Game Commission concedes Pennsylvania predators need to be studied

Jeff MulhollemRight or wrong, many Pennsylvania hunters seem to be infuriated by the Game Commission reintroducing and carefully protecting predators in our state, such as fishers and bobcats.

Those animals were here in healthy numbers before human activities decimated their populations in the early 1900s – and most would argue they belong here – but many hunters hate them for killing deer fawns, turkeys and small game.

Furbearers highly valued for their pelts, bobcats, fishers and also reintroduced river otters are a new quarry for hunters and trappers. Still their predatory nature greatly annoys many.

And that’s understandable at a time when coyote and bear numbers are seen as so high that they are taking a toll on fawns and impacting deer numbers, and when protected avian predators such as red-tailed hawks are perceived to be gutting small-game populations.

Still the Game Commission has mostly ignored hunter angst about predators in recent years, so it was significant when Matt Lovallo, leader of the agency’s game mammals section, addressed “population changes among other predators” in a recent news release about the need for a study of predation on deer fawns

“Predator communities in Pennsylvania have changed during the past several decades due to increased coyote populations, fisher reintroductions and fishers dispersing in Pennsylvania from West Virginia,” Lovallo said. “Management programs for bobcats and fishers also have targeted conservative harvests, allowing for growth in those populations.”

Lovallo went on to say that Game Commission biologists (and biologists from other agencies) seek a better understanding of the “community structure and relative abundance of forest predators in several areas of the state to provide insight on how these species compete for and partition prey resources.”

It is worth noting that the predation study being launched this winter by the Game Commission was resisted by agency biologists – who as recently as October said it was not needed because fawn numbers in annual hunter harvests have remained stable. But game commissioners, led by Jay Delaney, of Luzerne County, and Dave Putnam, of Centre County, forced them to undertake the research.

As a result, Lovallo explained, biologists are now evaluating techniques to allow them to estimate abundance of bears, coyotes, bobcats and fishers.

Needed or not, this study of predation on fawns and of predator numbers will yield fascinating results. Now whether angry Keystone State deer hunters will believe them — that’s another story.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, PenBlogs, Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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