North East Region had over 1,000 em/a, with 4 SGLs in the North East exceeding 2,000 em/a,” continues Gustafson.
Spraying will occur from late April to early May on nine different game lands, as soon as leaf-out occurs and gypsy moth egg masses hatch.
“Those participating in spring gobbler seasons might encounter helicopters or other aircraft spraying state game lands or other forested areas,” says PGC Chief Forester Gustafson. “We want those hunters to rest assured that the spray –Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) –is not harmful to humans, and it usually will take only a few hours to complete each spray block.”
The spraying follows a 2015 statewide inventory of gypsy-moth impacts that detected defoliation on more than 90,000 acres. The game lands to be sprayed were selected based on the importance of oaks there; whether they included existing Important Bird Areas, Important Mammal Areas or critical/unique habitats; their past gypsy-moth impacts and resulting forest-habitat conditions; and the financial values of timber stands there.
Gustafson said gypsy-moth damage can cause a rapid transition of forest habitat, changing mast-producing mixed oak stands that are beneficial to wildlife to stands dominated by birch and maple.
“Prior to gypsy-moth impacts, oak trees in Huntingdon County reportedly were producing 173 pounds of acorns per acre,” he explained. “After gypsy moths, the same areas were yielding only 67 pounds of acorns per acre. Seven of the eight lowest acorn production years occurred after gypsy moths hit the area, and 43 percent of oak trees were lost.”
Peter Sussenbach, director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management said that, based on valuable oaks are for wildlife on game lands, the agency simply can’t afford not to invest in spraying this year.
“We know that mixed-oak habitats are important for all wildlife,” Sussenbach said. “Squirrel populations fluctuate with acorn crops. If acorn production is low, bears will den earlier, weigh less, produce fewer and smaller cubs and get into more nuisance situations. Deer reproduction and their survival over winter suffers when acorns are sparse. Neo-tropical birds, such as cerulean warblers, occupy habitats dominated by oaks. Wild turkey and ruffed grouse populations also depend on acorns.”
In 2008, the agency contracted to spray 42,731 acres on 38 game lands.
This year’s spraying is planned for the following regions: Southcentral, 12,681 acres; Northeast, 8,629 acres; and Southeast, 11,104 acres, a total of 32,414 acres.
The Northwest, Northcentral, and Southwest regions, which suffered little to no gypsy moth defoliation, are not slated for spraying at this time.
Game lands slated for spraying and their acreages are as follows: Southcentral Region:
SGL 88 In Perry and Juniata County, 6,282 acres
SGL 107, in Juniata County, 4,920 acres.
SGL 112, in Huntingdon County, 1,479
Northeast Region: SGL 57, in Wyoming County,
SGL 58, in Columbia County,
SGL 260, in Luzerne County,
Southeast Region: SGL 106, in Berks and Schuylkill
counties, 5,981 acres. SGL 211, in Dauphin County,
SGL 217, in Schuylkill, Lehigh,
and Carbon Counties, 1,622 acres.