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Game Commission Posts Avian Influenza Information on Website

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  • Game Commission Posts Avian Influenza Information on Website

    Dove and Early Canada Goose Seasons to Begin Sept. 1; Game Commission to Participate in USFWS Dove Wing Study; Game Commission Posts Avian Influenza Information on Website

    Last update: 2:35 p.m. EDT July 29, 2008

    HARRISBURG, Pa., July 29, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Expanded dove bag limits top the list of changes to dove and early Canada goose seasons that will open Sept. 1, as part of Pennsylvania's 2008-09 migratory bird seasons announced today by Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.

    Dove hunters, once again, will have the opportunity to participate in a triple-split season. During the first season (Sept. 1-29), hunting will start at noon and continue through sunset daily. The second and third splits will be Oct. 20-Nov. 24, and Dec. 26-29, with hunting hours a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. In all three seasons, the daily bag limit will increase from 12 to 15, and the possession limit after opening day will increase from 24 to 30.

    "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to simplify regulations, as some states currently have a 60-day season with 15 birds per day bag limit and others, such as Pennsylvania, have been holding a 70-day season and 12 birds per day bag limit," said Roe of the selection package forwarded to the USFWS. "Having a single season in all states in the eastern management unit enhances the USFWS' ability to monitor harvest effects on the population, and present data indicates the population can support this additional harvest."

    The early statewide season for resident Canada geese will open Sept. 1, and continue through Sept. 25. There have been changes to bag limits and zone boundaries this year. The Southern James Bay Population (SJBP) zone boundaries have been changed, and the bag limit has been reduced to three geese daily, and six in possession. The SJBP zone is defined as: the area north of Interstate 80 and west of Interstate 79, including in the city of Erie west of Bay Front Parkway to the Lake Erie Duck zone, which includes Lake Erie, Presque Isle and the area within 150 yards of the Lake Erie shoreline.
    Also, this year, hunters can take one Canada goose in the Pymatuning zone, while hunters may take up to three geese on Pymatuning State Park Reservoir and an area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of SR 3011 (Hartstown Road). However, in the Pymatuning zone, all of State Game Land 214, which is comprised of nearly 5,400 acres in Crawford County, is closed for the early Canada goose season.

    "Working with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, we are again providing hunters with the opportunity to take Canada geese within this portion of the park to address problems being caused by the goose population," said John Dunn, agency Game Bird Section supervisor.

    Dunn also noted that the controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties will remain closed to address the decline in the resident Canada goose flock. In the area of Lancaster and Lebanon counties north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike I-76, east of SR 501 to SR 419, south of SR 419 to Lebanon-Berks county line, west of Lebanon-Berks county line and Lancaster-Berks county line to SR 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road), west of SR 1053 to Pennsylvania Turnpike I-76, the daily bag limit is one goose, possession limit two geese. The early season is closed on State Game Land 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area).

    Excluding these three areas, the early season in the remainder of the state retains a daily bag limit of eight and possession limit of 16.
    Dunn noted that recent liberalizations in Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with control programs being implemented by many municipalities and public and private landowners, finally might be stabilizing the growth of the state's resident Canada goose population. The 2008 Pennsylvania resident Canada goose population was estimated at 246,500, which is similar to the recent five-year average of 285,250.
    "Hunting remains the most effective and efficient way to manage resident Canada geese, provided hunters can gain access to geese in problem areas," Dunn said.
    Pennsylvania's woodcock season will open Oct. 18, and continue through Nov. 15. The daily limit is three, and the possession limit is six.
    A season for common snipe will run from Oct. 18 to Nov. 29. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 16.

    Virginia and sora rail hunting will run Sept. 1-Nov. 8. Bag limits, which are singly or combined, are 3 daily or 6 in possession. The season for king and clapper rails is closed.
    Hunting for moorhen and gallinules will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 9, and the bag limits are three daily and six in possession.

    Once again, young Pennsylvania hunters will be provided with a special day of waterfowl hunting on Saturday, Sept. 20. The Youth Waterfowl Day will be open to those 12- to 15-years-old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During this special day-long hunt, youth can harvest ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens.

    In addition, because the Youth Waterfowl Day and the early Canada goose season overlap this year, youth and the adults accompanying them may harvest Canada geese. The daily limit for the Youth Waterfowl Day for Canada geese is the same as the daily limit for adults in the area being hunted. In the Pymatuning Zone, youth can take one goose. In the Pymatuning State Park Reservoir and an area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of SR 3011 (Hartstown Road), youth also can take the same daily bag limit as adults, three Canada geese. Additionally in the Pymatuning zone, all of State Game Land 214 is closed for the Canada goose harvest during the Youth Waterfowl Day.

    Youth Waterfowl Day bag limits for ducks, mergansers and coots will be consistent with the limit for the regular season, which will be announced in mid-August, after the annual Waterfowl Symposium on Aug. 8. The event will begin at 1 p.m., in the auditorium of the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area visitor center, along Hopeland Road, two miles south of Kleinfeltersville, Lebanon County. Public comments will be accepted at the meeting or by sending a letter to: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797; or via e-mail (
    Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3 for residents, $6 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory game bird and conservation (duck) stamp.

    Roe noted that, although hunting hours have been extended to one-half hour after sunset for big game (except spring gobbler), as well as small game and furbearers, federal regulations prevail for waterfowl and migratory game birds and shooting hours for these species will continue to close at sunset. The only exception to this is during the early September Canada goose season, in which the USFWS has permitted states to extend the hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset.

    Annual migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the USFWS. The Game Commission is expected to announce in mid-August the regular and late waterfowl seasons, after the agency holds its annual Waterfowl Symposium, Aug. 8.

    The "Pennsylvania 2008-09 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting" brochure will be posted on the Game Commission's website ( in mid-August, and the mass-produced brochure should be available at U.S. Post Offices in the state by the end of August.

    Hunters are encouraged to use a toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND), e-mail address or via the U.S. Geological Survey bird banding website ( to report banded ducks, geese and doves they harvest. Callers will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of waterfowl were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of waterfowl.


    Pennsylvania Game Commission officials announced that randomly-selected mourning dove hunters will be asked to participate in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experimental Mourning Dove Collection Survey for the 2008 hunting season.

    According to John Dunn, Game Commission Game Bird Section supervisor, the experimental mail survey will be conducted in all 39 states that have a mourning dove season. Similar wing collection surveys already are in place for waterfowl and woodcock.

    "Randomly-selected hunters will be asked to save one wing from each mourning dove that they shoot during the first week of the hunting season and mail their wings in postage-paid envelopes to the USFWS," Dunn said. "The wings will be used to identify the age of each bird, which will provide estimates of mourning dove harvest age ratios at the state and management unit levels.
    "Data from the wings will be used to estimate annual productivity of the dove population, and eventually used in helping establish hunting regulations and refine population models."
    USFWS officials will randomly select hunters to participate in the upcoming survey from the list of hunters who completed Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) cards and identified themselves as dove hunters. Dove biologists then will meet at the dove wingbee in November to determine the age of each wing submitted.


    As hunters prepare for waterfowl and migratory game bird seasons, the Pennsylvania Game Commission urges hunters to review information posted on its website ( about avian influenza and wild birds. The information can be accessed by selecting "Wildlife" in the left-hand column of the agency's homepage, and then scrolling down and clicking on "Avian Influenza" in the "Wildlife Diseases" box.

    "We have compiled a list of important facts, answers to common questions and links to more detailed information on our website," said Dr. Walt Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. "Migratory birds - typically waterfowl and shorebirds - are considered the natural reservoir for Avian Influenza viruses. But, these are the low-pathogenic strains of the disease, a far cry from the virus that is causing so much trouble in domestic poultry elsewhere in the world."

    Dr. Cottrell noted that avian influenza viruses are classified as having low pathogenicity or high pathogenicity based on the severity of the illness they cause in poultry, and most are not considered a public health threat. Indeed, the impact of highly pathogenic H5N1 on migratory bird populations and the role that wild birds play in the spread of H5N1 is unclear.

    "Scientists are uncertain if wild birds were the source of the highly pathogenic virus, or if they acquired it from poultry," Dr. Cottrell said. "The worry is that, once infected, wild birds could transport the virus to a new location, but these relatively few infected wild birds are rarely able to travel far."

    The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has not been detected in North America, in spite of testing more than 100,000 samples. However, this virus has caused the largest and most severe outbreaks in poultry on record in Asia, Africa and Europe. At present, the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus does not easily infect people and only very rarely spreads from person to person. In cases where this strain has infected humans, it is a serious disease; while only about 240 people are known to have contracted the disease worldwide, about half of them have died. Most human cases of the virus have been as a result of very close contact with infected birds or consumption of raw or undercooked poultry. Even as serious as it is, it has not attained the capability to cause a human pandemic.

    Since its discovery in China 13 years ago, the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain has spread to Asia, Europe and Africa, where it has primarily affected domestic poultry. Legal and illegal movement of infected birds, poultry products, contaminated materials, equipment and vehicles, as well as wild bird migration, are some of the ways that highly pathogenic virus can be spread.

    Dr. Cottrell noted that if the highly pathogenic H5N1 is detected in wild birds in the United States, it does not necessarily pose a threat to the general public. Even though the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has been detected wild bird species, the actual number of wild birds infected with H5N1 has been relatively very low. There currently is no scientific basis for controlling highly pathogenic H5N1 by management of wild birds beyond physically segregating poultry from exposure to wild birds.

    "For prevention's sake, hunters should follow routine precautions when handling game birds," Dr. Cottrell said. "Do not kill, handle or eat sick game. Wear rubber or disposable latex or nitrile gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game. Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling animals. All poultry should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit."

    Cottrell pointed out that a certain level of mortality in wild birds is normal, and that wild bird mortality can occur as a result of trauma, ingestion of pesticides, infections and accidents of nature, most of which pose no threat to the health of domestic animals or people. However, incidents of five or more ill or dead birds (not including pigeons) in the same geographic area over a one- or two-day period may indicate significant mortality and should be reported during regular business hours to the Game Commission Region Office that serves the area.

    "Bag and refrigerate - but do not freeze - the birds in a cooler with ice until arrangements for pickup or disposal can be made," Cottrell said. "Even in cases involving five or more birds, the cause of death can often be determined without laboratory testing. Game Commission staff may make arrangements to acquire dead birds or recommend disposing of them in a plastic bag in household trash that ends up at a regulated landfill."

    The Game Commission's wild bird mortality investigations are part of a larger operation in cooperation with USDA Wildlife Services. In addition to following up on citizen reports of dead birds, Game Commission biologists are sampling mallards and other dabbling ducks statewide, as well as scaup (a species of diving duck) taken by hunters on Lake Erie, to test for avian influenza. Environmental samples also will be taken by USDA from areas where waterfowl congregate and tested for avian influenza. D1BB76E33C2CA%7D&dist=msr_7