Outdoors notebook: Commission seeks to grow deputy force
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is looking to increase the size of its deputy wildlife conservation officer force.
Deputies are part-time officers, paid a daily per diem that can reach $80, who handle law enforcement, public outreach and more. At its peak in the 1970s, the commission had about 1,700 deputies, said Tom Grohol, chief of the bureau of wildlife protection.
“I'm not sure we want to get to that point. That was a lot,” he said.
But the commission would like to get to 450 deputies by 2020, he said. Right now, it's got about 350, with 30 more in various stages of training.
An internal committee met in August to discuss recruitment, retention and program management, he said. Recommendations will come in early 2016, Grohol said.
One idea on the table is to make it easier for commission employees to moonlight as deputies.
That was discouraged in the past, Grohol said. There were even some barriers — employees had to take leave for training, for example — that limited participation.
With an eye to reaching a new market, the National Shooting Sports Foundation recently had a study done looking at the interest Hispanics have in hunting and shooting.
It found “an opportunity to attract a new, passionate constituency to the shooting sports,” the Foundation said.
The study determined that the Hispanic population in the United States is estimated at 57 million, and has the buying power of more than $825 billion.
It also found that 72 percent of Hispanics surveyed participated in outdoor recreation in the past year; 18 percent own a firearm and 25 percent hope to buy one within a year; 41 percent had been to a shooting range; and 54 percent would go if invited.
People in Alaska need encouragement to get outdoors?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an “urban wildlife refuge partnerships” program aimed at getting people involved in outdoor activities near home. Recently, it signed up three new cities to participate: Atlanta, Springfield, Mass., and Anchorage.
The Service also announced that five cities, including Pittsburgh, are now “urban bird treaty” cities. Participants work to “conserve migratory birds through education, citizen science and conservation action.”
Locally, the goal is to improve backyard habitat at 100 homes, restore mixed-hardwood forests at Dead Man's Hollow Conservation Area in McKeesport, track bird collisions with buildings, and apply collision-reducing window treatments at 200 homes.
White-tailed deer and even mice previously have been exposed as carriers of Lyme disease.
It turns out birds can spread it, too.
A recent study done by graduate students at the University of California-Berkeley found that birds — including species commonly found near people, like robins — are a more common carrier of Lyme disease-causing bacteria than previously thought. Researchers said the findings are significant because birds have the potential to travel farther and faster than mammalian hosts.
Pennsylvania's neighbor to the south is taking extra steps to combat chronic wasting disease in its wild deer herd.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources added eight more counties to the list of places where it's illegal to bait or feed whitetails. All in the eastern panhandle, they are Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral and Morgan.
The expansion came after a meeting of wildlife managers from surrounding states, including Pennsylvania.