HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Game Commission must regulate hunting at fenced-in preserves, the state Supreme Court said yesterday without specifying exactly how that should occur.
The 4-1 ruling said wild boar are protected wild mammals that are subject to the commission's regulations.
The lawsuit was brought by Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network board member Johnna Seeton to force the Game Commission to investigate alleged Game and Wildlife Code violations at the Tioga Boar Hunting Preserve.
"We reject the commission's attempt to identify wild boar as 'domestic' by reclassifying it without any authority, legal or taxonomical, as a member of the supposed 'pig family,' " wrote Justice Max Baer for the majority. "Thus, wild boar necessarily are 'wild animals' under the Game and Wildlife Code."
A lower court had agreed with the Game Commission's argument that it did not have jurisdiction to enforce the Game and Wildlife Code at Tioga, but the high court ruled that interpretation was at odds with the language of the law.
The majority opinion also said it expected the commission to consider whether any of the other species hunted at Tioga also are subject to game regulations.
The 1,500-acre preserve, near Tioga along the New York border, is among several Pennsylvania businesses that let customers hunt such prey as boar, elk, ram and buffalo. Boar are the most popular quarry at Tioga, but hunters there can also can pursue deer, sheep, goat, turkey, buffalo or elk.
Seeton called the court decision a step toward her goal of an end to what some refer to as "canned" hunts. The Humane Society of the United States says 23 states have at least a partial ban on canned hunts for mammals.
"I think that the Game Commission will hopefully phase out wild boars in Pennsylvania," she said. "They're not indigenous to the state, and I don't think they'll consider them fair chase if they're in an enclosed area."
Mike Gee, vice president and manager of the Tioga hunting preserve, said yesterday that he was not overly worried about having the Game Commission issue regulations for his business.
"I'm sure they probably won't all be acceptable, but I guess they'll be as fair as we can deal with," he said. "Sometimes there's not a lot of options."