Views differ at state hearing on ‘canned’ hunting held in Towanda
BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
TOWANDA — The House of Representatives’ Game and Fisheries Committee held a public hearing Thursday in Towanda on a bill that would ban “canned hunting” in Pennsylvania.
The location of the hearing — Lackawanna College in Towanda — is approximately 40 miles from the Tioga Boar Hunting Preserve, which, according to its owner, Pete Gee, may be the largest hunting preserve for exotic animals in Pennsylvania.
The Tioga Boar Hunting Preserve, which is located in Tioga, Pa., would be shut down if the bill passes.
The preserve draws clients from all over the world to hunt boar, rams and other exotic species.
And such hunting preserves provide a needed economic boost to rural communities, through the added restaurant and hotel business they generate, as well as the business it gives to taxidermists, said Ralph Saggiomo of Sayre, who testified against the bill on behalf of the United Sportsmen of Pennsylvania.
The bill in question — House Bill 2289 — would ban fenced-in hunting preserves for exotic animals, where clients pay a fee to hunt, said Heidi Prescott of the Humane Society of the United States. Fenced-in hunting preserves for elk and deer would be exempted from the bill, she said.
Prescott testified at the hearing that “canned hunts” violate one of the generally accepted standards of the hunting community, namely the concept of a “fair chase,” since the animals are fenced in.
“Although some of the larger canned hunts try to establish wild living populations, animals at canned hunts are often bred animals, sometimes hand-reared so they have no fear of people, and they have been released into a fenced enclosure to be shot by clients who may pay thousands of dollars,” Prescott said. “An animal inside a fence cannot escape.”
So far, 22 states have completely or partially banned canned hunts, she said.
In an interview earlier this week with a Times-Shamrock reporter, state Rep. Tina Pickett said she was concerned that a crackdown on canned hunting could lead to further hunting restrictions.
“This could be the beginning of an attempt to say ‘no preserve hunting,’ which then leads to no hunting,” Pickett said in the interview. “My instinct right now is that I would not be in favor of this bill because of those down-the-road concerns.”
But Prescott testified at the hearing that in the states where canned hunting has been partially or completely banned, “the hunting culture is still strong.”
“In fact, it has now been six years since Montana banned the practice and it has not affected hunting there,” Prescott testified.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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