Outdoors

Proposed Regulation Changes for Next Year

Photograph by Andrew Coop.

Asheville – The NC Wildlife Resources Commission met October 22 to review proposed regulation changes for the 2021-2022 regulation digest. The agenda packet is 306 pages, but we did a quick review of proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes. I didn’t see anything significant to trout fishing regulation for our area. Nor did I see anything that looked like a big change for hunting regulations.

The big change is in Game Land regulations. As previously reported, the results from public information gathering on Game Lands Sunday hunting were presented previously to the Commission. Those are reflected in the proposed regulation changes. Finally we are seeing some movement to enact something the General Assembly approved nearly four years ago.

The proposed regulation changes list Game Lands that will include Sunday hunting. Only six of the three-day-a-week Game Lands will be designated four-day-a-week, none in our area. Sandy Mush is not on the list. That is unsurprising given its limited size and close proximity to a metropolitan area. Those were two of the criteria to not expand a Game Land to allow Sunday hunting. Those selected will be open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday versus the normal Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Several six-day-a-week Game Lands in our region are listed as potential seven-day-a-week Game Lands. Those include: Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, Cold Mountain, Needmore, and the new William H. Silvers. Not surprisingly the DuPont State Forest is not on the list with its heavy recreational use. I was surprised and disappointed that Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties is not included. The schedule for public hearings has not been published. I guess the Commission is waiting to see if in-person meetings will be allowed during the regular scheduled January meetings. If you are interested in the public comment report, you can find it at www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/Where-to-Hunt/Public-Opinion-Survey.

As if 2020 hasn’t brought us enough weird occurrences, the WRC is asking the public to help them monitor the potential spread of a deadly rabbit disease that has not yet been observed in North Carolina’s rabbit populations by reporting any sightings of dead rabbits to the agency.

Commission biologists are working with the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) to monitor the spread and impacts of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2), a fatal disease that affects both domestic and wild rabbit populations. RHDV2 is extremely lethal. There is no cure for wild rabbits and a vaccine for domestic rabbits is not readily available in the United States. RHDV2 is classified as a foreign animal disease in the United States and currently is primarily found in the southwestern United States. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes, but RHDV2 does not impact human health.

While RHDV2 has not been observed in North Carolina’s rabbit populations yet, agency biologists are asking the public and hunters to report any sightings of one or more dead wild rabbits where the death is not readily apparent or those found with blood around their nose, mouth, or rectum. Anyone who finds a dead rabbit should refrain from touching it unless necessary and call the Commission’s Wildlife Helpline 866-318-2401. The Commission will rely on reports of rabbit mortalities to document the disease’s occurrence and potential spread in North Carolina. 

Are you a deer hunter? Want to help the WRC with some of their data gathering? They are asking deer hunters who are still or stand hunting to record an accurate count of game and furbearer species they observe on each hunt. Participants can enter their observations online in the field from any smart phone or small-screen device by using the survey link https://www.ncpaws.org/PAWS/Surveys/PublicEntry/HunterObservationLogin.

Hunters are asked to record date, time of date, and location of hunt. Then count the number of wildlife you see in addition to deer. That includes squirrel (gray and fox), turkey, bobcat, fox, bear, raccoon, and others. There is also a place in the survey form to record observations of wildlife not listed. Since deer hunters tend to spend more time in the woods than others and are sitting still while doing it, they tend to observe more wildlife activity. This information helps the WRC manage all wildlife species.

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