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Report: Climate Change Could Affect Pennsylvania’s Big Game

Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by man made climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast, according to the new Nowhere to Run report from the National Wildlife Federation released Wednesday.

Nowhere to Run -- Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.

“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Ed Zygmunt, life member of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.”

Nowhere to Run shows rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by man-made climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast.

Unprecedented changes in habitat are having far-reaching consequences for big game and for the sporting population, affecting, for example, the timing of hunting seasons and the distribution and survival of animals.

“If a hunter’s out in the woods and finds someone in trouble, he’s not going to leave it for someone else to fix – he takes action,” said Mark Henry, another PFSC life member.  “Sportsmen need to let their elected officials know there’s no bravery in denying this problem and no courage in wishing it away. We need solutions and we need them now.”

The report, an assimilation of current science addressing climate change’s impacts on big game, describes specific effects on eight species, including:

— Moose: Moose are facing a triple threat – rising temperatures, changing forest species and increased mortality from parasites. Moose can become heat-stressed in warm weather, especially in summer if temperatures climb above 60 to70 degrees when moose coats are thinner. Heat stress leads to lower weights, declining pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to predators and disease.

— White-tailed Deer: White-tailed deer are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease (HD) caused by viruses transmitted by biting midges. HD typically subsides shortly after the first autumn frost because colder temperatures kill the midges. Longer summers are likely to expose deer to more disease-carrying midges.

— Black Bears: More extensive, more frequent droughts could cause black bears to move more out of their traditional habitats searching for food and into areas of human habitation and development. Because of warmer fall and winter temperatures, bears are already more active than usual during times when they normally hibernate.

“Not only are our sporting traditions at risk, but jobs-producing tourism dollars could decline as there will be fewer wildlife to see in America’s wild places,” said Ed Perry, the National Wildlife Federation’s Pennsylvania representative. “To protect Pennsylvania’s outdoor heritage, we must cut carbon pollution, speed our transition to clean energy and safeguard big game and their habitats from climate change.”

In 2011, there were more than 12 million adult big game hunters who spent more than $16 billion on hunting.  More than 22 million people observed big game near their homes and 10 million traveled to view big game. 

Sportsmen have invested decades and millions of dollars in restoring big game habitats and populations, in excise taxes and hunting and fishing licenses and fees.

Nowhere to Run outlines the key steps needed to stem climate change and save big game:

— Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030;

— Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil;

— Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation; and

— Manage big game considering a changing climate in plans and management.

A copy of the report is available online.


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