Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cold Call Lingering Impact of Winter Not Expected to Hamper Early Hunts Lingering Impact of 'Polar Vortex' Winter Not Expected to Hamper Early Hunts

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cold Call Lingering Impact of Winter Not Expected to Hamper Early Hunts Lingering Impact of 'Polar Vortex' Winter Not Expected to Hamper Early Hunts

Article excerpt

Across much of the United States, natural cycles on land and water have been out of whack since the long, cold polar vortex winter of 2014. In Pennsylvania forests and farmlands, many growing seasons continue to be off schedule, including those of some foods eaten by white-tail deer and black bears.

But hunters are not expected to see a difference in game population or dispersal during special urban archery bear and antlerless deer seasons opening Sept. 20.

The early hunts and other wildlife management tools were put in place to help the state Game Commission exert some control over unchecked deer populations and nip the bud of expanding bear ranges surrounding Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. A statewide summer survey of soft mast and nut production found that berries benefited from frequent rains, but acorn production was scattered.

"The winter moved vegetation production back two weeks, but because of plenty of rain the soft mast and berry crop did well this summer," said Game Commission bear biologist Mark Ternent. "But some of the foods bears normally find this time of year, they're not finding. We should be seeing acorns falling around the first of September -- in some areas that hasn't happened yet."

Oak species that determine nut production a year in advance were not impacted by the winter, but oaks that set up how their acorns will grown in the year of germination are behind schedule. Red oaks are producing, but Ternent said acorn production is "pretty poor" among white oaks in the middle of the state.

Pennsylvania black bears mate from mid-June through mid-July. In an unusual process called "delayed implantation" the embryo floats freely until October or November, when it attaches to the uterine wall.

"None of that was affected by the hard winter. When it was cold, they were hibernating and cub survival was unchanged," said Ternent.

Bears may have had trouble finding food in the weeks after hibernation, but caloric intake improved within a couple of weeks. Ternent said the family breakups of summer -- when sows chase off young male offspring at the start of breeding season -- was not impacted by the cool summer.

"Statewide, the population is up a little bit from 18,000. …

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