Recent action by the Pennsylvania legislature has forced a change in Game Commission plans to once and for all eradicate wild boars.
Since 2008, when the state Supreme Court forced jurisdiction over feral swine onto the Game Commission, the agency has tried to contain the spread of the destructive invasive species through netting programs and encouraging hunters in most situations to shoot them on sight. Those controls have been ineffective in controlling wily swine.
In January, the commissioners voted that effective July 1 it would be illegal for commercial game farm operators to import boars into Pennsylvania, and on July 1, 2014, it would be "unlawful to possess feral swine or wild boar of any description or other name within this Commonwealth." That pleased environmentalists and Game Commission biologists, who argue that escaped swine, which do not occur naturally in Pennsylvania, cause extensive property and agricultural damage, are destructive to native wildlife and their habitats and pose health risks.
The Game Commission ruling rankled game preserve owners, however, who argued the new rules would force them out of business. Last week Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law state Senate Bill No. 644, which changes the definition of "wild animals" in this case to include only swine that are not held in captivity.
The change in semantics benefits game farm owners by placing legal jurisdiction over captive boars solely with the state Department of Agriculture, which has not endorsed the Game Commission's aborted plan to restrict their importation.
The Game Commission retains authority over boars that escape to the wild, and an executive order remains in place permitting hunters to kill any feral swine encountered in the wild. The agency plans to revisit the issue at its September meeting.
A June 16 story about efforts to contain the spread of invasive sea lampreys in the Great Lakes erroneously included a photo of European river sea lampreys (Lampetra fluviatilis).
Fish for free
Pennsylvania's second and last 2013 fish-for-free day is on the Fourth of July holiday. Residents and nonresidents can legally fish without a fishing license on all of the state's waterways. Private property restrictions and all other fishing regulations apply.
With July 4 falling mid-week this year, the state Fish and Boat Commission warns that family vacations may lead to increased on-the-water traffic.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported in 2012 that about 500 people drown each year in recreational boating accidents -- 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Also, the alcohol threshold for boating under the influence (BUI) is the same as with motor vehicles, 0.08 percent. In 2011 and 2012, 122 people were arrested for BUI in Pennsylvania.
Fishing for dollars
Cabela's national "Fish for Millions" contest, which ends July 7, has paid off for top winner Raymond Biddle Jr. of Jefferson Hills, who won a $60,000 Ranger bass boat with a largemouth taken at Keystone Lake, Westmoreland County.
Additional Western Pennsylvania contest waters are the Ohio River miles 0 to 11 (Allegheny County), Lake Arthur (Butler County) and Presque Isle Bay, (Erie County). Register at www.cabelas.com/fishformillions.
Patricia Sartoris of Latrobe recently placed second in her class in the Pennsylvania State Sportsmen's Association Colonial Classic and state shoot, held in Elysburg, Pa. She hit 187 of 200 clay birds.