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To feed or not to feed? A good question

OUTDOORS WITH JAKE

Gary Patrick of Exeter got this nine-point, 250-pound mule deer in Montana from just under a half-mile with a Remington Sandaro 7m ultramag rifle.

I get asked all the time if I believe in feeding wild animals. The answer is not as easy as yes or no. The questions are much more complex then that. I do believe in backyard bird feeding at this time of year. A properly placed and well maintained bird feeder can both help wildlife and bring hours of enjoyment to the family shelling out the seeds. The winter we are having is tough on our feathered friends and they can always use some food to help them get by. On the other hand, backyard bird feeders attract predators such as hawks and stray cats. They are song bird killing machines and the backyard feeder is simply making them easy prey. Be sure to watch for perched hawks and prowling cats. If they are frequenting your feeders every time a bird shows up than you might want to consider changing the location of the feeder or stopping the practice all together.

Bird feeders come in all sizes and shapes. They are designed to hold specific food to attract a certain type of bird. The larger pet stores have taken advantage of the bird watching craze. They have everything you need to put one up yourself. The problem is they don’t come with common sense. You need to provide that on your own. A good example of that is the local family who called me and asked for some advice on a squirrel problem. It seemed that squirrels had taken over their garage while playing havoc with everything from garbage bags to attic insulation. After further discussion, I learned that it all started with a bird feeder. It seemed that the word of easy pickings quickly spread across the squirrel community and they were moving in like the gold rush of California. The problem is the family was still filling the feeders at the time they called me. I told them I believed that common sense would point out that “no feeders might mean no squirrels.”It took a while but the problem was solved.

The most common question about backyard wildlife feeding has to do with whitetail deer. This is even more of a double edged sword. Part of me wants to turn to biology and the survival of the fittest belief. Wild animals are just that and should not be interfered with by humans and their food. If only the strongest deer survive than the animals left will be the strongest to reproduce and contribute to a stronger deer population.Feeding deer can closely congregate them and that allows for the easy spread of disease. Deer being fed too close to roads can also lead to dangerous driving conditions for humans and unnecessary deer mortality. These are just a few of the reasons you might say are found on the negative edge of the sword.

The other part of the answer falls on the yes or positive side but it comes with good reason. We (humans) are continually building homes, parking lots, roads and manicured lawns where deer used to find enough food to survive. We have allowed our forests to get too big to supply the proper food sources while housing developments to pop up everywhere. We have stopped farming and continue to build. The deer are being forced to look for food where they never would have years ago. It is because of these reasons that deer feeding is sometimes considered appropriate and in some cases necessary.

But remember, just like the bird feeder, people who feed deer should use a little common sense. If the deer are constantly crossing roads to get to your food, then you might consider changing the location or stopping all together. The deer should never get so used to humans that they lose the fear of us. This will only cause problems in the future. And last but now least. Stop feeding them as soon as the winter ends. These are just good practices to follow when you ask yourself the question, “to feed or not to feed.”

Game Commission Meeting

The Pennsylvania Game Commission held their winter meeting this week and gave preliminary approval to next years seasons and bag limits. Some of the changes directly affect us here in Wildlife Management Unit 3B. For example, 3B may be restricted to a five day rifle buck season and a seven day buck and doe season. This is a change from the two week deer season we have been enjoying for the past few years. You can check out the preliminary approvals by going to their website at ( www.pgc.state.pa.us). There is still time to voice your opinion before the final vote in April.

One of the votes included giving final approval to the shooting range permit. The new regulation requires all users of State Game Land shooting ranges to possess either a valid Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker license or a Game Commission-issued range permit, which would cost $30 per year for residents and non-residents.

Exceptions to this permit requirement are those 16 years of age and younger properly accompanied by a licensed or permitted person 18 years of age or older, and each licensed hunter or range permit holder could have one guest. For the first year, all permits will be effective from April 1, 2011, until June 30, 2012. After the first year, each permit issued will be valid from July 1 until June 30.

Permits will be able to be purchased through the Game Commission’s “The Outdoor Shop” on the agency’s website ( www.pgc.state.pa.us). Following the purchase, which will require payment by credit or debit cards, the permit can be printed from a home computer. The agency also will be able to sell the permits through its Harrisburg headquarters and six Region Offices. However, since the purchase will be processed through “The Outdoor Shop,” only credit cards will be able to be used for payment.

Red Rock Chapter Reminder

The Red Rock Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is once again holding their annual Hunting Heritage Banquet and Auction. This year’s event will be held next Saturday, February 12, at the Genetti Best Western, East Market Street in Wilkes Barre. The fun and excitement will start with the doors opening at 5:00 pm with dinner being served at 6:30.If you have any questions or would like information on tickets you may contact Dale Butler, Chapter President @298-0119 or 406-1139, Chastity King @ 472-1190, Christine Lamoreaux @ 696-2406 or Berny Golubiewski @793-0872.

Outdoor Life

Be sure to watch Pennsylvania Outdoor Life tonight at 6:30 on WNEP-TV. We will take you to the Early Bird Sports Show in Bloomsburg. Oh and by the way, GO STEELERS!

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