From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

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Private Landowner Assistance Program


I have a tract of land that I want to use to help wildlife, but I don’t know how to manage it.

A team of Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists is ready to assist you in making your property more attractive for wildlife, particularly species of greatest conservation need. They even make house-calls!

What is the Private Landowner Assistance Program?

In May of 2004, the agency created a Private Landowner Assistance Program, which is available to property owners who own a minimum of 10 acres of land. The Game Commission’s goal is to improve Pennsylvania’s landscape for wildlife species of special concern through developing detailed plans for interested landowners. Species of Greatest Conservation Need include rare and uncommon songbirds, hawks, owls, eagles and some mammals such as bats, black ducks and American woodcock.

Although the plans focus on species of concern, a wide variety of species often benefit from these habitat plans. This program is custom-made for landowners who are interested in creating, preserving, or enhancing wildlife habitat.

What is the first step to get my property in this program?

Contact the regional wildlife diversity biologist serving your county. After a short interview, the biologist will send the interested property owner a landowner objective survey. After reviewing the survey, the biologist will visit the property and landowner. A detailed plan will be developed based upon the biologist’s findings and landowner’s chosen level of involvement.

How much does the program cost?

There is no fee associated with the landowner assistance program, nor is there a public access requirement!

Regional wildlife diversity biologist contact information:

Northwest: Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren counties – RWD Biologist Stacy Wolbert at 814-226-4348 or Stacy also can be reached through the Game Commission Northwest Region Office at 814-432-3187 or by mail to P.O. Box 31, Franklin, PA 16323.

Southwest: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties – RWD Biologist Tammy Colt at 814-233-2281 or Game Commission Southwest Region Office at 724-238-9523 or by mail to 4820 Route 711, Bolivar, PA 15923.

Northcentral: Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Union counties- RWD Biologist Mario Giazzon at or 570-660-2483, or at the Game Commission Northcentral Region Office at 570-398-4744 or by mail to P.O. Box 5038, Jersey Shore, PA 17740.

Southcentral: Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, and York counties – RWD Biologist Clayton Lutz at  Lutz can be reached through the Game Commission Southcentral Region Office at 814-643-1831 or mail to 8627 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA 16652.

Northeast: Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties – RWD Biologist Richard Fritsky at 570-879-2575 or Fritsky also can be reached through the Game Commission Northeast Region Office at 570-406-6690 or by mail to P.O. Box 220, Dallas, PA 18612.

Southeast: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill counties – RWD Biologist Dan Mummert at 717-626-0031 or Mummert also can be reached through the Game Commission Southeast Region Office by calling 610-926-3136 or mail to 448 Snyder Road, Reading, PA 19605.


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Deer Coat Color Variations


Deer that aren’t brown often get a lot of attention.  There are several conditions that can produce non-brown coloration in deer:

Albinism is the result of reduction of melanin production only.  It is inherited through recessive gene alleles.  Melanin helps to protect the skin and eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.  This leaves these animals very sensitive to overexposure to sunlight increasing their risk of melanomas and retinal damage.  As a result, they usually die at an early age.

Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation also caused by recessive alleles.  However, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin.

Piebald is partial leucism resulting in irregular patches of white on an animal that otherwise has normal color and patterning.

Melanism is the result of excessive production of melanin resulting in darkening of skin, fur or feathers.  It is rarer than albinism.

Both albino and leucistic animals have white hair and pink skin; however, eye color is the key.  Due to the lack of melanin in the retinal pigmented epithelium and the iris, albinos usually have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through.  Leucistic animals have normal or blue colored eyes.


Most of the reports we receive about “albino” deer are actually piebald.  With the millions of genetic combinations that occur when deer breed, piebald deer are rare but widely documented throughout the range of the whitetail. Usually, they are reported at rates under 1% in the population. Limited observations indicate normal and piebald deer cross produce both normal and piebald offspring. This rate can increase if piebald deer are protected, making the genes for this condition more common in the population.

Pinto Deer, an article from Myths & Legends of the Whitetail, discusses this as well.

By: J.T. Fleegle,

Game Commission Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Photo: Sherry Sparks

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Mentored Adult Hunting Program

Small Game - Ladies - Trail - Casual2

The Mentored Adult Hunting Program is designed to allow first-time hunters 18 years old and older to participate in hunting through the mentorship of a  licensed hunter. Adults obtaining a permit through the program would be able to take part in hunting activities without first passing a basic Hunter-Trapper Education course. A mentor must be a licensed person 21 years or older who is serving as a guide to the mentored adult.

Who qualifies for the mentored adult hunting program?

Adult applicants 18 or older who have never held a prior hunting license within the Commonwealth, or another state or nation, are eligible to participate in the Mentored Adult Hunting Program.

How long can an adult hunt under this program?

Mentored adult hunting permits are available for a total of three consecutive, unbroken license years, after which a hunter-trapper education certificate and an applicable adult hunting license are required.

Species, Seasons & Bag Limits:

— A mentored adult can hunt only squirrels, woodchucks, ruffed grouse, rabbits, pheasants, bobwhite quail, hares, porcupines, crows, coyotes, antlerless* deer and wild turkeys.# Species must be hunted in their respective seasons, and daily and field possession bag limits for each species must be followed.

* A mentor can transfer one valid antlerless deer license and/or one Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permit to a mentored adult. Antlerless licenses are valid within the wildlife-management unit for which they were issued. DMAP permits are valid on the specific properties for which they were issued. The transfer of the antlerless license may not occur until after the mentored adult has harvested the antlerless deer, but before tagging the carcass. A mentored adult is ineligible to make direct application for an antlerless license or DMAP permit.

# A mentor can transfer one fall turkey tag to a mentored adult if the individual harvests a fall turkey. The transfer of the fall turkey tag may not occur until after the mentored adult has harvested the bird, but before tagging the carcass.

— The mentored adult must tag and report deer and turkey harvests as specified elsewhere in the 2014 Hunting & Trapping Digest relating to tagging and reporting big-game kills.


— A mentored adult must hunt within eyesight of his or her adult mentor, and at a proximity close enough for verbal instruction and guidance to be easily understood. A mentor may not accompany more than one mentored adult at any given time. A mentor may not accompany a junior hunter or a mentored youth hunter in addition to a mentored adult.

— A mentor and mentored adult must be in compliance with fluorescent orange requirements for the species they are hunting.


A mentor is responsible and accountable for all actions of the mentored adult while engaged in hunting or related activities. A mentor who causes or allows a mentored adult to engage in an unlawful act shall be punishable as the principal offender.


The cost of the resident mentored adult permit is $20.70; nonresident mentored adult permit is $101.70.

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What are those dark growths on that deer?

The growths in the image above appear to be cutaneous fibromas.

What causes cutaneous fibromas?

Cutaneous fibromas are wart-like, hairless tumors caused by a virus. The virus, which is species specific, poses no known threat to humans.  In deer the viruses that cause fibromas are probably transmitted primarily through broken skin. Deer become infected when an area with broken skin comes in direct contact with an infected deer or with a surface that an infected deer rubbed against. Biting insects may also be able to transmit deer fibroma.

How much do fibromas affect deer?

Fibromas are restricted to the skin of deer and do not spread to internal organs. The impact of fibromas on the health of the deer varies depending on the number and size of the skin masses. If fibromas are small and few in number, the deer’s immune system can take care of the tumors and they resolve spontaneously without significant impact to the health of the deer. In most cases, fibromas are small and resolve on their own.

However, occasionally fibromas can become large or numerous, at which time they may significantly impact the health of the deer, either by interfering with sight, respiration, eating or walking or they may become ulcerated resulting in secondary bacterial infections. When fibromas are large, numerous, or in critical locations (eyes, mouth, etc.), they can result in significant disease and death.  There is no treatment for fibromas in wild deer.

Is the meat safe to eat?

The virus associated with fibromas does not infect humans. Deer carcasses with fibromas that do not have evidence of secondary infections would not pose a threat to human health. The venison would be safe to eat if properly prepared and cooked. Yet, fibromas with evidence of secondary bacterial infections would be unfit for human consumption.

You can find more information on cutaneous fibromas on the Game Commission website.

-Bureau of Wildlife Management

Photo provided by Anna Marie

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Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers

Deputy Officer.Neely

What is the difference between a deputy wildlife conservation (DWCO) officer and a wildlife conservation officer (WCO)?

A deputy wildlife conservation officer volunteers to aid officers and the public with wildlife law enforcement concerns and interests, whereas a wildlife conservation officer is a full-time law enforcement employee of the Game Commission. Deputies support the employed officers, however they cannot complete the full range of duties that an officer is permitted to conduct.

Why are deputy wildlife conservation officers important?

We have 1.4 million acres of state game land in addition to other hunting land and wildlife areas. Wildlife Conservation Officers cannot be everywhere at all times and lean heavily on the support of deputy conservation officers.

What duties to Deputy Conservation Officers fulfill?

- enforce the law

- conduct educational programming

- respond to wildlife concerns

What training do DWCOs receive?

First Year:

-A basic training at the Ross Leffler School of Conservation in Harrisburg: 75 hours of training over the course of a week

- On-the-job training with a Wildlife Conservation Officer during the probationary year: 80 hours


Following Years DWCOs must attend annually:

-At least four district training sessions

-Two firearms qualifications shoots

-Eight hours of defensive tactics training

-Legal updates training

-Verbal Communications training

District training sessions cover such topics as law enforcement methods and techniques, wildlife law and regulations, principles of wildlife management, land management practices, conservation education, public relations and hazardous materials/employee right-to-know.

How to apply:

Call the training division and request an information packet.  (717) 787-3168.

Learn more here.


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DMA 2 Permits

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is enlisting assistance from hunters in an effort to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease. The Game Commission has developed a permit that can be used to hunt antlerless deer, but can be used only within the boundaries of what is known as Disease Management Area 2 – the lone area of the state where chronic wasting disease has been detected in free-ranging deer.

A total of 13,000 permits will be made available with the intention of reducing the deer population by one deer per square mile in DMA 2.

Responding to a need identified by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, the permits seek to focus hunting pressure inside the Disease Management Area (DMA), where deer numbers must be kept in check to slow the potential spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). At the same time, the permit system enables the Game Commission to avoid a reduction in the deer herd in the area surrounding DMA 2 – where CWD has not been detected.

DMA 2 includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Cambria and Fulton counties. The DMA lies within Wildlife Management Units 4A, 4D and 2C (WMUs 4A, 4D and 2C).

There are some differences between the application process for a DMA 2 permit and that for an antlerless license.

Only residents and nonresidents ages 12 and older with valid general hunting licenses may apply for permits. Participants in Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunting programs are ineligible to make application, and the permits cannot be transferred to participants in those programs.

Also, individuals may apply for a DMA 2 permit AND apply for a WMU specific antlerless permit during the same round of applications.

How much does a DMA 2 permit cost?

Each permit costs $6.70, and payments must be made by credit card, or check or money order made payable to the “Pennsylvania Game Commission.”

How to apply

  • Applications for DMA 2 permits will be accepted in two ways – electronically through the Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop, or by mail. The Outdoor Shop can be accessed here. The DMA 2 link will go live on July 14.
  • Those wishing to send applications by mail can obtain an application form at the Game Commission’s website, the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters or any region office.

What is the DMA 2 permit application schedule?

The application schedule is similar to that for antlerless deer licenses, however, residents and nonresidents can apply on the same dates in all rounds.

  • Applications will be accepted beginning July 14. Each eligible applicant may submit one application during this first round, which lasts three weeks.
  • Beginning Aug. 4, a second round of application begins. Again in the second round, each eligible applicant may submit one application. However, an applicant who did not submit an application during the first round may submit two during the second round.
  • A third round of applications will begin Aug. 18. Eligible applicants may submit an unlimited number of applications during this round, and the round will continue until all permits have been issued.

Where and when can a DMA 2 permit be used?

  • DMA 2 permits must be used within DMA 2.
  • These antlerless deer permits can be used during any deer season, including the antlered deer season.

Reporting Requirements

Those who are issued DMA 2 permits are required to submit reports, regardless of whether they harvest a deer. Harvests must be reported within 10 days. Nonharvests must be reported by Feb. 5. Those who fail to report as required are subject to criminal prosecution and may be ineligible to apply for permits if the program is continued the following year.

Through their reports, hunters provide valuable data that plays a crucial role in the Game Commission’s management of CWD.


Email with questions and comments.

Photo: Joe Kosack

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Strike Up the Band(s)

This is the time of year when Pennsylvania Game Commission employees and volunteers go out in search of a common black, white and gray bird to place a small metal band on its leg. Can you guess the name of the bird?

This large bird is often called a “Canadian” goose, but the proper name is actually “Canada” goose.

A more appropriate name for those banded in Pennsylvania might be a Pennsylvania goose since these birds will seldom venture as far north as Canada. They are essentially “home-bodies”. The Canada geese that are banded in Pennsylvania are referred to as resident Canada geese. These are geese that spend most of their entire life in Pennsylvania.

Migrant Canada geese nest in the subarctic regions of Canada and migrate south each fall to their wintering grounds in the mid-Atlantic and southern states and return in the spring to Canada to breed. Migrant geese are banded in late July and August on the breeding grounds in Canada using the same methods used in Pennsylvania.

Why put bands on Canada geese?
Information derived from banding studies allows tracking of waterfowl migration patterns, identifies important breeding, migration and wintering habitats, provides estimates of waterfowl harvest and survival rates and provides population estimates.

Why are Canada geese usually banded in June?
The post-breeding period triggers hormonal changes that initiate molt or replacement of feathers. Feathers wear over time and birds molt to replace worn feathers. Interestingly, most land birds replace flight feathers one at a time and never lose flight. However, waterfowl molt all flight feathers simultaneously and become flightless for approximately one month.

*Please Note: Bird banding is a highly regulated activity. Only those who are properly permitted can legally capture and band birds. Unauthorized capture of wildlife is strictly prohibited and can result in significant penalty under wildlife protection laws and regulations.

How are the geese rallied together for banding?

Game Commission staff and volunteers herd the flightless Canada geese onto land areas adjacent to wetlands and capture with portable corrals. Personnel carefully handle captured birds to minimize capture related injuries. Each bird is classified by age  and gender using a combination of plumage characteristics and cloacal examination. Following age and gender determination, birds are carefully banded and released at capture location.

How many Canada geese are banded per year?
The goal is to band about 1 percent of the state’s breeding population. Last year approximately 3,000 geese were banded.

What other waterfowl does the Game Commission band?
Biologists work in coordination with federal and other state and provincial agencies through the flyway system of management (see for more information). Typically, mallards, wood duck, American black ducks, blue-winged teal and green-winged teal are captured and banded each year in addition to Canada geese.

The Game Commission relies on volunteers to help round up the geese.  Bird banding is a “hands-on” activity that excite many people to volunteer. The PGC must carefully plan this activity so volunteers must be managed according to location. Prospective volunteers are encouraged to contact Game Commisison region offices to seek more information on this opportunity. Region office contact information can be found here:

How can hunters help waterfowl management?

Hunters are an important part of the waterfowl-banding program. The biologists depend on hunters to report band numbers from banded ducks and geese they harvest. Call 1-800-327-BAND or go online to to report band recoveries.


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