From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission


Bubba Was Here

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He’s of prime age and is available. He hangs with the bucks in the Yoak gang, but he is not the biggest or the baddest. He passed by on Tues. at 3 o’clock.

This is a lot to communicate, but deer can get this information from a quick whiff at any signpost. Bucks place signposts— licking branches, rubs and scrapes—year-round throughout their territory. Because bucks and does travel in different social circles, signposts facilitate communications for both sexes.

In the spring and summer, when tender new antlers are developing under a cushion of velvet, bucks communicate through the communal licking of branches. These branches usually are located over a trail or along the edge of a field, just above normal deer height. By mouthing the branch and sometimes rubbing it with their forehead or preorbital glands, bucks smell and taste “notes” left by other deer. Identities, status and social bonding can all be gathered through the nose. During summer, the licking branches are used by all bucks in the area, dominant or not; a one-stop gossip rag for all the deer in the neighborhood.

After their headgear has hardened and the velvet begins to shed, bucks begin tearing and rubbing the bark off bushes and trees with their antlers. Rubbing during and shortly after velvet loss is violent, as bucks thrash bushes to get a feel for what has been growing on their heads all summer. As the rut progresses, rubbing evolves into the more typical, highly visual buck rub. Once the rub is complete, bucks anoint it with their forehead gland. Some rubs are used year after year. Age plays a factor in rub making. Yearlings typically rub saplings no more than two to three inches in diameter, while a mature buck may rub trees six inches or larger. This work doesn’t go unnoticed, as bucks and does visit rubs.

The most complex signpost bucks use is a scrape. It is used most intensely just before the peak of the rut. A full scrape involves branch marking, pawing and urination. A scrape starts with an overhanging limb on which a buck will rub his forehead or preorbital gland. If the mood strikes him, he’ll even rattle the branch with his antlers. He takes the twig in his mouth and moistens it, thereby leaving his mark and detecting the mark of others using the scrape. Then he clears a 3- to 6-foot circle by pawing the ground, steps into the circle and urinates onto his tarsal glands while rubbing them together. Usually, only mature dominant bucks produce a significant number of scrapes. So while the whitetail spends its days in relative silence, plenty is being said. You just have to look, lick or smell.

By: J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist

-This article was originally posted in the Life & Times of the Whitetail.


Pennsylvania Elk Hunting FAQ

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Applying for an Elk License

  • How do I apply for and check the status of an elk license application? Applicants can make application and check on the status of an elk license application through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at www.pa.wildlifelicense.com. Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts.
  • Which “preferred” hunt zone should I select? This is a matter of individual preference. Hunters have successfully harvested elk in every hunt zone. Carefully examine each zone considering road access and the amount of available public and private land. Note that your preferred hunt zone has no influence on your chances of being drawn. For example, if you select Zone 2 and are drawn after Zone 2 has been filled, you’ll simply be assigned to the next available zone. For more details, consult the Elk Hunt Zone Map Book (PDF), Annual Elk Harvest Maps, the Game Commission Mapping Center and maps of the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources’ state forests. Apply Online. The Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) is the site to apply for the elk license drawing and check the status of your application. Preference points can also be checked through PALS.
  • What are preference points? Preference points are accumulated for each unsuccessful application; you won’t see an accumulated point for the current year’s application. You can check your preference points through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at www.pa.wildlifelicense.com. Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts. If you believe there is an error, please contact the License Division at 717-787-2084. If you did not apply for an elk tag this year, your preference points will not expire; preference points are only lost if you are successfully drawn for an elk tag. You must apply in the current year to be entered into the drawing.
  • When is the license drawing? The annual drawing for elk licenses is scheduled to take place Saturday Aug. 20 during the Elk Expo at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. Successful applicants who provide a phone number or email will be notified promptly by those methods, others will receive notification by postal mail.

Information for elk hunters

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  • What are the elk hunting regulations? Please consult the current Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest for details about this year’s elk hunt.
  • How do I find an elk check station? Harvested elk need to be taken to the elk check station within 24 hours. The Elk Check Station is located at the Old Benezette School House in Elk County on the north side of Route 555 in Benezette on the west side of Trout Run. GPS Coordinates are 41.3154 N and 78.3874 W. Cell coverage on the elk range is sparse. Elk Check Station (map) (PDF)
  • How do I find permitted elk hunting guides? Elk Guides are regulated by the Game Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and offer various services to the hunter. Those individuals drawn for elk licenses will be provided a list of permitted guides before the hunt, although guides are not required. Employing the services of an elk guide/outfitter is completely up to the hunter
  • How much does an adult elk weigh? An adult bull may weigh 600-1,000 pounds and an adult cow may weigh 400-600 pounds. Part of your hunt plan should include how to field-dress and move the animal from the kill site to your vehicle and on to the check station. Regulations prohibit the use of motorized vehicles, including ATVs on state-owned property, with few exceptions. The animal may be skinned and quartered and packed out by horses or mules or on pack boards. Hunters should bring plenty of help. Any number of unlicensed persons may accompany hunters as long as they wear the required fluorescent orange and do not participate in the hunt itself or carry a firearm. Persons just accompanying an elk hunter are not required to have an elk guide permit.
    Table – License Issued and Harvest Success
  • Where can I get detailed information about individual elk hunt zone boundaries? There are several options for this, but the best place to view the elk hunt zones in detail is through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s online Mapping Center. Through the online mapping program hunters can add a variety of backgrounds including aerial photos, topographic maps and roads. A second option is to download a detailed elk hunt zone map book  (PDF 15MB) directly from the Game Commission’s website. And a third option is to examine State Forest maps available online or at each State Forests headquarters.

*Information taken from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s elk page.


Saving a Life- How to Feed and Care for a Fawn

Being little is hard. Here’s how to lend a helping hand.

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Babies of all shapes and sizes are popping up everywhere.  Fawns are arguably the cutest ones of the bunch. But they are so little and helpless and often abandoned.  If you come across one of these frail creatures, here’s how you can help.

LEAVE IT ALONE! A “saved” fawn is a dead fawn.

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.

There are going to be a lot of fawns out there soon. They are not abandoned.  They are not in trouble.  They do not need to be saved by any person!

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.  A Fawn selects its own bedding location away from its mother and moves this hiding place frequently ALL BY ITSELF.  The doe is usually within about 90 meters of her resting fawn and makes contact only to nurse.

People often think fawns are abandoned or cold or sick or lonely.  Do it a favor and leave it alone. This is the best way to increase its odds of survival.

Because bad things happened when people mess with wildlife – like imprinting.  Have you read the recent story of the bison calf loaded in a tourist’s SUV in Yellowstone because they thought it looked cold?  Instead of saving the calf, they signed its death certificate.

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.

It may be difficult but 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.

However, in the wild, fawns have a fighting chance. In the arms of a person, they are as good as dead.

So lend a helping hand by keeping YOUR HANDS to yourself. Look but do not touch and you can save a life!

Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission

 


Osprey Nest Survey

This year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is conducting a statewide survey of osprey nests. The osprey is one of Pennsylvania’s most popular raptors. Like the bald eagle, it is a charismatic bird of conservation concern that is strongly associated with aquatic habitats. Yet often it is found near humans. Unique in appearance, it is truly the “people’s fish hawk.”

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Osprey Nest Photo by Joe Kosack

If you know the location of a pair of nesting ospreys, please contact us. The osprey population has grown steadily since its reintroduction in the 1980s. Although the Game Commission has located more than 100 nests in recent years, some nests have been overlooked. That is why we need your assistance. The osprey nest survey is an initiative that would not be possible without the help of volunteers. More information about the survey can be found on the Game Commission’s website.  Just download the Osprey Nest Survey Form along with the Nest Observation Protocol, and submit it to osprey@pa.gov.

We would appreciate your reports of active osprey nests by July 31. A statewide osprey survey was completed in 2010 and at least 115 nests were found. Since then, ospreys have continued to expand into new areas. We would like to learn of these new nests. Please do not assume that a nest location you know has been covered by somebody else. The coordinates of the nest support structure are important to include as well. Use online mapping programs to find the coordinates.

Osprey-Management-Map-2015

Distribution of Pennsylvania osprey nests and associated secondary drainages. Nests active in 2014, x, or active at least one year since 1990, +, Hydrologic unit boundaries (HUC6), yellow lines. County boundaries, black lines. -By Patti Barber

Your osprey nest data will be used to update the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program database and also enable us to better understand the status of this state-threatened species and its management potential. We intend to find at least 10 active nesting pairs in at least four different watershed clusters. That is a modest goal that we are confident that we can achieve with your assistance. Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us with this important survey.

By: Doug Gross, Pennsylvania Game Commission Ornithologist, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Diversity team

For more information on ospreys read the comprehensive description, recovery and management plan and a recent Pennsylvania eBird article.


Bald Eagle Nest Etiquette

eaglekorber

Photo: Hal Korber

There are few sights more thrilling than a bald eagle at its nest or in action along a shoreline. Responsibilities come with this enjoyment. As you enjoy eagles, you must ensure your presence and behavior do not have a detrimental effect on the eagles or their future use of the area.

Eagle nests and young eagles are easily disturbed. By causing a premature fledging, you can inadvertently cause injury or death of an eaglet that can not yet fly or defend itself. In the cold winter, energy is a very valuable commodity for eagles. Flushing eagles from a roost site or a feeding ground causes unnecessary stress and may expose the eagle to additional predators.

So please keep your distance from eagle nests and roosts. Respect their space. Enjoy their presence at a distance with good optics. Please consider the following general etiquette guidelines for avoiding eagle disturbances:

Stay Back- Keep at least 1,000 feet from an active nest, roost, or feeding area. Use optics like binoculars or a telescope to view the eagles at a distance.

Remain Quiet- If you must talk, whisper.

Cover Up- Use your vehicle or boat as a blind; eagles often are more alarmed by pedestrians.

Avoid Sudden Movements – Do not move quickly or toward the eagles or the nest while on foot or in a vehicle or boat.

Do Not Try to Make the Birds Fly-Flushing an eagle off a nest may expose the eggs or young eaglets to cold or wet weather or a nest predator. It also wastes precious energy and may cause them to leave a valuable meal behind or abandon a nest that they are constructing.

Pay attention-Watch how the eagle reacts to your presence – if it acts agitated, vocalizes repeatedly, or starts moving away, you are too close.

Stay out-Respect restricted zones. They protect eagle nesting areas. And you are breaking state and federal laws if you enter them.

Respect the Privacy of the Landowner-Do not tell everyone about a new eagle nest. It will attract people to nesting areas who may not use proper etiquette and bring other unnecessary attention to a nest. If you unexpectedly stumble onto an eagle nest, or hear an eagle vocalizing overhead, leave immediately and quietly.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


#PGCeaglecam NEWS

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3/30/16 UPDATE

It appears the eaglet that hatched on Monday night on the ‪#‎PGCeaglecam‬ did not survive. As we’ve noted, the live stream provides an opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting. Sometimes, that may include scenes that are difficult to watch.

The Game Commission will not intervene in this situation. Federal safeguards exist to protect nesting eagles. Persons encroaching a 660-foot perimeter around a nest are in violation of federal law. At this point, we will continue to monitor the nest and the second egg

3/29/16

An eaglet has made its appearance on the ‪#‎PGCeaglecam‬! View the nest activities LIVE here: http://bit.ly/PGCeaglecam Visit http://bit.ly/PGCeaglecam2 to view the infrared camera.

This is a joint project between the Pennsylvania Game Commission, HDOnTap, ComcastBusiness, Codorus State Park, Friends of Codorus State Park and others. Thank you for your support of Pennsylvania wildlife.