DNR briefs lawmakers on accident rates, ideas for exotic animals - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

DNR briefs lawmakers on accident rates, ideas for exotic animals ban

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The incident rates while hunting have decreased dramatically since the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources mandated a hunter's safety course in 1990, according to Lt. Tim Coleman with the DNR.

Coleman spoke to lawmakers during interim committee meetings Dec. 10, and he said from 2003-2012, 74 of the 241 total hunting incidents that occurred were tree stand-related. But 2012 had more tree stand-related incidents than any other year, with 12.

Coleman said there have been 24 accidents in 2012, everything from a heart attack to one man in Lincoln County who died of a drug overdose while he was hunting. He said there were four incidents of someone shooting someone else.

"Thirty-four years ago when I came to work here, it was 56, so hunter education has really done its job, and I'm proud to be a part of it," he said.

Coleman said the DNR noticed more reports of tree stand falls about 10 years ago and added a unit to the hunter education course to address it.

"Like everything else, the sport has evolved," he said. "The homemade tree stands are pretty much gone, but when we do have equipment failure, it's because the owner hasn't kept up with his routine maintenance."

Lawmakers also heard from DNR Assistant Chief of Game Management Paul Johansen, who spoke about a potential bill his agency is in support of to ban and regulate exotic animals in West Virginia.

A similar bill passed the full Legislature last year, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed it.

Johansen pointed out the need for regulation with the recent incident last year in Zanesville, Ohio, when 50 large exotic animals including tigers were set loose.

Johansen said West Virginia currently has no enforcement, no penalties and no destruction orders.

He proposed a dangerous and exotic animal control board composed of the heads of the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau for Public Health and the Division of Natural Resources.

He also suggested compiling a list of prohibited animal species, but allowing individuals who possess those animals to be "grandfathered in," so they could keep their animals but register them, post bonds for them and abide by certain safety requirements. Johansen said they are proposing allowing certain exemptions such as for circuses or companion animals under ADA requirements.