance their outdoor experience."

"Electronic deer calls do not substantially alter the already common practice of attracting deer through calls, but rather add to the sport by assisting with recruitment and retention of our younger generation of hunters," he wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors.

He pointed out that Pennsylvania allows electronic calls for predator hunting, electronic decoys for waterfowl and ozone machines to help with the elimination of scent. About half of states allow electronic deer calls.

"I believe that electronic deer calls will present an opportunity to get more people out into the field to experience hunting first hand and possibly gain a lifelong interest," Corman said.

The Senate game and fisheries committee approved the bill. It now goes to the full Senate.

Turkey opener

The calendar is going to play tricks with Pennsylvania spring turkey hunting over the next two years.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's turkey management plan calls for opening the spring gobbler season on the Saturday closest to May 1. This year, that's April 28.

In 2019, though, it will be April 27.

May 4 is actually the Saturday closest to May 1, but only by one day, said Mary Jo Casalena, turkey biologist for the commission. Biologists and hunters would rather open the season earlier than later, though, so they're recommending April 27.

That will be one of the earliest opening days ever, she said.

The following year, in 2020, spring gobbler will likely open May 2. That would be one of the latest openers ever.

That's because 2020 is a leap year, Casalena said.

"It's just because of the way the calendar falls," she said.

Gun issue

Was it the boycott or just general business?

Either way, Vista Outdoor might be getting rid of Savage and Stevens firearms.

Vista is an umbrella corporation that owns several companies that make outdoor products. Following the school shooting in Florida, REI, the outdoors co-op retailer, said it no longer would sell products marketed by Vista so long as it remained in the gun business.

Now, Vista is considering getting rid of those brands.

Don't credit the boycott, though. Vista Outdoor CEO Chris Metz said REI's decision represented less than 1 percent of the company's total sales.

Instead, the possibility of divesting itself of Savage and Stevens has been under discussion since last November. It's all part of "strategic business transformation planning."

Wasting disease

So, can monkeys get chronic wasting disease from tainted meat or not?

A study published last summer and done by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said yes. Monkeys fed CWD-positive meat got sick.

Now, though, the National Institutes of Health says the opposite.

That agency did its own study over 13 years. Monkeys were injected with CWD and fed meat known to have the disease. The disease "did not cross the species barrier," it reported.

Still, researchers suggest people not eat CWD-infected meat.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

Article by Bob Frye, Everybody Adventures,

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