From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

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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.

Why is that state game land on fire?

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Why is that state game land on fire?

In most cases, smoke rising from a Pennsylvania state game land is not reason for alarm.

Pennsylvania Game Commission staff conducts prescribed burns on many game lands during the spring.

Why would the Game Commission purposefully set fire to land?
Controlled burns are used by the Game Commission on game lands statewide to improve plant and wildlife habitats, and reduce the chance of wildfire.

Prescribed fires are conducted during the spring to mimic, under strict control, historic fire that once occurred on the landscape. Many ecosystems in Pennsylvania are considered fire dependent, or requiring periodic fire to regenerate. Species like pitch pine and scrub oak, for instance, grow in habitats known as barrens and without fire, important barrens habitats eventually fade from the landscape. Barrens habitats are among the most diverse and ecologically productive. Young, regenerating pitch pine provides excellent escape cover and roosting areas while scrub oak has the ability to produce an annual acorn crop far more consistent than white or red oak species. This in turn provides forage for deer, turkeys, grouse, bears and many more.

Fire is also used in the spring to help foresters control competing vegetation like striped and red maple and birch from oak stands. A prescribed fire conducted when the competing vegetation is starting to leaf is effective in obtaining maple and birch mortality while promoting young oak seedlings that will eventually grow into mast-producing trees.

What happens to wildlife during the burn?

The Game Commission designs the prescribed fire to provide an opening in burn units for animals to escape. Igniters act as drivers to push wildlife towards the opening.

In addition, animals that utilize fire-dependent habitats have evolved to deal with periodic fire and have many reproductive (like the ability to re-nest) and defensive responses should a fire occur within their home range.

How does this affect turkey and grouse broods and spring turkey hunting?

Controlled burns are designed in part to improve turkey habitat. They provide tremendous benefits, especially to young broods. After fire moves through, succulent re-growth provides poults with the food, cover, and protein-rich bugs they need to grow and survive.

Some spring gobblers are attracted to burns. Hunters have sent photos of gobblers harvested in areas recently burned. Additionally, only a small portion of available habitat is burned at one time.

-Bureau of Habitat Management

Photo by Hal Korber

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…you should be too when checking for ticks.

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Jack be nimble, Jack be should be too when checking for ticks.

Did you know that the first case of Lyme disease in the United State was described in 1969 by a Wisconsin grouse hunter?

It’s important for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to understand Lyme disease and take preventative steps before, during and after being outdoors.

While the Game Commission does not specialize in human health issues, some general information on Lyme disease is provided below.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease of humans and some domestic mammals caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Wild mammals and birds are often asymptomatic reservoirs for the bacteria.

Lyme disease can cause mild to severe illness in humans. It is common in Pennsylvania, particularly in areas where black-legged ticks or deer ticks are abundant. If left untreated, the illness can progress to serious conditions involving the joints, heart and nervous system.

95% of reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States occurred in the following 12 states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine and Virginia.

The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick is the most important vector for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Clinical Signs
Most mammals and birds do not show clinical signs of Lyme disease. Some domestic animals, especially dogs, may develop clinical signs including fever, stiffness, lameness and arthritis. in 85% of cases, humans with Lyme disease develop a bull’s eye lesion at the location of the tick attachment followed by fever, fatigue and headache.

Lyme disease is diagnosed using laboratory tests.

Humans and domestic animals can be treated with antibiotics. Treatment has a higher efficacy if the infection is addressed early.

Precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease. When spending time outdoors in potential tick habitats:

  • Tuck long pants into socks or boots
  • Wear insect repellant
  • Check yourself and pets thoroughly for ticks after being outside

-Excerpts from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildilfe Disease Library

To learn more visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Living with Pennsylvania Black Bears

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Living with Pennsylvania Black  Bears

Pennsylvania black bears have emerged from their dens and are searching for food. Adult black bears can eat up to 20,000 calories per day in the fall. Even during the summer months, their caloric intake is large.

Bears are opportunistic feeders. Bears find food mainly by scent. They will often return to an area where food has been located previously.

Approximately 18,000 black bears live in Pennsylvania. Many Pennsylvanians have reported sightings of black bears in their communities. The Game Commission has provided information on how to coexist peacefully with these large animals.

5 Tips for Making Your Home Less Attractive to Bears

1. Keep trash inside until collection day.
2. Remove bird feeders.
3. Wash garbage clans regularly with hot water and chlorine bleach.
4. Clean the grill after every use, and properly dispose of grease.
5. Bring outdoor pet food inside at night.
It is unlawful to place any food for wildlife that causes bears to congregate in an area. Click the link for more information on “Living with Pennsylvania Black Bears” (PDF).

Fast Facts about Fawns

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It seems that spring is finally here! And you know what that means: Babies!

Babies of all shapes and sizes. Fawns usually cause the most consternation among the public. They are cute, visible, and seemingly abandoned and helpless.

Peak fawning season

The peak of fawning season for adult does (>1 year old) is May 30 with 90% giving birth from May 12th to June 27th. For fawns (those bred when they were 6 months old and giving birth at 1 year old), the peak is June 19 with 90% giving birth from May 22nd to August 4th.

All fawns spend most of their early life alone

During the first few weeks of life, does only associate with their fawns briefly usually at sunrise and sunset with fawns nursing only 2 or 3 times a day. Fawns select their own bedding location away from its mother and move this hiding place frequently (by itself). The doe is usually within about 90 meters of her resting fawn and makes contact only to nurse.

A fawn found alone, is often not abandoned

Because of this limited interaction with its mother the first few weeks of life, people often think fawns are abandoned. Our advice should always be “Don’t touch that baby!” While I’m sure there may be some evidence for rejection by the doe if a human handles her young, it is minimal. Given her investment, once the bond between mother and young is formed, it is unlikely to be broken even by a stinky human.

Please don’t interrupt doe and fawn bonding

But bad things happened when people mess with wildlife – like imprinting. A doe will imprint upon her fawns in a few hours. If this critical period is interrupted, the imprinting process breaks down and may lead to abandonment. But, fawns take several days or longer to imprint on mom. During this interim, fawns risk being attracted to almost any large moving object – even people. That’s why does are secretive and aggressive during fawn rearing.

Risk of predation

There is also the risk of predation. Fawns have little scent due to mom’s meticulous grooming. If we love all over them, our smell is all over them too making it easier for someone other than mom to find that baby.

Please let young wildlife alone

As difficult as it is, people need to let fawns be. If, in fact, the fawn has been abandoned for some reason, nature will “take its course.” Based on research conducted in Pennsylvania, 57 percent of fawns born in north central Pennsylvania (forested areas) and 72 percent of fawns born in central Pennsylvania (agricultural areas) survive through the summer. This means that between 28-43% of fawns will not live to 6 months of age in Pennsylvania. The majority of this mortality occurs before they are 3 months old. Mortality factors include predators, starvation, failure to nurse, infections, and parasites. It is a harsh reality.

The best advice

Leave all fawns alone and give them their space. Mom will come back for it or she won’t but there isn’t anything you can do to change its fate.

-J.T. Fleegle, Game Commission Deer Biologist

-Photo by Jacob Dingel


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