By Zachary Gotthardt
SC Contributing Writer
On Friday, October 3, Dr. Aaron Haines will present his research on poaching and wildlife forensics as part of this year’s Biocolloquium series.
Haines is a professor of biology at Millersville University who specializes in conservation and wildlife biology.
Between licenses, merchandise, and government facilities, hunting is a huge industry in Pennsylvania.
About 10 percent of Pennsylvania citizens are registered hunters, focusing primarily on whitetail deer, waterfowl, and small mammals. Hunting is an important form of population control for the deer.
Many scientists speculate that there are more whitetail deer in Pennsylvania today than when Christopher Columbus made his voyage in the 1400’s.
This is largely due to the local extinction of the whitetail deer’s only natural predator, the mountain lion. Hunters have since attempted to fill this niche.
Even with a booming deer population, there are regulations on the number of deer a hunter can take in any particular year. In addition, they can only hunt throughout designated seasons.
Unfortunately, deer are occasionally taken illegally, which is known as poaching.
It is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Game Commission to find and punish those who take animals illegally.
Convicting poachers can be difficult.
Because these occurrences happen in the woods on private property, there are usually few or no witnesses to the crime.
Additionally, most poached animals are used for their meat, so there is occasionally little evidence of the crime by the time officers can investigate. However, there can be some forensic evidence to convict poachers.
As with a homicide investigation, forensic scientists can use trace DNA evidence from property of a suspected poacher, such as hair or blood.
They can then date this evidence to see if the time of death coincides with a sanctioned hunting season. If it does not, the poacher can be subjected to a fine.
This is one of several responsibilities of a wildlife forensic scientist. Another responsibility is to assess the diseases in wildlife populations.
Just like humans, animals are susceptible to epidemics. If left unchecked, they can ravage natural populations.
Wildlife forensic scientists can examine corpses to determine if there is an epidemic, and they can decide on an appropriate course of action.
Similar work is done at the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory, located at ESU’s Innovation Center.
The presentation will be held at 4:00 PM in Kurtz Lecture Hall of Moore Biology.
Students of all majors are encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be provided.
Following the presentation, Dr. Haines will be available to answer questions about his study and his career on a more personal level.
Email Zachary at: