Big bears, big harvest in 2013
Pennsylvania hunters harvested a total of 3,510 bears in 2013, the fifth-highest tally in state history.
The figure was released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission last week and continues a trend of recent bear seasons taking their place in the record books. With harvest totals for 2013 now official, three of the five highest harvests have occurred in the past three years.
The all-time high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. In 2012, Pennsylvania hunters harvested 3,632 bears – the third-largest harvest in state history.
What might place 2013 in a class of its own is the number of large bears taken. Hunters in 2013 harvested 58 bears that weighed 500 pounds or more, and nine of those bears weighed 600 pounds or more.
While 2012 saw a higher number of bears harvested statewide compared to 2013, fewer large bears were taken. Forty-five of the bears in the 2012 harvest weighed 500 pounds or more, with five of them weighing 600 pounds or more.
“Seeing large bears in the harvest speaks well to the health of our bear population, but it also shows the opportunity that exists to harvest a truly, trophy-sized animal,” said Mark Ternent, the Game Commission’s bear biologist.
The harvest’s heaviest bear, taken in Lackawanna County on Nov. 25 by Daniel J. Beavers of Covington Township, Lackawanna County, weighed an estimated 772 pounds.
The second- and third-heaviest bears of 2013 were taken later in the season. Nicholas Corridoni, of Duryea, turned the extended bear season in Luzerne County into a successful one by taking a bear estimated at 656 pounds during a Dec. 5 hunt in Pittston Township. And Derek A. Long, of Yukon, harvested a bear estimated at 640 pounds during the final day of the general season while hunting in Covington Township in Clearfield County.
One bear on the 2013 top-10 list – a male with an actual live weight of 598 pounds – was taken in the statewide bear archery season. Randall E. Tressler, of McVeytown, took the bear Nov. 20 with a crossbow in Wayne Township, Mifflin County.
Overall, 197 bears were taken during the statewide archery season in 2013.
Extended bear seasons played a significant role in the overall harvest in 2013. Statewide, 780 bears were taken during extended seasons, which are open in select wildlife-management units. The total represents an increase compared to the 672 bears harvested during extended seasons in 2012.
Tioga County claimed the highest harvest in extended seasons, with 100 bears taken after the close of the general statewide bear season. Other top counties, and their harvest totals during the extended seasons, were Wayne, 66; Bradford, 65; Pike, 60; and Potter, 54.
Bears were harvested in 53 of the state’s 67 counties. And unlike many years, when the top counties for bear harvests come exclusively from the Northeast and Northcentral regions, the Northwest Region also is represented on the top-five counties list in 2013. Meanwhile, one of the usual leaders, Clinton County, dropped from the list. Among counties leading the bear harvest were: Tioga, 286 (227 in 2012); Lycoming, 234 (341); Potter, 196 (179); Pike, 150 (108); and Warren, 148 (94).
Ternent said changes in the top-five counties list this year have their explanations. Acorns are a highly sought-after food by bears in the fall. And in years like 2013 when acorns are scarce, northcentral counties like Clinton, which are made up mostly of oak forest, tend to see harvest decline. Meanwhile, counties farther north, like Tioga and Potter, increase their harvests because beech and cherry are more common.
Final county harvests for the northeast region (with 2012 figures in parentheses) are:
Pike, 150 (108); Wayne, 127 (73); Sullivan, 105 (60); Luzerne, 98 (100); Bradford, 96 (86); Monroe, 79 (102); Wyoming, 66 (57); Carbon, 57 (67); Susquehanna, 55 (41); Lackawanna, 48 (37); Columbia, 24 (36); Northumberland, 14 (26); and Montour, 0 (3).
Other recent bear harvests include: 3,090 in 2010; 3,512 in 2009; 3,458 in 2008; 2,360 in 2007; 3,124 in 2006; 4,162 in 2005; 2,976 in 2004; 3,004 in 2003; 2,686 in 2002; 3,063 in 2001; 3,075 in 2000; and 1,741 in 1999.
PFBC approves youth fishing license
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission voted at its quarterly meeting Thursday to create a voluntary $1 youth fishing license and to dedicate the revenue generated from it to programs to increase youth fishing participation.
“Increasing youth and family participation in fishing, boating, and conservation programs has always been part of our strategic plan,” PFBC executive director John Arway said. “This goal responds to the fact that the percentage of children and young adults ages 6-15 who fished in Pennsylvania in 2010 was only 24 percent, as compared to 37 percent in 2005 and 41 percent in 1995. We want to continue to refine and develop programs to engage kids.”
A youth license also provides an added benefit when it comes to federal funding, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the PFBC’s budget. For every youth license sold, the PFBC will receive approximately $5 in federal revenue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act program, which provides funds to states based on a formula that includes the number of licenses a state sells.
According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 367,000 children and young adults ages 6-15 fished in Pennsylvania in 2010.
“I want to emphasize that this is purely a voluntary youth license, and it is not required for kids to fish,” Arway said. “If just 25 percent of those 367,000 children were to purchase a voluntary $1 license, it would result in more than $550,000 in revenue for the Commission to invest in youth programs,” added Arway.
He added that the potential market for voluntary youth license sales goes beyond the youth anglers, their family and friends. Clubs, organizations, businesses, individuals and others who are interested in promoting youth angling could purchase quantities of voluntary youth license vouchers to distribute to children.
Once a voluntary youth license is purchased or a youth license voucher is redeemed, the individual will be assigned a unique customer identification number (CID).
“Having unique CIDs allows us to analyze license purchasing patterns and trends, tailor messages and programs, and correspond directly with customers,” Arway added.
The voluntary youth license will be available beginning Feb. 1 from all licensing agents and online through the PFBC’s Outdoor Shop. With a $1 agent fee and a 70-cent transaction fee, the total cost to purchase the license will be $2.70.
Youth who plan to participate in the upcoming Mentored Youth Fishing Days must obtain either a voluntary youth fishing license or a free mentored youth fishing permit. It is not necessary to obtain both. The Mentored Youth Fishing Days are scheduled for March 22 and April 5. More information is available at www.gonefishingpa.com.
Also, commissioners voted to seek public comment on a staff proposal to remove the option seniors 65 and older currently have to purchase a lifetime trout/salmon permit in conjunction with the purchase of a $50 senior resident lifetime fishing license.
Under the proposal, seniors who want to fish for trout would have to purchase a permit each year, beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Seniors who purchase a lifetime trout/salmon permit in conjunction with a lifetime license before that date would be grandfathered.
“About 70 percent of seniors purchase a trout/salmon permit, which mirrors the rate for other anglers,” Arway said. “The Commission’s trout program accounts for 36 percent of the Fish Fund annual expenditures, and the cost of trout production continues to rise. We simply can no longer afford to allow anglers to fish for trout without paying for the annual permit.”
The PFBC estimates that the proposed change would generate approximately $300,000 in additional annual revenue by the fifth year. Once the notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the PA Bulletin, individuals will have 30 days to submit comments. Comments can be submitted through the PFBC website.
In other action, commissioners:
* Approved a regulation change that permit anglers who purchase a one-year, multi-year or senior lifetime fishing license and then move out of state to continue to use the license until it expires.
* Approved the elimination of the regulation which requires boat owners to affix a temporary validation decal to their boats while their registration application is being processed. Boat owners now will be able to demonstrate proof of registration by showing a copy of their registration application. The change goes into effect on April 1, or upon publication in the Pa. Bulletin, whichever is later.
* Approved a change to the Statewide Natural Gas Leasing Program which removes the restriction on how funds generated from the program must be used.
A complete copy of the meeting schedule and the full agenda for the meeting can be found on the commission’s web site at www.fishandboat.com/minutes.htm.
Vote for new fishing button color
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is encouraging anglers to vote online for their favorite color for a new series of fishing license buttons, which will be available beginning in March.
“The buttons for this first year will be in the color which receives the highest number of votes,” Arway said. “Brought back by popular demand, this custom button is similar to the buttons offered by the PFBC in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and again in 1974 and 1975.”
Each custom button will measure 1 3/4 inches (same as past, vintage buttons) with a high-quality pin-back design and feature the angler’s customer identification number (CID), same as the number displayed on a paper license.
Anglers need to display only the button when fishing, as long as they are carrying a valid paper license.
The purchase of an annual or multi-year Resident, Non-Resident or Senior Resident fishing license is required in order to purchase a license button. The button is an optional purchase for anglers and will be $5 each, available through the PFBC’s online store (The Outdoor Shop) and at some PFBC locations. As an annual button, the color and date on the button will change each year.
This online ballot will be available through Jan. 31.
New report details runoff issues in Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a new report Monday on the benefits of systems to control runoff pollution. Entitled “Polluted Runoff: How Investing in Runoff Pollution Control Systems Improves the Region’s Ecology, Economy, and Health,” the report sheds light on the problem, debunks myths around the costs of solutions, and calls for actions to be taken that will reduce the damage of polluted runoff.
“As the only major pollution source continuing to grow, attention is now focused on reducing untreated urban/suburban runoff,” CBF president William C. Baker said. “This is a local problem requiring local solutions that will provide significant local benefits. But there are important roles for the federal and state governments in tackling the challenges of polluted runoff.”
When rain hits hard surfaces, like streets, parking lots, and lawns, it collects a toxic mix of pollutants including bacteria, chemicals, and nitrogen and phosphorus. Nationally, researchers have found pesticides in 97 percent of urban runoff samples, at levels high enough to harm aquatic life 83 percent of the time. Our antiquated system for managing this polluted runoff in many existing towns and cities is to get it as quickly as possible, untreated, into local rivers and streams.
The visible results are beach closures, flooding, and fish consumption advisories. The less visible results are serious damage to the life in our rivers and streams. Researchers have found that Brook trout disappear when only 2 percent of a watershed is paved over. Sensitive amphibians disappear when 3 or more percent is paved, and yellow perch stop reproducing when 10 percent of a watershed is paved.
The runoff problem is two-fold. First, many towns and cities were built when treating runoff merely meant getting rid of it. Second, the urban and suburban runoff continues to grow as development spreads far and wide. Every year, new development paves over 10,000 acres of forests and farms, an alarming rate. To put that in perspective, every four years an area of land the size of Washington, D.C. is paved or hardened in the Chesapeake Bay Region.
The report found that the three major bay states — Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania — and federal government all need to do more to limit the damage caused by urban and suburban polluted runoff.
The report is intended to educate the public as well as elected officials, and cites research done across the region as well as national studies. It can be found at cbf.org/pollutedrunoffreport.