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Outdoor Heritage Act Clears the House

NC General Assembly RS

By Don Mallicoat- Last week the Outdoor Heritage Act, on which we had previously reported, cleared the NC House on a late night vote. In order to gain the necessary votes, a couple of changes were made. As expected, although the bill contained several other provisions, the most controversial was the provision to allow Sunday hunting on private property. Several opponents had originally asked to allow counties to opt out if Commissioners so choose. In order advance the bill a compromise was reached. Counties can opt out after October 1, 2017. Also the original 300 yard distance from a dwelling requirement was changed to 500 yards if a guest on property you do not own.

After leaving the House the bill was sent to the Senate where it will be in committee this week and by rule can be voted on in 25 – 40 days. We had also reported on a Senate bill that addressed Sunday hunting which is quite different from the Outdoor Heritage Act. The Senate bill is much more succinct in that it only addresses the Sunday hunting issue. It also does not restrict hunting to private land as does the House bill. It will be interesting to see how the Senate reconciles the controversial issues surrounding Sunday hunting and how they attempt to amend it, if they do at all.

Let me address the most vocal opposition against the bill, religious grounds, which nearly derailed it. I think the best way to address it is from a chart I saw that showed results of a Gallup survey of the most religious states in the U.S. Not surprisingly most were in the southeast with a couple out west. North Carolina ranked seventh. The takeaway is that of the ten listed ALL allow Sunday gun hunting except the Tarheel state. So my question to those who oppose Sunday gun hunting on religious grounds is this: is it your contention that we are more religious than Alabama, Mississippi, or Arkansas which rank ahead of us yet allow Sunday hunting? You have a hard time making the case.

It’s Spring which means a lot of critters in the wild are giving birth. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding people to enjoy wildlife with respect and caution, as encounters with wildlife increase in the spring, when many species bear young. Handling, feeding or moving wildlife can harm or ultimately kill the animal, and poses a risk for human health and safety. Also, it is illegal to keep native wildlife as a pet in North Carolina.“Well-meaning people can do tremendous harm when attempting to ‘rescue’ young animals,” said Ann May, an extension wildlife biologist. “One of the best approaches to protecting young wildlife is to keep pets, especially cats, indoors.”

Many species, such as white-tailed deer, do not constantly stay with their young and only return to feed them. While a fawn might look abandoned and alone, it is waiting for the female to return. A fawn is well-equipped to protect itself. By the time it is 5 days old it can outrun a human, and within a few weeks of birth, can escape most predators. “Fawns are well camouflaged and usually remain undetected by predators because they are spotted and lack scent,” May said. “The doe will return to the fawn several times a day to nurse and clean it, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to seek food. Taking a fawn from the wild will do more harm than good.”

For other species, the parent may return and become aggressive in an attempt to defend its young. Feeding wildlife may seem harmless or even helpful. However, it causes the animal to lose its natural fear of humans and seek more human food, May said. An animal may become aggressive or cause property damage in its search for more human food. Wildlife also can transmit diseases, including rabies and roundworm, to humans.

If you’re a trout angler you can help improve our fisheries. In 2013, the General Assembly authorized the creation of a special license plate to promote the Native Brook Trout. All proceeds from the sale of this plate will be used to fund public access to and habitat protection of brook trout waters in the state. A minimum of 500 paid applications must be received by the Commission prior to July 1, 2015 for this plate to be produced. All proceeds will be used for brook trout habitat and fishing access.

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