Well if it isn’t deer with Covid, now we have rabbits with Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) that affects domestic and native wild rabbit and hare populations.
RHD is a foreign animal disease caused by a virus that can only infect lagomorph species. The virus variant responsible for the current RHD outbreak in the United States is RHDV2. This variant of RHD-causing viruses, is the only one known to affect native North American lagomorphs.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has taken steps to address RHD by prohibiting the importation into Pennsylvania of any wild lagomorph – a group that includes rabbits, hares, and pikas – or any of their parts or products, including meat, pelts, hides and carcasses, from any state, province, territory, or country where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2) has been reported. This ban will remain in effect until further notice.
This is one of many PGC strategies drafted to minimize the introduction risk and impact of RHD on Pennsylvania’s native wild rabbit and hare populations. The agency’s importation ban complements a similar quarantine order covering domestic lagomorphs recently issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA).
According to the PGC, RHDV2 cannot infect humans or other animals, but it is highly contagious and no specific treatment is available. Infection can occur through ingestion or inhalation of the virus, which is shed predominantly by infected lagomorphs in their urine, feces, and respiratory secretions. The virus can contaminate equipment, tools, enclosures, and therefore can inadvertently be spread by humans and other animals. Disease control or eradication is inherently challenging as the virus is extremely resilient and can remain infectious on the landscape for months.
The PGC goes on to explain that the infection with RHDV2 is often fatal, resulting in large, localized mortality events. It can easily spread between domestic and wild populations. Infected lagomorphs may exhibit blood-stained noses due to internal bleeding along with other non-specific clinical signs, but an RHD outbreak in wild populations would be suspected if multiple dead rabbits or hares are observed in the same relative location and over a short period of time with no obvious cause of death.
To date, RHDV2 has been detected in domestic and/or wild populations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Canada, and Mexico, but so far, not in Pennsylvania. While the detections in Florida and Georgia have been restricted to domestic rabbits, they highlight how easily RHD can spread across great distances due to human-driven transportation of infectious animals or materials.
With the upcoming rabbit hunting season (Oct. 16), the PGC recommends cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces or equipment that may have been contaminated by harvested rabbits and wildlife in general. After cleaning with soap and water, a 10 percent household bleach disinfectant should be applied. Following a 10-minute contact period, the surfaces or equipment should be rinsed with clean water and allowed to air dry.
Anyone who finds two or more dead rabbits or hares in one location with an unknown cause of death, is advised not to touch or disturb those animals. Instead, they should contact their local PGC office, who along with the PDA and federal authorities, will conduct an investigation.
During the recent cool nights we’ve been having, it’s a good time to open the windows and experience some night sounds. What I’m referring to are the sounds of crickets.
These seldom seen but heard during late summer nights, crickets are distributed around the world except in latitude 55 degrees or higher. They can be found in varied habitat from grasslands, bushes, forests, marshes, beaches and caves. In most of our Lehigh Valley yards, they hide mostly in flower beds or along walls or fences with high grass.
Crickets are mainly nocturnal and best known for their loud, persistent chirping song of males trying to attract females, although some species are mute. The singing species are said to have good hearing. Proof of this is upon approaching one in your yard when they’re chirping, they’ll immediately stop.
As for the chirping, a male cricket, with its head facing its burrow in a flower bed for example, creates its chirping using its leathery fore wings to scrape against each other to produce the sound. Its burrow acts as a resonator to amplify the sound.
According to entomologists, crickets have a vein that runs along the center of each tegmen, with comb-like serrations on its edge forming a file-like structure. At the rear edge of the tegmen is a scraper. The tegmina are held at an angle to the body and rhythmically raised and lowered which causes the scraper on one wing to rasp on the file on the other. Most female crickets lack the necessary adaptations to stridulate, so make no sound.
Like birds, crickets have several types of songs in their repertoire. The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and the latter is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near and encourages her to mate with the caller. A triumphal song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating, and may reinforce the mating bond to encourage the female to lay some eggs rather than find another male.
As for their diet, some species will feed on flowers, fruit and leaves, with ground-based species favoring seedlings, grasses, pieces of leaf and the shoots of young plants. Others are more predatory and include invertebrate eggs, larva, pupae, moulting insects and aphids. Many are scavengers and will consume various organic remains, decaying plants, seedlings and fungi.
Crickets’ lifecycles consist of an egg stage, a larval or nymph stage that increasingly resembles the adults that eventually form into an adult stage.
Their predators are mostly opossums and skunks. We’ve had a cricket in our flower garden beneath our bedroom window the last two months. Last week, we smelled a skunk and upon checking our security cameras the next morning, low and behold old stinky was foraging around in our garden evidently looking for a cricket meal.
So, before the cold temperatures of fall arrive and the crickets burrow in for the winter, enjoy the night sounds of summer.
The much-anticipated archery deer hunting season is set to open in a split season beginning Sept. 18 including a Sunday date on Nov. 14, in Wildlife Management Areas 2B, 5C and 5D. After that in these WMU’s, the season runs Nov. 15-20; continues on a second Sunday, Nov. 21; and goes from Nov. 22-26 and again Dec. 27-Jan. 29.
The statewide season opens Oct. 2. To Nov. 14 (Sunday), then again on Nov. 15-19, then Dec. 27-Jan.17.
In 2020, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) reported that 373,700 archery licenses were sold, a big difference from the 5,500 sold during the first archery season in 1951. These numbers go to show the increase in popularity of bowhunting in Pennsylvania.
These totals also reflect that bowhunters managed to take 160,380 deer of which 80,130 were bucks in 2020. This accounts for 37 percent of the overall 2020 deer harvest.
The local WMU archery seasons estimated harvest breakdown is as follows. The numbers in parenthesis are last season’s totals with “A” representing antlered and “AL” representing antlerless deer AL.
WMU 3C: 2,670 (2250) A; 2,240 (1,470) AL
WMU 4C: 3,260 (3,550) A; 2,890 (2,960) AL
WMU 5C: 5,810 (5,330) A; 7,410 (7,075) AL
WMU 5D: 1,790 (2,180) A; 4,310 (4,460) AL
Here are some PGC rule updates for the upcoming season.
*Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts, as they aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after being launched. However, the PGC says transmitter-tracking arrows remain illegal.
*As for tree stands and climbing devices, the PGC mandates that both forms that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has permission from the landowner. Tree stands or steps that penetrate a tree’s cambium layer causes damage and is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks are illegal. Portable hunting tree stands and blinds are allowed on state game lands, must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the flintlock and late archery deer seasons in WMU’s being hunted. And those used on state game lands must be conspicuously marked with a durable I.D. tag that identifies the stand owner and include the hunter’s full name, legal home address and nine-digit CID number that appears on their hunting license.
Some other tips for tree stand hunting is hunters should use a fall restraining device, preferably a full-body harness and be used the moment leaving the ground. The PGC strongly suggests not climbing on dead or icy trees and to stay on the ground on blustery days.
Oh yes. And don’t sleep in a tree stand. If sleepy, get down.
In retrospect I once owned and used a Screaming Eagle fixed tree stand. It was made of heavy steel and very sturdy. The company, at the time, would advertise it showing it holding a VW beetle bug coupe. Only part that would worry me was during set-up as it came with a hefty chain that would encircle the tree then hook onto the stand. To complete the installation, the company recommended jumping on it a couple times to set it onto the tree as I hugged the tree. At that time there were no body harnesses on the market, so I used a utility line worker’s type belt with rope, carabiner and thick steel O-ring for attachment. But it still worried me that the stand would slide down as did a Loggy Bayou climber I once owned.
Every year a few hunters fall from a tree stand, some of which are fatal falls. So a word to the wise, use a harness, even on a ladder stand.
Here are a few more safety tips on tree stands from the PGC.
*Choose a live, straight tree and avoid ash that may decline due to emerald ash borers.
*But Smart. Only use stands certified by the Treestand Manufacturers Association,
*Inspect your stand each time you use them for wear and tear and before erecting it.
*Don’t go too high. The higher up you go, the vital zone on a deer decreases, while the likelihood of a serious injury increases.
*Be careful with long-term placement as exposure to the elements can damage straps, ropes and attachment cords. Plus, a stand’s stability can be compromised over time, and as the tree grows.
Gray squirrels are the most populated small game species in the state. And their hunting seasons are lengthy.
These bushy-tailed, nimble, acrobatic residents of tree tops, are bird feeder robbers and are opportunists. The other day I watched as one had a piece of pepperoni pizza in its mouth that it deposited on my neighbor’s porch. I couldn’t resist calling my neighbor to tell him Domino’s just delivered a pizza to his house.
And as said, they’re nimble, as they can hang by one foot on a thin limb to grab a nut from another branch of a walnut tree. One time while bowhunting from a tree stand, I watched as a squirrel was being chased in a tree by another squirrel and it lost its footing. It fell about 14 feet to the woodland floor but merely bounced once, then scampered off seemingly unscathed from the fall.
Squirrel hunting is a good way to introduce youngsters to the sport of hunting. As a mentor, this can be done by sitting together against a tree and scanning the treetops. And sometimes they can be called in. One simple trick used for generations is to suck on the back of a hand to make a squeaking sound. It may be enough to pique a squirrel’s curiosity and draw it into shooing range.
Speaking of shooting, squirrels can be hunted with a shotgun and small #8 shot. Problem with this is picking the spent shot out the squirrel’s body so you don’t break a tooth when eating it. A scoped .22 caliber rifle is better for a youngster as recoil is negligible compared to a shotgun, plus it sharpens a junior hunter’s shooting skills.
One good choice if you don’t already have a .22LR, is a Henry Rifle that are made in the USA. You may have seen their TV ads as they offer .22s in lever and pump actions, plus carbines that are shorter in length for a youngster. They’re quality rifles that can be handed down to upcoming generations.
In addition, squirrel’s make good table fare as their meat is sweet as their diets consist of nuts, flower buds, berries, mushrooms, pine seeds, germ at the base of a corn kernel, dogwood, wild cherry and black gum fruits. (Incidentally, the pizza scavenger squirrel didn’t eat the pizza, but merely deposited it for my neighbor to throw away)
For junior hunters, with or without a required license, squirrel hunting season runs Sept. 11-25 and that includes a Nov. 14, Sunday hunt, one of two with the other falling on Sunday, Nov. 21.
The regular squirrel season runs concurrent with a split season of Sept. 11-Nov.13; Sunday, Nov. 14; Nov.15-20; Sunday, Nov. 21; Nov. 22-26; Dec. 13-24 and Dec. 27-Feb. 28, 2022.
LIL’LE HI TROUT NURSERY SUSTAINED FISH LOSS
As a result of the rains from hurricane IDA, Lehigh Parkway’s Lil-Le Hi trout nursery sustained some damage and loss of fish. Visiting there after the storm on Thursday, volunteers from local sportsmen’s clubs were in the process of cleaning up and attempting to recapture any live and dead fish that got swept away. At that time, workers said they couldn’t get an idea of the number of fish loss until the water receded.
Since then, Herb Gottschall, president of Lehigh County Fish & Game, said they believe they lost about 200 fish that were in the 6-20-inch class. And those would have been stocked in area streams in 2022.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.