Agency splits wildlife management unit in Lycoming County

At its April meeting, the state Game Commission Board agreed to subdivide Wildlife Management Unit 2G, an action that will affect hunters in parts of Lycoming, Clinton, Tioga, Potter, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson and McKean counties.

The motion also included the creation of WMU 2H.

Details about the new WMU will be in the 2013-14 hunting and trapping digest. The unit’s boundaries are defined by the commission as: from Lantz Corners, Route 6 east to Coudersport; south on Route 872 to Austin; northwest on Route 607 to Keating Summit, then south on Route 155 to Route 120. Follow Route 120 south to Driftwood, then west on Route 555 to Route 255 in Weedville; south on Route 255 to Interstate 80. Travel west on I-80 to Route 219 near DuBois; north on Route 219 to Route 6 at Lantz Corners.

“The commission had a couple of thoughts and one was that there is a habitat difference in part of 2G,” said Joe Neville, director of bureau of information and education for the commission.

The board voted for the subdivision so the unit could be better managed for specific species, primarily deer.

The new unit consists of mostly northern hardwoods.

The commission bases the units’ boundaries on habitat, human density, public and private land ownership, recognizable physical features such as major roads and rivers, and land-use practices such as agriculture, timber and developments.

Board Vice President David J. Putnam, of Centre Hall, originally brought the idea to the table. The commissioner represents District 3, which includes Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield and Potter counties.

“I proposed the split of 2G to differentiate the northern hardwoods forest habitat from the oak habitats. There is much more active management going on in the northern hardwoods (beech, birch, maple, cherry) forest than in the oak types,” he said. “The active cutting is what deer need and the northern hardwoods have the potential to support more deer per square mile of forest than the oaks.”

Unit 2H covers about 999 square miles and 2G now has about 3,400 square miles.

In a report titled “A Proposal to Realign the Big Woods Wildlife Management Units,” which Putman submitted to the board, he said that numerous, and even persistent, suggestions from the public report that a lack of deer on public lands in “the big woods,” which refers to the area of WMU 2G.

The report also states that written and oral testimony from forestry industry representatives was given to split the boundaries of the area. They supported making the northern hardwood forest a separate management unit from the oak woods.

According to the commission, WMUs are designed to improve wildlife management and simplify hunting and trapping regulations.

But some animals are not managed based on WMU. These elk, waterfowl and migratory game birds.

Before the WMU system, the boundaries for hunting and trapping were based on a sort of artificial line the state’s 67 counties created, which could not be seen in the field.

“The idea behind the WMU was you have hard boundaries, like a road or interstate or a river, rather than a political line running through the woods,” Neville said. “Under the county system, you didn’t know what county you were in all the time.”

Now, the state’s 23 WMUs use boundaries such as roads, highways, rivers or creeks, and can include and cross over multiple counties.

Introducing the WMUs gave the commission more consistency, Neville said, and allowed it to better manage specific species.

Some WMUs have extended seasons for certain species, such as black bear.

If the Game Commission finds that, in a certain WMU, a species’ population is high enough, there could be a longer season for it, but if it’s too low or hunting impacts the population, the commission can shorten the seasons.

“The units are big enough, we can get enough data and we manage by that,” Neville said.

“There was a learning process at first by our hunters, but they since embraced that. We knew it would be challenging when we moved to that system,” he added.

This WMU system replaces one that was used since the 1920s.