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New regulation expands the role of ‘public’ hunting for suburban deer

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/26/2018 John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Outdoors Notebook

A recent clarification in Game Commission regulations might impact the role of police in managing deer in Mt. Lebanon and other Pennsylvania municipalities.

In an attempt to reduce deer-vehicle collisions by 50 percent, Mt. Lebanon commissioners agreed to pair annual firearm culls with a controlled archery program. Some council members said at the time they felt more comfortable if local police were shooting the arrows, particularly in public parks.

Last month, Game Commissioners approved a measure designed to strengthen the “public hunting” component for deer-control permits issued to municipalities to address deer problems on private and public land. The revision defines public hunting as hunting available to the general public that “shall not include hunting opportunity that is afforded to an individual, or class of individuals, solely by virtue of their public employment.”

“By calling for public hunting to play a greater role in alleviating excessive deer populations, Pennsylvania deer hunters have been given more opportunity in places with sizable deer problems,” a Game Commission media release said.

Mt. Lebanon commissioners and its solicitor are expected to review the regulation’s new language.

"We are in conversations with the Game Commission about the specifics of this action and how it may impact our program," said Ian McMeans, Mt. Lebanon assistant manager.”

Controlled hunts are organized to include a limited number of vetted participants who must have a valid hunting license and doe tag. They must be hunting in season with the consent of the landowner. In parks, the municipality is considered the landowner. In legal terms, firearm culls, in which the animal does not have a sporting chance of escape, are not considered “hunting.”

It is not known whether police or other Mt. Lebanon employees were selected for the archery program. The municipality won a court challenge that attempted to force its commissioners and controlled-hunt organizer to reveal the names of participating hunters and property owners. Paid contractors conduct the firearm cull.

Mt. Lebanon’s 2017-18 controlled hunt eliminated 25 deer from the densely populated, heavily trafficked 6.2-square-mile community. The current archery hunt began in September and will end Jan. 26.

In March, 57 deer were killed in the sharpshooting cull. The next is scheduled for March 2019.

Municipal spokeswoman Susan Morgans said the community kerfuffle has calmed since the deer-reduction policy was enacted, and deer numbers seem to be dropping in parts of Mt. Lebanon. There have been no hunting-related shooting incidents related to the program, she said.

“We’re not getting as many complaints from people about safety issues or deer pooping in their yards or decimating their gardens,” said Ms. Morgans. ”Our staff and commission will evaluate the 2018-19 archery hunt … and sharpshooting program as we continue to pursue the goal of effective deer management.”

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