5.22.2013

New Elk Biologist Appointed-Special Elk License Gains House Approval

Jeremy Banefield, Elk Project Leader: Photo Courtesy PA Game Commission
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced on May 17, 2013, in News Release 035-13, that Rochester, N.Y. native, Jeremy Banefield has been appointed to the position of elk project leader.   Although it does not specifically say so, he is was likely hired to fill the position formerly held by the late Jon DeBerti.

Below is the Release in its' entirety:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 17, 2013

Release #035-13

ELK BIOLOGIST BEGINS WORK WITH GAME COMMISSION 
Jeremy Banfield previously worked for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania Game Commission has hired a new wildlife biologist to serve as its elk project leader. Jeremy Banfield began his work for the commission this week.

A native of the Rochester, N.Y.-area, Banfield comes to the Game Commission after working most recently as a wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Banfield received his bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management from Michigan State University and received his master’s of science in ecology from the University of Alberta.

While working toward his master’s degree, Banfield’s studies focused on mountain lion foraging and prey selection, with an emphasis on impacts to elk populations.

Banfield has experience capturing and radio-tracking elk and other wildlife, investigating and resolving crop-damage issues, conducting wildlife surveys and research studies, running check stations and providing public presentations on his work.

Banfield also is a four-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, where he worked as a machinery technician with and supervised a boat engineering and maintenance group.

Banfield, his wife and his 2-year-old son have taken up residence in DuBois. In his new role, Banfield said he wants to continue Pennsylvania’s legacy of effective elk management in the state’s northcentral region. “I look forward to meeting and talking with the residents of and visitors to the area comprising Pennsylvania’s elk range, and working to ensure the continued success of the state’s elk,” Banfield said.

To read other important News Releases visit the PGC Website and look for News Releases under Quick Clicks

Elk License Opportunities

According to information received from Paul Staniszewski, The House has unanimously passed House Bill 577.  This is legislation that if approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, would guarantee at least one resident of the Elk Management Area receives an opportunity to purchase an elk hunting license each year. The bill provides for a raffle open only to residents of the elk management area, with the prize being the opportunity to purchase one elk license. According to the text of the bill the drawing would be for an antlered elk license in even-numbered years and an antleress license in odd-numbered years.

Foggy Morning Bull
 This appears to be another "feel good" measure that is a sure fire win for the politicians, but in truth accomplishes little if anything.  It seems some, if not many residents of the elk range, do resent the fact that they put up with the tourists and hunters and endure property and crop damage from elk, yet seldom does an elk tag go to someone who has to put up with the problems.

While the bill may appear to rectify this to a certain extent, one needs only to consider that most people live in the more developed areas of the range, so it seems likely that most who would enter a raffle for one of these licenses, would be from one of the  towns or a more heavily developed areas in the elk range. Someone who actually owns the properties where the damage and conflicts occur would still have an extremely small chance of getting a license.

In reality this  appears to be nothing more than another aspect of the current trends of  more seasons, special seasons, longer seasons, higher bag limits, more days of the week to hunt, etc.  It is all about increased "Hunting Opportunity" and not about what is best for wildlife.

To read the full text of the bill and for other information Click Here.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

5.01.2013

EHZs Realigned!-No Hunt Zone Eliminated?

At this point things have become somewhat more clear about the realignment of the Elk Hunt Zones (EHZ), which we discussed in some depth in the last post. In  this I used the rough sketched map below, which shows the way the EHZs have been aligned for the past several years. From this it seemed reasonable to assume that they would remain reasonably the same, with EHZ 11 and 12 added to the mix.  If one looks at the map, they simply started with Zone 1 in the northwest corner of the elk management area and then numbered the units in a clockwise circle, coming back to EHZ 10 meeting EHZ 1 in the east, with the No Hunt Zone being in about the center of the western half of the elk management area, which corresponds to the core of the traditional core elk range on Winslow Hill.

Approximate Map of Hunt Zones In Recent Years-2 More Zones Added This Year--Source: W. Hill-"The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd

When pondering the license allocations for 2013, there were some things that just didn't add up though unless the EHZs were changed substantially in some areas as zones 5&6 were in the eastern part of the elk range where there is little controversy about elk/vehicle collisions and other elk related problems at this time. The new allocations really slammed the pressure on the elk in these zones with  a total of 7 bull tags and 23 antlerless tags being issued for these two zones, but the elk/human conflict problem area was centered in the Medix Run--Weedville corridor.

Things became more clear when the April 27th issue of Endeavor News arrived.  Well known elk writer, Carol Mulvihill's article, "Spring brings new life to Pennsylvania elk population" featured a small map of the new hunt zones.  Paid subscribers to the online edition may read the article in its' entirety by clicking the link, while others must wait 3 weeks until it is available to the general public.

2013 Elk Hunt Zone Map: Created by W.Hill based on map published in Endeavor News
I created a map of the new zones by drawing in Photoshop.  I emphasize that this is a a very rough drawing and county lines, and EHZ lines are only very general in nature. Do not try to analyze it closely and try to figure the exact location of anything.  In fact the map used by Ms. Mulvihill as best as I can tell does not show  route 255, or 555, or Winslow Hill Road, which the maps in the Hunting and Trapping Digest never do either. This makes it impossible to tell from the maps where the boundaries are, but the digests do have detailed written descriptions of the boundaries, so we will likely have to wait for the 2013-14 Digest to be published to be sure of things.

From this map though, it becomes clear why zones 5&6 have the high allocations.  These EHZs now appear to be in the area from beyond Weedville to the west to possibly well past Benezette on the south side of RT 555 to the east.  In addition EHZ 10 has been moved from the western edge to the east.

It is very clear that the PGC and a very vocal portion of the public do not want elk in town, or have to deal with them on the highways.  While at present the majority of the complaints about elk seem to be centered around the Medix Run to Weedville  and the Rt 255 corridors, the photo below, taken in Benezett, shows the type of situation that many are unhappy about.

Large Herd In Benezette
There is no mention in Carol's article of a No Hunt Zone nor is there one on the map, but there is an  EHZ 7, which is a very small area on the map, in what seems to be the location of the present No Hunt Zone.  It has an allocation of 0 Bulls and 0 Antlerless so if this is the replacement for the No Hunt Zone it makes no difference at this point. Assuming the boundaries remain the same, it is simply playing with semantics, but it does make it much easier to begin shooting elk everywhere on Winslow Hill in the future.  If this move is accepted with little or no public reaction, it will be very easy to start allocating tags for the area. The acceptance of the term EHZ 7 for  No Hunt Zone, removes a psychological barrier to elk hunting in the center of elk tourism on Winslow Hill.

I emphasize at this point that I will not guarantee the accuracy of any of this, but as more information becomes available it seems that things are going to change and the change will likely be very significant. Assuming that EHZ 7 with its' 0 allocation is the replacement for the No Hunt Zone, it will not surprise me at all if the size of area  is drastically reduced.  The bottom line is that time will tell and it should become clear by the time the Hunting/Trapping Digest is published, but I would not even assume that this is a given, as there seems to have been much tighter control on the release of information pertaining to elk management and the elk hunt in the past few years.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.