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More on the failed Pa game commission deer plan - audit article

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More on the failed Pa game commission deer plan - audit article

Old 03-02-2010, 01:57 PM
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Default More on the failed Pa game commission deer plan - audit article

Interesting portion of a recent article:

"The model the PGC employs to estimate the state's deer population and track its trends was deemed by WMI to be "credible."

However, WMI criticized the agency for withholding its population data from the public.

If you asked a PGC official in recent years how many deer live in Pennsylvania, you likely heard the following response. I heard it many times.
We don't gauge our deer management program by the number of deer in the state.
I always assumed that meant the agency didn't make such estimates.

Apparently, WMI had the same assumption going into the study.

"When WMI submitted our proposal to conduct a review of deer management in Pennsylvania, it cautioned that the requested estimates [of deer population figures] would not be attainable if data of sufficient rigor were not available," the report states.

"WMI learned that the PGC had calculated estimates for deer populations for each WMU, including breakdowns by sex and age."

According to PGC figures, the state's herd in 2007 stood at a low estimate of 850,000 and a high estimate of 1.28 million.

Those estimates reflect a 25 percent decline in the herd since 2002, the report states.

That's the first I've seen such numbers. And it seems this report represents the first opportunity anyone outside the agency has had to see them.

"WMI does not agree, however, that population estimates need to be shielded from the public," the report states. "Doing so, in WMI's view, has weakened the trust placed in the PGC by the public and has affected the agency's credibility."

State Rep. David Levdansky, of Allegheny County, who is a member of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, said he was "stunned" to learn the PGC had been keeping population estimates in recent years.

"I had no idea," he said. "And the question I have is, why would a public agency withhold information from the public it serves?"

Another member of the committee, state Rep. Robert Godshall, of Montgomery County, said he thinks the estimates are worthless, since the 2007 figures vary by 400,000 deer.

"How do you manage the herd if your population estimates vary by 50 percent?" he said. "When you allocate doe tags, do you go by 850,000 or do you go by 1.28 million?"

And he said he doesn't buy that the herd has declined by 25 percent.

"We know darn well it went down more than that," Godshall said. "You used to see 10-20 deer a day, and now it's hard to see three in three days."

In a related arena, WMI rapped the PGC on the knuckles for not doing enough to make hunters report their deer kills.

Each year, the agency acknowledges only about 40 percent of hunters report their deer kills to the PGC.

Hunters are required by law to make those reports, but enforcement of that requirement is spotty.

"The PGC needs to develop and prioritize policies and procedures to increase harvest reporting," the WMI report states. "The declining trend in the reporting rate jeopardizes the viability of the PGC's harvest estimates."

The report notes, and PGC officials agree, the new electronic licensing system offers an opportunity for the agency to be more aggressive in compelling hunters to report their kills.

Godshall suggested hunters be required to report their kills or forfeit the right to buy a hunting license the following year.


Since 2001, the PGC has said the deer management program would be guided by three main indices in each WMU health of the deer, health of the forest and the number of deer-human conflicts.

The way agency biologists gauge deer health is by having wildlife conservation officers collect road-killed deer during the late winter and spring, cut them open and count the number of embryos inside to establish reproductive rates.

"The PGC believed reproductive rates to be a function of an aggregation of both forest and non-forest habitat quality," the report states.

WMI first said the PGC's embryo-collection data were insufficient, chiefly because "effort among WCOs varied widely," the report states.

But besides that, WMI doesn't think counting embryos is an effective measure of herd health.

"Based on the analysis of embryo and forest regeneration data, there appears to be no correlation between reproductive rates and forest health at the WMU level," the report states.

It continues, "WMI believes the deer health index used by the PGC should be replaced."

Measuring antler beams on yearling bucks is a better test, the report states, although WMI notes that wouldn't work in Pennsylvania due to the antler restrictions, which are designed to protect yearling bucks.

"Fawn-to-doe harvest ratio is the most preferred alternative," the report states.

In its response to the report, the PGC stands by its health measure, but promises to consider alternatives.

"Despite biological and statistical support for this measure, the value of the measure to the deer management decision-making process warrants further consideration, as recommended," the PGC's response letter states.

On the way the PGC gauges forest health by tracking the changes in test regeneration plots, WMI said the method is valid, but the sampling size is insufficient.

"Forest health data as currently collected suffers from inadequate sampling," the report states. "The practice of pooling five years of ... data into an estimate used to adjust annual antlerless permit allocations is difficult to interpret and defend."

The PGC agrees, but says it's doing the best it can.

"We would always like to have more data," agency spokesman Jerry Feaser said. "But collecting that data costs money. Where do we get that money?"

Tom Boop, a member of the Board of Game Commissioners who has been critical of the science behind the agency's deer management program, said he believes WMI's comments on the PGC's measures of deer and forest health validate his criticisms.

"I've been critical of our management program the past six years for not following sound science," he said. "This audit is hardly a ringing endorsement of our so-called scientific program."
...
What happens now?

WMI noted some of its recommendations require the PGC to spend money on resources and hiring more employees.

The PGC has been saying for years it needs a hike in hunting license fees to do what it's already doing, let alone take on anything new.

And all state agencies are under a hiring freeze, as per the instructions of Gov. Ed Rendell.

Levdansky said he's aware of those limitations, but he isn't sure the PGC is committed to making the changes recommended in the report anyway.

He described the agency's response to the report in a news release as "tepid."

In the release, PGC Executive Director Carl Roe said the agency welcomes "the conclusion that the overall scientific foundation of the Game Commission's deer management system is sound."

He also noted the report "provides some opportunities to improve our deer management program.

"Some of the recommendations we can address easily, but some will require additional resources to be able to implement."

Chris Rosenberry, head of the PGC's deer management team, pledged to implement the report's findings and recommendations "where possible."

"I think it's going to be up to the members of the general assembly to continue to remind the Game Commission that white-tailed deer are a resource for all Pennsylvanians," Levdansky said.

Boop said he thinks the "deer management team is taking this as a validation of what they're doing," and is likely to dismiss the "real criticisms" leveled by WMI.

From my perspective, I think we will see a continuation of the battle WMI observed in its report.

"The PGC appears to be at the forefront of developing techniques to assess impacts of deer on forest habitat quality," the report states.

"The PGC, however, continues to be subjected to considerable criticism from hunters about deer management programs. Most states have had a period of time when deer management goals, practices or decisions were controversial, but Pennsylvania is unique in that the period of controversy seems never to have waned."
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Old 03-02-2010, 01:58 PM
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I highlighted the parts I found most of interest in bold and or red.
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Old 03-02-2010, 02:18 PM
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I am amazed that we finally have an outdoor writer who did his homework and actually read and understood the audit. Can you provide a link or the name of the author? I'd like to give him a big pat on the back!!
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Old 03-02-2010, 02:21 PM
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Imagine that, another PA Game post. Guys, have you ever thought of giving this forum a rest. So we can see other things than PA and the PGC? I mean seriously, enough already. I get it, your not happy. But why ruin this forum so no-one else wants to post something about MD, or DE, or whatever.
 
Old 03-02-2010, 02:47 PM
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No one from PA jumped in on the MD. thread ,so why are you complaining about this PA thread. There is more than enough server space for you to post anything you want about MD,so go ahead and post it.
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Old 03-02-2010, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by bigcountry View Post
Imagine that, another PA Game post. Guys, have you ever thought of giving this forum a rest. So we can see other things than PA and the PGC? I mean seriously, enough already. I get it, your not happy. But why ruin this forum so no-one else wants to post something about MD, or DE, or whatever.
Because most PA only sites have shut down the most extreme of the basher crowd. Dont misunderstand, they allow debate but when the posts get as extreme as they often do here, it gets shut down or cleaned up
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by BTBowhunter View Post
Because most PA only sites have shut down the most extreme of the basher crowd. Dont misunderstand, they allow debate but when the posts get as extreme as they often do here, it gets shut down or cleaned up

I challenge you to name the PA only sites,other than HPA, that have shut down the most extreme of the basher crowd. The simple fact is there are no sites that restrict discussions to hunting just in PA,so once again you are WRONG!!!!!

BTW, are you trying to hijack this thread like bigcountry?

Last edited by bluebird2; 03-02-2010 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 03-02-2010, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bigcountry View Post
Imagine that, another PA Game post. Guys, have you ever thought of giving this forum a rest. So we can see other things than PA and the PGC? I mean seriously, enough already. I get it, your not happy. But why ruin this forum so no-one else wants to post something about MD, or DE, or whatever.
If you dont like these threads dont read them!!
And the reason you dont see more threads in this forum by members from MD. and DE. is because they dont have very many hunters!!
And many of the hunters you do have are from PA. any way.
Face it, MD. residents would rather play soccer, lacrosse and attend Peta demostrations than go hunting!! Pike
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Old 03-02-2010, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bluebird2 View Post
I am amazed that we finally have an outdoor writer who did his homework and actually read and understood the audit. Can you provide a link or the name of the author? I'd like to give him a big pat on the back!!
Yeh cornie, I would like to know who the author is as well!! Pike
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Old 03-02-2010, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by bluebird2 View Post
I challenge you to name the PA only sites,other than HPA, that have shut down the most extreme of the basher crowd. The simple fact is there are no sites that restrict discussions to hunting just in PA,so once again you are WRONG!!!!!

BTW, are you trying to hijack this thread like bigcountry?

First how can anyone hijack a PGC bashing thread by talking about PGC bashing?

Second, I never said that any PA site restricted discussions to only PA but when PA is part of the name, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that PA will dominate the subject matter
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