PA Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division Chief Keith A. Snyder is reminding hunters, trappers and other outdoors enthusiasts to plan well to avoid hypothermia.


PA Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division Chief Keith A. Snyder is reminding hunters, trappers and other outdoors enthusiasts to plan well to avoid hypothermia.


"Anyone heading afield for late fall and winter hunting and trapping seasons should be aware of the threat of hypothermia and how to combat it," Snyder said. "Hypothermia occurs when exposure to the wind, cold and wetness drain heat from the body faster than it can be produced.


"Extreme cold is not required for hypothermia to develop, and most cases occur when the air temperature is between 30 and 50 degrees. The best way to combat hypothermia is to dress properly and avoid getting wet."


Non-absorbent, wicking long underwear of polypropylene or a similar synthetic base layer, covered by a layer of wool or other insulating material, such as fleece, followed by a breathable waterproof outer shell would be good in most wet-weather situations. 
The rain gear can be carried in a small pack, but should be put on before the other clothes become wet because once a person gets wet, he or she risks hypothermia.  A hat and gloves also help prevent heat loss.


"Wet clothing should be ex-changed for dry clothing as soon as possible, especially if it is windy," Snyder said. "Getting out of the wind and rain promptly can mean the difference between a safe outing and a life-threatening ordeal."


Know the Symptoms


One of the most important defenses against hypothermia is recognition and treatment of the early symptoms.  Uncontrol-led shivering is the first signal of the onset of hypothermia.  It also is one of the few symptoms the victim may recognize.


As hypothermia sets in, slurred speech, frequent stumbling, loss of manual dexterity, memory lapses, exhaustion and drowsiness occur.


Often a victim will not notice these signs, so hunting partners should watch each other when wind, water or cold create the potential for hypothermia.


"It is wise to get out of the wind and cold, remove wet clothing, and warm the body be-fore hypothermia sets in," Sny-der said. 


"Once the telltale symptoms are recognized, these steps are absolutely critical: Stop, take shelter, remove wet clothes and warm the body."


If only mild impairment is evident, warm drinks and dry clothes will probably solve the problem. High-energy foods can help provide fuel for metabolic heat production.

Powdered sweetened gelatin mixed with warm water makes a high-energy emergency drink. 


A warming fire or other heat source can help speed the recovery.  Wrapping a blanket or crawling into a sleeping bag, if available, also will speed recovery.


In advanced cases of hypo-thermia, drowsiness may lead to unconsciousness and, ultimately, death, unless action is taken to provide warmth. In these cases, emergency medical assistance is needed as soon as possible.


The early warning signs of hypothermia result as the body shuts down circulation to the limbs and nonessential organs in an attempt to maintain the core temperature. As more energy is drained, survival becomes dependent upon stopping the outflow of heat and supplying warmth from external sources.


Trapping Tips


Furbearer hunting seasons continuing through the winter months, include: red and gray foxes, until Feb. 16, including Sundays; raccoons, until Feb. 16; bobcats, for those with special permits, until Feb. 16; and skunks, opossums and weasels, until June 30 (certain restrictions apply during the spring gobbler season.


Small game seasons are as follows:
•squirrel, Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26 to Feb. 9;
•ruffed grouse, Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26 to Jan. 26;
•rabbit, Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26 to Feb. 9;
•snowshoe hare, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Hunters who participate in any of these seasons must have a general hunting license, which provides PA hunting privileges through June 30.