Game commission delaying deer removal plans

Officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission have delayed the deer removal planned in southern Blair and northern Bedford. (AP photo)

Officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission have delayed the deer removal planned in southern Blair and northern Bedford counties.

The state game commission said last month it planned to cut the region’s deer population in half to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Rep. Jim Gregory said he and other area lawmakers met with a game commission official this week, along with several state representatives and the chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, to discuss the controversial plan.

“Speaking for my constituents, hunters, landowners and farmers, I expressed extreme concerns about the Game Commission’s proposal to eliminate more than half of the 4,000-5,000 deer in our region in reaction to reported cases of chronic wasting disease,” said Gregory.

Gregory said the game commission is now postponing the plan in order to allow other potential solutions to be heard and considered.

“My concerns were heard,” Gregory said. “We worked together with the Game Commission today and succeeded in getting a delay on the culling in order to give all stakeholders, especially those who passionately want a solution, a chance to be heard and engaged in the solution.

The game commission also said Tuesday they did not receive the necessary support from landowners to allow them on their land to study and eliminate deer as needed.

Many hunters and other members of the community have been vocally against the game commission's removal plan after 6 News first presented the story Thursday. The method of using a large-scale elimination plan has had mixed results in other states that have tried it.

While final numbers were still up in the air, based on the previous year’s estimate that the region has between 4,000-5,000 deer that would mean the elimination of roughly 2,000 deer between what hunters killed during the hunting season and what sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Team would have eliminated.

Chronic wasting disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the Center for Disease Control. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurological symptoms.The game commission and the USDA planned to begin the sharpshooting expedition later this month or in March. Bert Einodshofer, Information and Education Supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission Southcentral Region, said he had received numerous calls from hunters who claimed to have seen the sharpshooters out or found deer that had already been killed. Einodshofer said no hunting had been done, and deer found in bins were either road kill or deer leftover from the past hunting season.

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