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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Across the eastern seaboard and east to the Mississippi River, White Tail Deer were all but extirpated by the turn of the 20th century.......Pennsylvania began a rewilding program in 1906 that from that point on saw a doubling of the population every two years.........With their natural predators(Wolves and Pumas) also long gone from Penn woodlands, farmers were experiencing punishing destruction from "Bambi's" eating habits...............This caused the state legislature to begin a doe hunting season in 1923..............As we have discussed on this blog several times, despite Coyotes and Black Bears prominently crisscrossing the paths of Deer in 2013, the density of whitetails in Pennsylvania is at a habitat destructive estimate of 22-23 per square mile(Game Officials cite a 1,000,000 deer population that in the Fall of each year is reduced by 300,000 during the hunting season----note that Pennsylvania has roughly 44,000 square miles of land, this so after Phily, Pitt, W-Barre, Erie and Allentown metro acreage are deducted from the total land mass).........................Remember that pre-colonial per square mile density of Whitetails in Eastern North America was 6 to 12 and as you hit 15 or more per sq. mile, biodiversity falls off dramatically due to deer dietary consumption of plant matter................All true scientific prognosis points to the fact that Pumas and Wolves need to re-wild Pennsylvania once again!

LOOKING BACK 1916: Trapping deer, not hunting them


Pennsylvania's state mammal is the white-tailed deer. That doesn't mean that it's the favorite mammal in the state, though. Farmers tend to hate them, since they can ruin a crop with heavy grazing.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission was created in 1895 and given the responsibility of managing the state's deer population. This was not an easy task. Though the deer population is large, it can be highly localized, so that what is an excess population in one county may be a dearth of animals in the neighboring county.
Pennsylvania's deer population seemed so small in the early 20th century that the Pennsylvania Game Commission began stocking deer in 1906. The following year a new law was passed that protected does and young deer. With that, the herd began doubling in size about every other year, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's web site.

"So plentiful have deer become in some sections of Pennsylvania that it is necessary to take some action to save the crops. Not even the state game commission itself can kill the does, under the law, so the only thing to do is to trap the deer and ship them to counties which don't have such animals," the Public Opinion reported in 1916.
At the time, Franklin County was one of the places where farmers were having to deal with the destruction that deer herds caused.
However, no practical traps existed to capture the deer without injuring them until Joseph Kalbfus, the state's chief game inspector, invented a new deer trap.He didn't even bother to patent it because he wanted people to build them to us By profession, Kalbfus was a dentist, but he was also a nature lover who wanted to help conserve Pennsylvania's natural resources. His new trap would capture deer without harming them.
"Doctor Kalbfus' plan calls for a five-pointed star, covering about half an acre, with ten gates, one at each point and one at each angle between the points. Gates at the points are to be closed by hand; gates in the angles will be weighted to close and lock automatically when released by a trigger after the deer get inside," according to the Public Opinion.
The traps were estimated to cost around $200 to build (about $4,300 today). Each one required 125 rods of woven wire mesh, 100 pounds of smooth fence wire, 20 posts, 2,100 board feet of lumber, hinges, nails and spikes. Once built, the traps were baited with sugar beets, alfalfa or clover to attract the deer.
"The beauty of the star-shaped deer trap is that the deer can enter from any and all directions and so long as the gates are open can come and go at pleasure," Kalbfus said.
The traps were completed in October and deployed around Franklin County. It is not noted how many deer were trapped, but it wasn't enough to deal with the problem.
By 1923, the state Legislature removed the protection on does and allowed a controlled antlerless deer hunting season.
"A hundred permits were issued for a three-day hunt in two Franklin County townships and eight antlerless deer were taken. Also that year, laws were passed to provide deer-proof fencing and allow farmers to shoot deer for crop damage," according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission web site.
Kalbfus was not around to give his opinion about this hunt. He and Field Superintendent Wood Kelly were killed when their car was struck by a train on Aug. 10, 1919, as they were inspecting a proposed game refuge in Warren County.

Looking Back is published every other Monday. James Rada Jr. is an award-winning writer living in Gettysburg. He is the author of four historical novels and has written historical articles for a number of regional and national magazines. 

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