Lawmakers protect wild boars on state’s hunting preserves

Harrisburg — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners has once again tabled action on feral swine and wild boars.

A proposed regulation removing protection for all such animals anywhere in Pennsylvania and prohibiting their “importation, possession and release into the wild” topped the commissioners’ agenda for their June 24-25 meeting in Harrisburg.

The goal would have been eradication of the animals in Pennsylvania, before they reach environmentally epidemic levels in the wild as they have in some other states.

However, as they did at previous meetings, commissioners voted to table the proposal.

Their action came in the wake of Monday’s signing into law by Gov. Tom Corbett of a bill that gives all authority over wild swine in captivity – primarily in hunting preserves that release the animals inside fenced areas for paying hunters to kill them – to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Senate Bill 644 (now Act 25) also redefines “a species or variation of swine, pig or boar, held in captivity” as not wild.

The bill, authored by Senate President Joe Scarnati, R, Jefferson, zipped through the state Senate in two-and-a-half weeks in March, passing on a 32-18 vote. Then it sailed through the state House of Representatives in just under three months, passing on a 172-24 vote.

In one apparent concession to environmentalists and others concerned about the impact on the habitat and wildlife outside the fence by any swine that might escape the hunting preserves and maybe breed in the wild, the new act requires that any male swine released onto a hunting preserve must be sterilized.

“It’s wrong for our state in the future,” said Johnna Seeton, an officer of the Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network, whose lawsuit led to a 2007 state Supreme Court ruling that the Game Commission was responsible for feral swine and wild boar regulations in Pennsylvania.

That decision prompted the commission to begin development of regulations, which SB 644 pre-empted.

“I probably won’t be around to see the degradation,” she predicted. “Many of the young people here will be.”

For details on the impact of feral swine on the landscape, Seeton noted, “all you have to do is Google feral hogs. You’re the guys who are going to be called on in 10, 20 years to deal with the degradation.”

Commissioner Ralph Martone responded, “I’m not quite as worried, because we’re going to continue our efforts to eradicate any wild boar that gets outside the fence.” He said he expects that hunters will keep the wild wild-boar population in check.

According to commission Executive Director Carl Roe, “feral means outside the fence. We still want them all killed.”

Roe’s 2011 executive order remains in force, allowing all licensed hunters to kill free-roaming wild boar and feral swine outside fences on sight, using any legal hunting weapon.

Commissioners and commission staff intend to take up revised regulations on escaped or illegally released, free-roaming feral swine and wild boars at their Sept. 23-24 meeting.

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