Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Game Commission to add lyme disease education to hunting course

June 25. 2014 11:05PM

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The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Hunter-Trapper Education Course instructs thousands of new hunters each year on how to hunt and how to do it safely.

Soon, the course will also focus on prevention.

Coinciding with the passage of a Senate resolution (SR 338) urging the PGC to include Lyme disease education in its HTE course, the agency will add it to the classroom curriculum beginning next year.The resolution was introduced by state Sen. Richard Alloway (R-33) and was adopted on April 28.

Game Commission press secretary Travis Lau said the online HTE course already includes information on how to protect against Lyme disease, and a segment will be added to the classroom portion of the course next year.

Lau said the information couldn’t be included for 2014 because those courses are already underway and the curriculum can’t be changed. The length of the classroom course - six hours - won’t changed with the additional Lyme disease portion, Lau said, adding the agency agreed with the concept behind the Senate resolution.

“We recognize the benefit to adding that material,” Lau said. “It doesn’t get any worse for Lyme disease than in Pennsylvania and these precautions are necessary.”

The information will deal mainly with he basics when it comes to Lyme disease prevention - identifying ticks, tucking in pant legs to limit exposure and what a tick bite looks like.

Pete Sussenbach, land management supervisor for the PGC’s northeast region, said ticks are a part of life in the outdoors and an HTE course is the perfect way to reach those who could be impacted the most.

“An HTE course is one of the few outlets where you can educate a large number of people who could be directly affected by ticks,” Sussenbach said. “You’ve got to step up your game and be more vigilant.”

Sussenbach said his Food and Cover crews frequently encounter ticks all throughout the region and the threat of Lyme disease is something they’re always aware of while working outside.

“We’re always checking our pant legs and using the spray repellents,” he said. “And this doesn’t just center around hunters. It’s everybody who enjoys the outdoors.”

While the resolution didn’t need to go to the House for approval, state Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Nanticoke), who is secretary of the Game and Fisheries Committee, was in full support of the measure.

“It’s a wonderful idea. Hunters are generally one of the groups at greater risk of Lyme disease, and I’m for anything we can do to raise awareness among a group that has such a strong interest in the outdoors,” Mullery said.

State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Lehman Township) supported the resolution because it increases awareness and education on Lyme disease among a group - hunters - that frequents the outdoors.

“These are classes with a lot of 11 and 12-year-olds just starting out and it’s important to get them to understand early on how to protect themselves,” Baker said. “Giving them that added information when they’re in the woods will be a lifetime benefit.”

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