State game commissioners table changes to feral swine regulations

Legislation signed into law on June 24 prompted a vote the following day by the state Board of Game Commissioners to put on hold any changes to regulations for feral swine and wild boars.

The commissioners at their January meeting proposed regulatory changes for feral swine and wild boars, which do not occur naturally in Pennsylvania, but sometimes escape to the wild from fenced hunting preserves. The action was based on the conclusion that escaped and feral swine are destructive to native wildlife species and their habitats, and pose health risks and other threats.

The animals are prolific breeders and quickly can establish wild populations once escaped.

The proposed rulemaking, which was tabled June 25 by a unanimous vote of the commissioners, included the statewide removal of protection for feral swine and wild boars. It also called for a ban on the importation of wild boars and feral swine, then, a year later, for making it illegal to possess the animals.

The commissioners indicated they would take more time reviewing the issue, considering that Gov. Tom Corbett on June 24 signed into law state Senate Bill No. 644, which amends the definition of “wild animals” to remove any species of swine held in captivity. The change in definition placed the authority solely with the state Department of Agriculture to manage captive Pennsylvania swine.

The Game Commission continues to hold authority for feral swine that escape to the wild.

Meanwhile, an executive order remains in place that allows hunters statewide to take any feral swine and wild boar they might encounter in the wild.

Feral swine can be taken with any lawful firearm, bow, crossbow, or by trapping. All takings of feral swine and wild boars must be reported to the local Game Commission Region Office within 24 hours of the kill. The carcasses of all feral swine and wild boars taken must made available to the commission for disease sampling.

Coal deal to create 2,031 acres of new game lands

A deal permitting a Pennsylvania coal company to perform surface mining at two state game lands clears the way for the state Game Commission to acquire a third property, in Cambria County, that would become a new, 2,031-acre game lands.

The Board of Game Commissioners on June 25 approved a package of five mining and reclamation agreements with Laurel Sand & Stone Inc., of Ligonier. As part of the agreements, the company would conduct surface mining and reclamation projects on nearly 249 acres of State Game Lands 79 in Cambria County and about 476 acres of State Game Lands 276 in Indiana County.

In exchange, Laurel Sand & Stone will convey to the Game Commission three tracts totaling 2,413 acres.

One of those tracts – the 2,031-acre Driscoll Hollow Tract in Susquehanna and Elder townships in Cambria County – is to be designated as the new State Game Lands 334.

To pay for the land, the commission will credit Laurel Sand & Stone the first $2 million of the accumulated royalties of the deals approved today. The acreage of the Driscoll Hollow Tract will be transferred incrementally on annual basis as mining progresses and the royalties accumulate. However, the entire tract will be entered into the Game Commission’s Hunter Access program immediately upon execution of the lease agreements.

The Driscoll Hollow Tract is one of three Laurel Sand & Stone is conveying to the commission. The company also is giving up a 346-acre tract in Butler County that is adjacent to State Game Lands 95, as well as a 36-acre tract in Cambria County, adjacent to State Game Lands 79.

The initial term of each surface mining agreement is five years, with Laurel Sand & Stone paying royalties of 6 percent freight-on-board price for all coal 11,500 BTUs or greater; 5 percent for all coal 8,500 to 11,499 BTUs; and 4 percent for all coal less than 8,500 BTUs.

Freight-on-board price, or F.O.B., is the price for which coal is sold at the pit.

Commission approves

peregrine falcon plan

The commissioners gave unanimous approval to a peregrine falcon management plan crafted by the commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management and covering the years 2013 through 2022.

Commissioners said they discussed the plan at a previous working group meeting and saw a presentation on the plan during the June 24 meeting.

The board also scheduled a host of upcoming meetings, to be confirmed at a later date.

The commissioners gave approval to a working group meeting on Aug. 12 in Harrisburg. Meanwhile, the September meeting is set tentatively for Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 in Delmont.

The January meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 26 through 28 in Harrisburg.