HARRISBURG - When Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 25 into law Monday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission avoided the potential of having to endure a major backlash from the operators of preserve hunts for hogs.

What the new law does is relieve the PGC from its responsibility of having to manage these hogs by classifying them as non-wild animals. As such, it is now the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to manage these animals and oversee how the preserves conduct their business regarding hog hunting.

In January, the PGC commissioners proposed regulations that would have made it illegal to possess hogs that are imported or bred for hunting and would have confiscated these animals. As such, that action would have closed at least two preserves in northern Pennsylvania that specialize in hog hunts.

While the PGC is not opposed to preserve hunts, it is opposed to the very real threat escaped hogs are to native wildlife, farm and domestic animals, crops and the environment. Once escaped, these feral hogs are capable of reproducing at a rapid rate and in time do indeed become wild and dangerous, with many weighing more than 1,000 pounds.

Under the new bill, one of the requirements for preserve owners is to sterilize boars before they are released for hunting. Still, these animals can escape and the PGC will continue to classify them as feral hogs.

Because of the new law, the commissioners tabled action planned for its quarterly business meeting Tuesday at agency headquarters. It remains the responsibility of the PGC, however, to manage hogs that escape into the wild, and executive director Carl Roe

made it clear these animals are not protected.

"Any hog that escapes from a preserve is considered a feral hog and may be shot with any legal sporting arm," Roe said. "This can be done in most of the state, other than the few areas where only trapping is allowed.

"Trapping remains the best way to eliminate hogs that have escaped or been released, but they can be shot for the meat. We want to have them removed from the wild."

Roe reaffirmed that the taking of hogs in the wild by sportsmen is not considered "hunting" by the PGC, since there is no set season. Rather, shooting them is seen as a means to an end.

Senate president Joe Scarnati, Jefferson County Republican, sponsored the bill that classified captive feral swine of the type used by hunting preserves as non- wild animals and therefore do not fall under the auspices of the PGC. Had the new law not gone into effect, the two preserves specializing in hog hunts - both of which are in Scarnati's district - would have gone out of business.

"Obviously, a ban would have a negative impact on those two preserves in Tioga County and others statewide," Scarnati's director of policy and legislative affairs Casey Long said. "We think the game commission's regulatory solution was heavy-handed, and we saw some middle ground, which doesn't include a ban in the state."