Tree stand injuries may be avoidable

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Special to the Beacon

Tree stand-related injuries are almost always avoidable, according to the Hunter Education Program of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, yet more people are hurt in tree stand falls than any other category of hunting incidents.
The Home From The Hunt safety campaign has made tree stand safety a top priority in North Carolina for the 2011-2012 hunting season. Hunter Education Program instructors will emphasize proper use of tree stands and elevated hunting platforms. Wildlife 0fficers have investigated two fatalities in connection with tree stand falls already this hunting season.
“Following some basic guidelines can prevent injuries and won’t interfere with a successful hunt,” said Travis Casper, the state’s acting hunter education coordinator. “Maintain three points of contact when climbing up or down. Wear a full body safety harness at all times. And check belts, chains and attachment cords before use. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.”
Other recommendations include:
•Never carry anything as you climb­—use a haul line to raise and lower an unloaded gun or other equipment once you are safely seated in the tree stand.
•Have an emergency signal (cell phone or whistle) and let someone know where you plan to hunt and when you plan to return.
•Select a healthy, straight tree and don’t exceed maximum weight settings.
Tree stands should be inspected prior to use, especially if you have left your tree stand up for an extended period of time. Exposure to the elements will damage straps, ropes and attachment cords, and potentially lead to breakage and failure.
“Take the time to thoroughly check the stability of the stand and the tree it is attached to before you climb up,” Casper said. “Your life could depend on it.”
In North Carolina, all first-time hunting license buyers must successfully complete a Hunter Education Course, offered free across the state. Go to www.ncwildlife.org to consult the online version of the 2011-2012 N.C. Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest or call 919-707-0031 for more information.

Hunters alerted to deer disease
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is alerting hunters they may encounter sick or diseased deer afflicted with hemorrhagic disease. Two closely related viruses —epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus and bluetongue virus—cause hemorrhagic disease and both are spread by biting flies, called midges.
The commission is asking hunters to report any sightings of the disease, which has no human health implications but is one of the most significant infectious diseases of white-tailed deer in North Carolina. Hemorrhagic disease should not be confused with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which is a different disease that occurs in members of the deer family. Extensive monitoring since 1999 has yielded no evidence of CWD in North Carolina and strict regulations are in place to prevent the introduction of this disease.
Symptoms of hemorrhagic disease in deer vary widely. Some diseased animals will exhibit no symptoms. Some may appear bloated, thin and weak, while others suffering from the disease for longer duration may drastically lose weight. They also may have foot, mouth and internal lesions. High fever associated with the disease can make deer thirsty, so dead and dying deer are often found near water. Hunters may observe cracked or sloughing hooves on harvested deer, which is another classic symptom of the disease.
Outbreaks of this deer disease are seen almost every year somewhere within the state and across the Southeast. The last major outbreak in North Carolina was in 2007, and other notable outbreaks occurred in 1939, 1955, 1961, 1971, 1976, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2000 and 2002. In years with severe hemorrhagic disease outbreaks, deer mortality in some localized areas can be as high as 30 percent. However, in most instances mortality is much lower.
This year, extremely dry conditions during the summer followed by heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irene created ideal conditions for the proliferation of midges, possibly causing the spread of the disease.
To report sightings of symptomatic deer, or dead and dying deer, contact the Division of Wildlife Management at (919) 707-0050 or wrccomments@ncwildlife.org.
When people report sightings, it allows commission biologists to determine what areas of the state are experiencing outbreaks and the extent of those outbreaks. It also gives biologists opportunities to obtain tissue and blood samples for virus isolation by veterinarians at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) in Athens, Ga. Reported occurrences are summarized annually and sent to SCWDS, where the occurrence and outbreak extent is monitored collectively for all states.
Commission biologists have observed outbreaks of the disease this year in deer across North Carolina, the most prevalent in the northeastern part of the state in and around Halifax, Edgecombe, Northampton, Bertie and Gates counties. Evidence of the disease also was documented in the western part of the state in Cherokee and Yancey counties.
Because the disease cannot spread to humans, hunters should not worry about dressing deer or eating venison. Deer that recover from an episode of hemorrhagic disease develop immunity to future outbreaks.
Learn more about hemorrhagic disease at www.ncwildlife.org.

Shrimp fishery
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking the public to submit comments on issues they would like to see addressed in an upcoming Shrimp Fishery Management Plan.
The division is beginning a mandated five-year review of the N.C. Shrimp Fishery Management Plan that was adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in 2006. The agency is soliciting public comment as part of an internal process to determine what procedural method to take in reviewing the plan.
 If changes in management strategies or rules are needed, the division will pursue a plan amendment, where division staff and an advisory committee develop positions on specific issues that need to be addressed.  If changes in management strategies are not required, the division will proceed with a revision, which is a more abbreviated process that involves updating data and fishery information contained in the plan.
Written comments will be accepted until Dec. 2 and should be addressed to Trish Murphey, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or sent by email to Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or to Chris Stewart, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, 127 Cardinal Dr., Wilmington, N.C. 28405 or sent by email to Chris.Stewart@ncdenr.gov.
State law requires the division to prepare a fishery management plan for adoption by the Marine Fisheries Commission for all commercially and recreationally significant species or fisheries that comprise state coastal waters. These plans provide management strategies designed to ensure long-term viability of the fishery. State law also requires the division to review each fishery management plan every five years.

New limits on spotted seatrout
Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, has issued a proclamation implementing new recreational limits for spotted seatrout, effective Nov. 14, in coastal and joint waters.
These new recreational regulations also apply to inland fishing waters managed by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. A rule that went into effect in August standardized seasons and size and creel limits in inland waters for four saltwater fish species, including spotted seatrout, by referencing those recreational regulations set by the Marine Fisheries Commission in adjacent joint and coastal waters.
Effective Nov. 14, the new recreational regulations for spotted seatrout will be a four-fish daily creel limit per person with a 14-inch minimum size limit. The proclamation also eliminates the restriction that no more than two spotted seatrout larger than 24 inches may be kept in the daily creel.
Changes to the daily commercial trip limits and restrictions to the commercial and recreational use of gill nets, included in a separate proclamation, do not apply in inland fishing waters. The commercial harvest of spotted seatrout is not allowed in inland waters, and the use of gill nets, whether commercial or recreational, is prohibited in inland waters.
For more information on the proclamation, visit the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations or call (800) 682-2632; (252) 726-7021.