Tips about poaching and other illegal activity reported in record numbers.
The Operation Game Thief program continues to efficiently route record numbers of tips about poaching and other wildlife crimes to Wildlife Conservation Officers statewide, Game Commission staff told the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today.
Operation Game Thief was launched in late September 2015, and its first three months handled a whopping 768 reports about poaching and illegal activity.
That’s well above the number of tips coming into the Game Commission’s hotline during a 12-month span in many years prior to Operation Game Thief’s launch, said program co-administrator Chad Eyler.
And even though the peak for poaching activity is still a month or more away, 728 tips have come in so far in 2016, meaning last year’s tip total could well double.
“The numbers prove it, Operation Game Thief is getting results in getting people to pay attention to and report poaching and crimes against wildlife,” Eyler said. “At not yet a year old, the program already is a success.”
Eyler pointed to a handful of reasons the program has been so effective.
Internationally, 41 states and Canadian provinces have an Operation Game Thief program, so the name is widely recognized.
Additionally, the Game Commission’s Operation Game Thief program is designed for rapid response to violations and, in most cases, information is dispatched to officers within five minutes, Eyler said.
In its first year, Operation Game Thief was responsible for several large cases, including the unlawful taking of multiple trophy bucks. The hotline also has been used to submit reports of unlawful baiting in hunting areas, resulting in charges and preventing animals from being taken unlawfully.
Board of Game Commissioners President Brian Hoover called the program “phenomenal” and praised staff for the results it’s getting.
Have you witnessed a wildlife crime involving a deer, turkey, bear or elk, or a species that is protected, endangered or threatened? Call Operation Game Thief’s toll-free hotline – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – at 1-888-PGC-8001. Reports also can be submitted online on the Law page of the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.
PROPOSAL WOULD REMOVE OSPREY FROM THREATENED SPECIES LIST
Game Commission says growing population and geographical distribution warrant change.
The osprey, which in recent decades has seen an increasing population and distribution in Pennsylvania, soon could be removed from the state’s list of threatened species.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Harrisburg and gave preliminary approval to an updated management plan for osprey that, among other things, calls for a change in the osprey’s status in Pennsylvania, defining it as a protected species rather than a threatened species.
If the plan and status change receive final adoption at a subsequent meeting, the board also will adopt heightened penalties for those who unlawfully kill ospreys. Similar penalties were adopted when the bald eagle was removed from the state’s list of threatened species in 2014.
The board at today’s meeting preliminarily approved the heightened penalty, as well.
The proposed management plan runs through 2025.
It notes the osprey has achieved objectives outlined in the plan and no longer meets the definition of a threatened species. The plan sets objectives of at least 50 total nesting pairs with a steady or increasing population, including at least 10 nesting pairs in each of four watersheds for the second consecutive comprehensive survey. Those objectives all were achieved in the 2016 nesting season.
Upon becoming a protected species, ospreys would continue to be a protected species under state statutes and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Board of Commissioners also preliminarily approved a heightened, $2,500 replacement cost to be paid by anyone convicted of killing an osprey after the bird’s status is changed.
As it is now, the osprey is listed as a state threatened species, the unlawful killing of which results in a $5,000 replacement cost. If the osprey’s status changes to protected, the replacement cost would drop to $200, an amount commissioners said falls short of provided the bird the additional protection it still needs.
To the osprey’s benefit, Pennsylvania Game Commission staff also will continue to implement the plan and monitor osprey nests to ensure that this species does not regress toward endangerment.
CENTRE COUNTY GAME LANDS TO GROW BY 18 ACRES
Property surrounded by State Game Lands 323 acquired for $36,000.
An 18-acre tract that’s completely surrounded by State Game Lands 323 in Centre County could soon be added to the game lands.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved purchasing the property from Vivian and Joshua First for an option price of $36,000 lump sum to be paid with funds from third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects.
The transaction is contingent upon transfer of an easement currently held by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the property to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for no consideration.
The tract is located in Howard Township and is forested with mixed northern hardwoods.
Access to this property is through the game lands, and a 15-foot and a 50-foot right of way that leads to Township Route 663, also known as Old Route 220.
CHANGES TO SUNDAY SHOOTING-RANGE USE TABLED
Measure to be brought before the board again in the future.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today tabled a vote to allow shooting ranges on state game lands to be open longer on Sundays before and within the firearms deer and bear seasons.
The commissioners said the proposal – which called for ranges to remain open from 8 a.m. to sunset on the Sundays immediately preceding, and any Sundays throughout the duration of the firearms deer and firearms bear seasons – had not been properly advertised.
It will be brought back to the board sometime in the future.
Shooting ranges on game lands regularly are open from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Saturday. Regular Sunday hours are noon to sunset. Exceptions previously were in place for the Sundays immediately preceding the firearms deer and firearms bear seasons, when ranges were open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Commissioners said the proposed expansion of Sunday hours, while minor, would create a convenience for hunters who might find themselves pressed for time to adjust sights or scopes on firearms at the height of the hunting season.
The measure also would strengthen safety provisions by prohibiting the possession or discharge of a loaded firearm anywhere on the range while another person is downrange.
Intentionally shooting at or damaging the frames or stands constructed to mount permanent target backboards also would be prohibited if the measure receives approval.
COMMISSIONERS BID FAREWELL TO WEANER
Appointed in 2008, Ron Weaner, of Biglerville, serves final meeting as commissioner.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today thanked Commissioner Ron Weaner, of Biglerville, for his more than eight years of dedicated service on the board.
Many of the commissioners took the opportunity to the thoughtful manner in which Weaner approached his position.
“He was truly a good commissioner,” Commissioner Timothy Layton, of Windber, said of Weaner. “His heart was always in the right place. His mind was always in the right place. He spoke up, and he spoke for the hunters in his area.”
In recognition of his service, the Game Commission presented Weaner with a framed wildlife art print.
Weaner said it was an honor to represent hunters who are so passionate about their sport and to work with Game Commission staff, many of whom are among the very best in their respective areas of expertise. He said he’s proud of improvements made to the deer program during his tenure, as well as additional opportunities approved for mentored youth hunters.
“This truly has been one of the most fun things I’ve done in my life,” Weaner said. “Thanks for eight great years. I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Monday, September 19, 2016
Tips about poaching and other illegal activity reported in record numbers.
Posted by Solomon's words for the wise at 9/19/2016 05:59:00 PM