By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
HERMITAGE, Pa. --City commissioners can't set their own controls on hunting in the city.
That power lies only with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, state Wildlife Conservation Officer James Donatelli told the commissioners Thursday.
City officials said they have been getting a lot of complaints from residents about hunters in the city, which is still largely a rural community.
There have been a lot of complaints about high-powered rifles, said city Commissioner Sylvia Stull.
The city enacted an ordinance in the 1980s seeking to limit hunters to using only shotguns but they couldn't enforce it because that authority lies with the state, specifically the Game Commission.
Donatelli, attending a city commissioners' workshop at their request, said that hasn't changed.
Who can make changes: Wildlife conservation officers enforce hunting regulations, including the ban on hunting within safety zones defined as 150 yards from any building, but no one but the eight members of the Game Commission can alter those regulations, he said.
"One hundred and fifty yards is actually ludicrous," said city Commissioner Pat White, suggesting that isn't nearly sufficient distance.
Donatelli said that limit was put in place decades ago, primarily to control small-game hunters using only shotguns.
Concerns: Stull said she is concerned about the possibility of bullets striking houses but Donatelli said that if a hunter shoots at a deer that's not on the skyline, it's going to be a a safe shot.
A hunter is shooting from a height of about five feet while a deer's shoulder is generally less than three feet which means the hunter is shooting on a slight downward angle, he said.
The bullet will likely strike the ground before it hits anything else, he said.
The exception is a missed shot at a deer on the hunter's skyline. That bullet could travel for miles, he said.
There are some shotgun-only hunting areas in the state but the Game Commission has shown no immediate interest in expanding them, Donatelli said.
Hermitage probably has the highest deer population in Mercer County, he said, based on the number of reported road kills. Hunting is the state's way of managing the deer population.
Eliminate or curtail hunting and that population will grow and cause more problems, he cautioned.
White asked if the city could lobby the Game Commission for change but Donatelli said it is unlikely any change would be made to accommodate a specific municipality.
The city might do better forming an alliance with other similar, developing municipalities, and approach the Game Commission with a much larger public representation, he said.