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Whitetail deer research into the home stretch

ELKINS, W.Va. — A research project to track the movements and mortality of whitetail deer in West Virginia is entering the home stretch.

“We’re definitely in the analysis phase, but we still have about 180 deer still out there on the landscape. We’re still collecting data, but we’re getting into the analysis part. We’ll keep adding that new data we’re getting for the next year,” said Brett Skelley, Whitetail Deer Project Leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Skelley and his team for the past three years have tagged close to 350 whitetail deer in three parts of the state. The areas are Hampshire County in the CWD containment zone of the eastern panhandle, the Barbour-Upshur County study area and in the western region of the state they’ve tagged deer in the Jackson-Mason County study area.

The study is Skelley’s research for a doctorate at West Virginia University. He expected to be wrapped up with his dissertation next summer. However, already the data is showing trends.

“Hunter harvest is the leading source of mortality across all three study areas. We’ve had about 160 mortalities recorded and about 60 of those were hunter harvest. In the central and western study areas hunter harvest has been the highest source mortality, but it’s actually second in Hampshire County behind chronic wasting disease,” he said in a recent conversation for West Virginia Outdoors.

As for movement, they’re starting to see the average size of the home range of bucks in West Virginia. There’s new information regarding movement of does during breeding season and their movement activities during the birthing weeks in the spring. It’s all valuable intel for Skelley and other game managers in the state to make decisions on the management of whitetail deer.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do with the information. Survival probabilities are really important. Also while the primary source of mortality is hunter harvest, there are other sources of mortality out there which are really important. The movement data, there’s just so much you can mine from that like what habitat deer are using and what cover type,” he explained.

The information is expected to be valuable to hunters to also make decisions about scouting and selection off hunting opportunities and locations. Those choices can be narrowed greatly knowing the movements and habits of deer, specifically in West Virginia.

Another conclusion which is becoming more and more evident is just how hard CWD is hitting the state’s deer herd in the eastern panhandle and what a horrific disease it can be for the animals which contract the virus.

“We have does we’ve found dead in Hampshire County with collars. At that time of year they should be a 120 pound animal, but when we get them back to the lab for a necropsy we find they weigh about 60 pounds, at least half the weight they should be,” he explained.

There are no more collars being added to new specimens in the research, but the old collars are still out there and the data from those collars is still being tracked. Skelley said eventually when the collars are done, they have a mechanism which will cause them to blow the connection and simply fall off the deer at a certain point. At that time, the collar will give off a sensor that is is no longer moving and with the GPS system, Skelley can track it to a pinpoint location to retrieve.

He also stressed it’s okay for hunters to kill a deer wearing the GPS collar as long as the season is open and hunters follow all other game laws. The DNR would like to have the collar returned if you happen to kill one wearing the device.

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Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board completes first case review in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board has completed a review of its first case with the Morgantown Police Department.

A meeting was held Thursday.

Eric Powell

Board member Megan Gandy raised questions about an arrest on August 30, 2021, at the Sheetz location downtown on University Avenue.

Gandy had questions about the response when she witnessed four police cruisers in the parking lot and officers interacting with a black female who appeared to be upset.

“I think it was extremely informative,” Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell said after Thursday’s meeting. “There was a lot of really good feedback and back-and-forth. I think it was very productive and positive.”

Board Chairman Rich Burks said the first case review was a good experience for the board.

“I thought it was a fruitful meeting—we had questions and he had answers,” Burks said. “He volunteered a lot of information that will help us, and it goes a long way in helping us discharge our responsibility.”

Powell said there were good questions posed by the board, and he feels that will lead to a better understanding for the police and community. Board members sharing their experiences and knowledge could be another way to improve relations with the public.

“A couple of the board members said the initial responding officer did a pretty good job with respect to his response and his attempts to de-escalate the situation and bring it to a peaceful resolution,” Powell said.

One of the voting questions focused on the code of conduct and whether those policies are enforced consistently across the board. Following a set of standard orders keeps the officer focused on procedure and proper response.

“One of our concerns was that when they hear a particular type of call, does that dictate how they interact with the public when they do respond to that call?” Burks said.

One change that has been made as a result of the board’s work is easy access to the civilian complaint regarding a police response on the website. Before, residents had to get the form from the Public Safety Building on Spruce Street; now it is more prominently displayed on the police department website.

Morgantown police officers complete annual implicit bias and de-escalation training and are equipped and trained to use less lethal options. Choke-holds are considered deadly force and are never considered a means to gain compliance.

“We always try to take steps to do better through training and other things, and I think that message got across,” Powell said. “I think they understood it and appreciated it.”

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2024 WVSSAC Class AAAA Girls Basketball State Tournament seeds/schedule

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Eight teams have qualified for the WVSSAC Class AAAA Girls Basketball State Tournament. The five-day, 28-game event will begin on March 5 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. Radio broadcasts of all state tournament games will air on the MetroNews Radio Network and will be streamed at MetroNews will also produce HD video broadcasts of the four championship games.

Class AAAA State Tournament seeds:

  1. George Washington (21-3)
  2. Wheeling Park (21-4)
  3. Spring Valley (19-6)
  4. Morgantown (16-8)
  5. Greenbrier East (21-4)
  6. Huntington (11-13)
  7. Washington (12-10)
  8. Musselman (15-8)

Class AAAA Quarterfinals:

Game 1 – No. 4 Morgantown vs. No. 5 Greenbrier East – Tuesday, March 5, 11:15 a.m.

Game 2 – No. 1 George Washington vs. No. 8 Musselman – Tuesday, March 5, 7:15 p.m.

Game 3 – No. 3 Spring Valley vs. No. 6 Huntington – Wednesday, March 6, 11:15 a.m.

Game 4 – No. 2 Wheeling Park vs. No. 7 Washington – Wednesday, March 6, 7:15 p.m.

Class AAAA Semifinals:

Game 5 – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner – Friday, March 8, 9:30 a.m.

Game 6 – Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner – Friday, March 8, 1 p.m.

Class AAAA Final:

Game 7 – Semifinal winners – Saturday, March 9, 12:30 p.m.

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Crown Act supporters raise money after Tarr fiscal concern comments

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following the death of the CROWN Act – SB 496 – on Wednesday, advocacy groups on Thursday presented a check for $5,500 to Black women-led West Virginia organizations Thursday in front of State Sen. Eric Tarr’s office.

The groups said in a press release that they raised the funds online in just under 48 hours.

The act narrowly passed out of Senate Judiciary last Thursday, only to be sent to Senate Finance last Friday. It was intended to prohibit discrimination based on race – under the state Human Rights Act – that includes discrimination based on hair textures and protective hairstyles historically associated with a particular race, where the term protective hairstyles includes braids, locks, and twists.

Tarr, R-Putnam, successfully moved to have the bill referred to his committee saying it carries significant fiscal implications, where it died without further action by the Crossover Day deadline.

Two of the bill’s three fiscal notes, he said, came back with “pretty extraordinary expenses associated with them. … We’re controlling expenses very tightly and this one would be a very large, one and there’s much smaller fiscal notes that haven’t made it through.”

The advocacy groups based their check on the fiscal note from the attorney general’s office. The note said any changes to law that result in more litigation where the AG’s Civil Rights Division represents the Human Rights Commission will add some costs to state government.

“This is an unavoidable consequence of any changes in law that require education and may result in litigation. As such, costs estimates cannot be considered zero. However, given the lack of any relevant data on this at present, it is unclear whether any litigation will actually arise from this bill and, more particularly, whether the attorney general’s office will bear measurable increases as a result.”

The note estimated an initial cost of $10,000 to implement with subsequent annual costs of $5,000.

At the check presentation, the Rev. Jenny Williams, a faith organizer who helped spearhead the fundraiser, said, “This is such needed legislation, so we’ve been puzzled as to why Senator Tarr is blocking it. If you want to help and protect people, you make it happen. Five thousand dollars is nothing in the scope of the state budget. We decided to show how easy it is to raise this money when you care about Black and brown people.”

The groups said the funds will be equally distributed among Black By God (the West Virginian), WV Black Pride Foundation, Black Voter Impact Initiative, and the Partnership for Furthering Arts and Education.

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Strong finish lifts Lincoln to 48-42 victory against Robert C. Byrd in sectional final

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — With six seniors on the roster, four of which comprise 80 percent of his team’s starting lineup, Lincoln boys basketball coach Jordan Toth likes to think the Cougars’ surplus of experience adds to their resiliency and grit.

In Thursday’s Class AAA Region II, Section 2 title game at Robert C. Byrd, Lincoln put both on display, and it went a long way toward the Cougars leaving Clarksburg with a sectional championship.

Lincoln limited RCB to six second-half field goals and seven fourth-quarter points, while the Cougars outscored the Eagles by nine points over the final 6 minutes to secure a 48-42 victory.

“It shows their toughness. These guys are such a gritty bunch,” Toth said. “Never out of it. They never stop believing. They showed a lot of grit in the fourth quarter to come out here on their floor and win.”

The win allows Lincoln (14-9) to stay at home Wednesday for a Region II co-final, where the loser of Friday’s matchup between East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior awaits. The winner of that contest will welcome the Eagles the same night.

While the Cougars earned their fifth straight victory and eighth over their last nine games, this one had to be claimed in come-from-behind fashion after they began the fourth quarter facing a 35-32 deficit.

Aidan Rice, a junior and the only non-senior in the LHS starting lineup, accounted for the first field goal of the fourth quarter to bring his team to within one, and the Cougars gained their first second-half lead when Nate Swiger made a three-pointer that left the visitors in front 37-35 with 4:50 to play.

“I thought once we could get the lead, we could keep it,” Toth said.

Not entirely as Rylee Dickerson’s follow-up bucket with 4:30 remaining marked the Eagles’ first points of the final frame and allowed them to pull even, though Dickerson failed to convert a conventional three-point play on that sequence.

Max Sears’ short jumper in response to a Camryn Newsuan bucket put the Cougars on top 40-39 with 3:16 remaining — and they’d never trail again.

Swiger doubled the lead by making 1-of-2 free throws with 1:43 left, and following a pivotal defensive stop, Wyatt Finch scored from close range to leave Lincoln with a 43-39 advantage.

The Cougars continued to clamp down on the defensive end, and after splitting two foul shots three more times to lead by seven, the Eagles got a deep three-pointer from Logan Boyce to trail 46-42 with 18 seconds left.

Brayden Edgell made 1-of-2 free throws with 16 seconds left, and one final defensive stop enabled the Cougars to seal the verdict and win the four-team section as the No. 4 seed. 

“We were trying to get a matchup and thought there were some matchup opportunities for us to get to the rim,” Eagles’ head coach Basil Lucas said of his team’s late-game offense. “They were getting the ball inside and they were taking shots right around the rim while we took shots right overtop of guys. We wanted to get to the rim and maybe get a call. We came really close. Sometimes the ball doesn’t roll for you.”

Only 48 hours earlier, Lincoln knocked off top seed and crosstown rival Liberty Harrison, 54-48. In its sectional opener, Lincoln shot 19 for 37. Against the Eagles, the Cougars were 18 for 37. 

“They’ve always played methodical,” Lucas said. “If you ever play a game with Lincoln and either team scores 70 points, it’s probably a blowout.”

Neither team led by more than three points throughout a tight opening quarter that Lincoln finished leading, 11-9.

After six first-quarter turnovers, the Eagles had only one in the next frame and it paid dividends. A Manny Holmes three put RCB (10-13) in front 14-13, while a Newsuan triple shortly after upped the advantage to four.

Boyce added two more threes in the quarter as the Eagles made four of their six triples during that period. Boyce’s second trey left the Eagles with a five-point lead late in the first half, but Edgell was fouled on a three-point attempt as time expired and cashed in on every attempt at the free-throw line to cut Lincoln’s halftime deficit to 24-22.

The Eagles led by four early in the third quarter before consecutive buckets from David Burdette pulled Lincoln even at 28.

Boyce accounted for five straight points late in the period, including a triple from well beyond the arc that put the Eagles on top 35-30, before Swiger’s layup closed the scoring in the quarter and made it a three-point margin.

Rice led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds and Swiger followed with 10 points and eight boards. That duo keyed Lincoln’s 35-21 advantage on the glass.

Burdette scored eight points before fouling out, Edgell added seven and Sears contributed six to go with six rebounds.

“We had a hard time getting into offense in the first half. Credit to them for being a good pressure team, but our stops changed the momentum,” Toth said.

Boyce led all players with 17 points and Newsuan added 12. The pair were responsible for 10 of their team’s 15 baskets and the Eagles made only 6-of-18 second-half shots.

“We didn’t do a great job of finding guys in defensive transition and that’s where they got a lot of offense and credit them for making tough shots,” Toth said. “The big key in the second half was getting back in transition and stopping the ball and once we did that, we showed our physicality on defense and took over.”

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State Solicitor General See nominated to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A state official has been nominated to serve in the Biden Administration.

The White House announced Thursday that Solicitor General in the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office Lindsay See is a nominee to be a Commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recommended See as a nominee.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be made up of five members, with no more than three from the same political party.

See manages appellate and high-stakes litigation for the state. She regularly appears before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and the Fourth Circuit, as well as other state and federal courts.

See is a 2011 graduate of Harvard Law School and clerked for the Hon. Thomas B. Griffith on the D.C. Circuit. She’s originally from Michigan.

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Musselman’s Morris Propels Lady Applemen to First Regional Title

(Story by Luke Wiggs)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When 17 of the first 24 points of the Class AAAA Region II co-final belonged to Musselman’s opponent, the Lady Applemen needed to respond. And respond they did, by outscoring Martinsburg 43-19 for the rest of the game to claim their first ever regional title, 50-36.

Martinsburg’s strong start was propelled early on by timely shooting from Aania Gedeon. She scored 7 of her 9 points in the first half. Gedeon nailed a left wing triple to force a Musselman timeout midway through the second quarter with the Bulldogs up 17-7.

Out of the timeout the Lady Applemen finished the half on a 5-2 run, but still trailed 19-12 at the break.

“We went into halftime and knew we struggled, Martinsburg had their way,” first-year Musselman head coach Tim Potter said. “But we were only down a few possessions in a win-or-go-home scenario. We needed to turn up the heat because we had nothing to lose. And they bought into that.”

Musselman came out of the locker room with added defensive intensity, forcing a series of turnovers culminating in a Jasmine Morris and-1 to give the Lady Applemen a 22-21 lead with 3:41 left in the 3rd quarter. It was their first lead since it was 5-4 minutes into the first.

“We made some tweaks on defense and ramped it up.” Potter said. “Then we started to make shots which really helped. These girls behind the scenes have been working so hard for this moment.”

Sophomore Bri Benjamin scored a pair of baskets to balloon the lead to 28-21 before Martinsburg threw their last counter punch of the game. A pair of Hayley Martin free throws, a Chloe Irving putback layup and a Serenity Ritchie three tied the game at 28 early in the fourth quarter.

Musselman then went on a 12-0 run to regain a lead they would not relinquish.

After freshman Emily Stevens hit a three, Ciara Puller and Jasmine Morris forced multiple turnovers for layups including an acrobatic and-1 from Morris, who made it 38-28 Musselman with a made free throw with 4:33 left. Morris finished with a game-high 23 points.

“Big time players make big time plays, and she certainly did tonight.” Potter said.

“I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work tonight and I needed to push through it.” Morris said. “And my teammates helped me through everything. We wouldn’t be here without each other.”

After the timeout, Musselman continued to wreak havoc with full court pressure, finishing the game on a 12-6 run.

Emily Stevens finished with 10 points for the Lady Applemen. Gedeon and Irving lead Martinsburg with 9, Kaydence Bradley and Tianna Sanabria each scored 7.

The Lady Applemen head to Charleston for the first time in program history and as a No. 8 seed. They will take on top seed George Washington Tuesday evening at 7:15 in the quarterfinals.

“It’s amazing, first time in school history and I’m on cloud nine right now.” Potter said. “I’m so proud of them for making history for this school, they really deserve it.”

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Top teams start strong at WVSSAC State Wrestling Tournament

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — University coach Ken Maisel and Parkersburg South coach Shaun Smith had simple messages Thursday before the start of the WVSSAC State High School Wrestling Tournament at Marshall Health Network Arena. 

“Keep wrestling as hard as you can. Give me your best three days,” Smith said.

Both teams are the main contenders for the 2024 team title in Class AAA.

“It’s another tournament. Why do anything different. Nothing’s changed,” Maisel said.

On opening night, all coaches hope their favorites come through and avoid any upsets. And after the opening session, the coaches left positive. University went 10-2 with the losses by one and two points. Parkersburg South posted a 12-1 record. The Patriots lead with 41 points followed by University with 35 and Region 3 winner Woodrow Wilson in third with 33.

Parkersburg South is defending champion. The Patriots won the Region 4 crown handily.

In the final coaches poll, University held the top spot and Parkersburg South was second.

University won the Ron Mauck OVAC tournament, the Region 1 tournament and beat Parkersburg South to win the West Virginia State Team Duals. The Patriots won the WSAZ Invitational, which University took second in.

Smith admits his team does hear its fair share of boos and they like the attention. Nearly half the team is comprised of wrestlers competing in the state for the first time.

“No one likes us. We feel it,” Smith said. “We’re young. I told them have fun and go for it.”

Parkersburg South’s top threat is Gage Wright at 175. Also a standout football player for the Patriots, Wright will prolong his wrestling career at Virginia Tech.

University had two wrestlers seeded No. 1 — Luca Felix at 165 and unbeaten Brock Kehler at 285.

Kehler wrapped up the night for the Hawks with a win by pin.

“Definitely confident,” Kehler said of the team’s frame of  mind. “Unbeaten. Don’t worry about the record. Help the team.”

“We had some good tournaments,” Maisel said. “It’s something about Parkersburg South when they come here. As much as people hate them, they do it. They’re prepared.”

In Class AA, Point Pleasant came in ranked No. 1 and defending champion Fairmont Senior No. 2. Point Pleasant beat Fairmont Senior for the State Duals title in their class.

The Big Blacks had nine champs while winning Region 4. They have five No. 1 seeds in the state. Fairmont Senior has two.

“We need to stay focused,” Point Pleasant coach John Bonecutter said. “Tunnel vision. It’s what we do. Can’t make this any bigger than it is.”

The Big Blacks went 9-3 in round one and lead with 35 points. Oak Glen is second with 29.5 after a win by pin at heavyweight. Fairmont Senior is third with 28.

Fairmont Senior coach Michael Fortier made no great speeches before the night. The Polar Bears, who won here last year, lost their 190-pounder via injury default.

“Come in and wrestle, have fun,” Fortier said.

Ravenswood leads Class A with 21 points. Wheeling Central is next with 15.

Tournament action continues Friday with two sessions. The first begins at 11:30 a.m. and features quarterfinal matches in the winner’s bracket. The third session starts at 7:30 p.m. and has semifinal action along with wrestlebacks.

Session 4 begins Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and features place matches in the consolation bracket.

And in a first, the girls will do all their wrestling Saturday starting at 10:30. They’ll have four mats to use go through until finalists are determined.

The championship round begins at 6 p.m. and there’ll be three mats in use. One for Class AAA, one for Class AA-A and one for girls. Starting weight class is 106 for boys and 100 for girls. This is the first year the girls have had their state at the same time as the boys.

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Sadaya Jones nets 33 points as Morgantown continues state title defense, 59-42 over University

(Photo gallery by Teran Malone)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown only trailed for about 30 seconds in their Class AAAA Region I co-final contest at University. After the lead changed hands in the third quarter, the Mohigans closed the game on a 30-12 run to clinch a spot in next week’s state tournament with a 59-42 win over the Hawks.

The defending state champions used a 9-0 first-quarter run to take a 14-6 lead at the end of the opening frame. MHS also led 22-15 at halftime.

University opened the third quarter on a 15-7 run to take their lone lead of the game, 30-29, on a three-pointer from Hannah Stemple. The Mohigans answered with a 15-0 run between the third and fourth quarters to take a double-digit lead that grew larger throughout the final frame.

“The progression of our season came through at that point in time,” said Morgantown head coach Doug Goodwin. “They just maintained their composure and their cool and they were able to build off it.”

Morgantown junior Sadaya Jones led all scorers with 33 points. She scored nine points in the opening quarter and a personal 6-0 run in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach.

“Sadaya is always capable of that type of performance for us. She played really patient tonight. She was very selective with her shots and she did a great job for us this evening.”

MHS freshman guard Kayli Kellogg scored 11 points, nine coming after halftime.

“Second half, on the take to the rim and the and-1, I thought that was huge for her. She missed some outside shots earlier. She built her confidence to get things going for us.”

Morgantown (16-8) has earned the No. 4 seed in the state tournament. They will face No. 5 Greenbrier East (21-4) Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. in the quarterfinal round.

“The great thing about getting there is these girls have experience of being down there. They know what is going to happen. We’re going to have great patience down there. We’re just happy to be back down again because it just doesn’t feel the same if you don’t get there.”

Stemple led University (14-10) with 15 points.

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PSC takes public comments in connection with Appalachian Power pollution equipment case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Only one Appalachian Power Company customer spoke out during a Thursday evening public hearing hosted by the state Public Service Commission.

Phil Moye

Appalachian Power, along with his sister company Wheeling Power, filed last fall for a $37.2 million surcharge to pay for ongoing federal environmental requirements at three coal-fired power plants in West Virginia.

If approved by the PSC, the average customer’s bill would go up about $2.84 a month. Commercial customers would pay $7.61 more a month.

That’s too much according to public hearing speaker Beverly Hale of McDowell County.

“I am totally against this increase and probably any future increases,” Hale told the PSC. “They’re just killing people down here in McDowell County. Our electric is really high.”

Appalachian Power Spokesman Phil Moye said the case is about keeping its power plants

“The filing is all about the environmental equipment at our (John) Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell plants and that equipment is needed. in order to comply with current EPA regulations and having that equipment will allow us to be compliant with those rules until 2040,” Appalachian Power Spokesman Phil Moye told MetroNews when the case was filed last October.

Moye said the PSC previously ordered Appalachian Power to pay for the pollution control updates on a ‘as you go’ basis.

“The surcharge has us to file for recovery of costs as the work progresses,” Moye said. “So this is just a reflection of the past work and expected expenses over the next 12 months on these projects.”

The improvements are on budget and on schedule, Moye said.

The work is expected to cost approximately $375 million.

The PSC will hand down a decision in a few months.

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