2018-02-10 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

Hunters are looking for clues on any course changes the Pa. Game Commission will make with the recent arrival of Dr. Matthew Schnupp as wildlife management director.

For the past 10 years, he has served as chief wildlife biologist and research liaison for the 825,000-acre King Ranch in Texas, considered by some to be a premier destination for hunting. King Ranch is one of the last strongholds of wild native quail. It’s also home to many non-game species, 35 threatened and endangered species, nearly 400 migratory waterfowl and other birds, along with other native flora and fauna. Additionally, it hosts approximately 65,000 whitetailed deer and 50,000 turkeys.

The ranch advertises itself as a site for “low-fence, fair-chase hunts” for those who can fork out $2,000 for a basic package and more than $6,000 for the higher-end experiences.

Schnupp fills a position left vacant when former bureau director, Wayne Laroche, was appointed as the agency’s special assistant for chronic wasting disease response.

Schnupp was born and raised in Wheeling, W. Va., and developed his love for the outdoors by hunting deer, squirrels, and pheasants in Washington and Greene counties.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans calls Schnupp “a charismatic individual, with a heartfelt drive for wildlife conservation.”

The new director’s resume shows work with both game and non-game wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, and illnesses such as chronic wasting disease. He also has experience in dealing with personnel management, politicians, researchers, nonprofit organizations, hunters and trappers.

Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said Schnupp is certain to fit in well back in the Keystone State.

“Not only is Matthew a deeply talented wildlife biologist, but he is a gifted communicator,” Smith said. “In his conservation work in Texas, both on and off the King Ranch, he made quite an impact.”

In terms of education, Schnupp is a certified wildlife biologist, with a doctorate in wildlife science from Texas A&M.

There is a huge difference between working with exotics and fenced-in wildlife and managing a species in the wild. Most of the folks I know are anxious to see signs that the new director is committed to increasing the number of deer in the commonwealth.

In the newest rankings, Pennsylvania has fallen out of the top 10 in the nation’s deer-hunting states, while Texas is pegged at number one.

Schnupp will surely be under pressure to balance the divergent interests he’ll be hearing from once he gets his feet wet. At this point, the jury’s out on what kind of impact he might have on the Game Commission.

(Dave Wolf can be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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