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Notebook: State’s ‘elk patrol’ now in second year

Everybody Adventures | Bob Frye

Anyone who heads to Pennsylvania’s elk country this weekend for the third annual Elk Expo might want to remember to mind their manners.

The state’s “elk patrol” — which uses state police, wildlife conservation officers and forest rangers to educate the public about the niceties of visiting Pennsylvania’s elk range — has begun for a second year.

The elk patrol is coordinated by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Initiated last year, it is not designed to keep people from seeing elk, or hassling those who visit the elk range.

Instead, it’s meant to improve wildlife-viewing tourism while lessening traffic congestion and problems for the people who live year-round in places like Benezette Township, Elk County.

Last year, elk patrol members spoke to more than 1,140 people. Most were given directions, advice or a copy of the “Wildlife Watching in Pennsylvania’s Elk Country” brochure, which details places to see elk. A total of 296 people received warnings for things like trespassing and careless driving. Only seven received citations.

This year’s elk patrol effort kicked off Aug. 29. It will continue through October, with several modifications. Patrolling, for example, will be better coordinated with times of peak visitor activity — like this weekend — when the elk are bugling and the expo is taking place.

PennDOT will post two flashing signs along Route 555 near Benezette to warn motorists of elk and driving hazards. A third sign might be posted on Winslow Hill Road.

The Elk Expo will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Elk County Fairgrounds in Kersey.

As part of the expo, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will conduct a public drawing at 6 p.m. Saturday to award 100 elk tags — 80 for cows, 20 for bulls — for the 2003 elk hunt.

The PGC received 26,577 applications for those licenses. The top five counties in terms of applications were Allegheny (1,343); Westmoreland (1,270); York (1,104); Lancaster (1,068); and Berks (878).

Applications were also received from 48 other states and Canada.

The elk herd is estimated to number between 650 and 700 animals. This year’s hunt is set for Nov. 10-15.

HABITAT MONEY

As it has each of the past two years, the PGC will dedicate $100,000 — or all of the money collected from the first 10,000 elk license applications received — to a special fund meant to improve habitat in the elk range.

The DCNR has pledged another $100,000 for elk habitat improvements this year, too. That will bring to $600,000 the total spent by the two agencies on elk-range habitat improvements over the last three years.

An effort to increase that total using private money is continuing. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has pledged $150,000, and is working to raise another $150,000.

RMEF director of northeast field operations Dave Messics said other organizations supporting the program, and the amount they’ve pledged, are: Dominion Resources, Pittsburgh, $15,000; Sinnamahoning Sportsmen’s Club, $5,000; Safari Club International, Lehigh Valley Chapter, $5,000; Pennsylvania Wildlife Habitat Unlimited, $10,000; and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, $9,113.

The habitat work is meant to hold elk on public areas within the 835-square-mile elk range, reduce the herd’s impact on private property and enhance elk viewing.

The PGC and DCNR hope to double the 1,100 acres currently managed as herbaceous openings. Crews have identified about 80 sites where that work might take place.

SWORN IN

The two newest members of the PGC have been sworn in, brining the board — at least for now — to its full compliment of eight commissioners.

Thomas E. Boop of Sunbury, Northumberland County, was officially sworn-in Aug. 27 by Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage.

A native of Laurelton, Union County, and a lifelong hunter, Boop is a private practice lawyer and member of several sportsmen’s organizations. Boop also owns Willowcreek Farm, a livestock operation that’s enrolled in the farm-game program.

Boop fills the vacant seat for District 5, which is comprised of Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Sullivan, Tioga, and Union counties.

Sworn in Sept. 10 was Gregory J. Isabella, of Philadelphia. Handling those ceremonies was Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Frank T. Brady.

Isabella is the first person from Philadelphia to be sworn onto the PGC board in 68 years. He fills the vacant seat for District 8, which is comprised of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill counties.

A native of Philadelphia and a hunter for 30 years, Isabella is a co-owner of Firing Line Inc., a military and police equipment distributor.

Gov. Ed Rendell nominated both Boop and Isabella to the board July 1. They were confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate July 28.

PADDLEFISH

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocked paddlefish in the Allegheny and Ohio rivers in August, just as it’s done for the last several years.

The number of fish released, though, was far less than was hoped for.

Rick Lorson, the PF&BC’s area 8 fisheries manager, had wanted to stock 10,000 12-inch paddlefish. He got just 1,600.

A limited number of paddlefish fry, and poor survival at the hatchery, was behind the reduction, he said.

About 1,500 of the paddlefish were stocked last month. The remaining 100 will be stocked sometime in October or November, after they’ve grown to about 18 inches.

The PF&BC is holding the fish until then so that bigger transmitters can be inserted under their skin. Researchers from California University of Pennsylvania plan to track the paddlefish over the winter to see where they go.

PGC MEETING

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will meet Oct. 6-7 in the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters at 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg.

Each day will begin at 8:30 a.m. On Monday, the PGC board will accept public comments and hear reports from various agency bureaus and regions. Tuesday, the board will consider taking action on several agenda items, including consideration of changes to fluorescent orange regulations for 2004-2005.

Both days of the meeting are open to the public.

Article by Bob Frye,
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