From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Stomach Bug

It’s not a surprise when someone is feeling under the weather this time of year. Runny noses, fevers, and the dreaded stomach bug which makes 24 hours feel like 24 days. But compared to deer, humans are fragile and weak. The injuries and parasites deer live with every day would have us begging for a swift end. However, sometimes the microscopic civilization deer transport and live with do cause them trouble.

An obvious outward sign of this is diarrhea. There are many infections and viruses deer live with that can cause diarrhea. And young animals are more susceptible to disease as a general rule. There cause can be a variety of infectious and non-infectious sources. Chronic diarrhea can result in fecal staining of the tail, around the anus and on the legs, which can result in irritation of the skin as well as secondary infections of the skin.

Many of the disease-causing agents we commonly see in deer only become clinically-significant when the deer population exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat. Parasites such as arterial worm, lung worm, and most of the GI nematodes can be found in deer without signs of disease. Typically, they only cause disease when deer densities are high. Certainly one way to achieve high concentrations of deer in an area is through feeding.

Have I mentioned feeding deer is a bad idea? Resist the temptation to “help” deer. Don’t feed them! Feeding deer can cause a host of problems to deer, habitat and even people. MassWildlife has put together a video that captures all these issues. Take a look.

*Video shared with permission from Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Article By: Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission



Berry Good Birding


Bluebird on staghorn sumac


Wild Winter Fruits Attract Many Birds

Birds eat wild fruits by the basketful. If you want to find birds, just find some wild berries. In winter, persistent berries such as staghorn sumac, poison ivy, juniper and winterberry are magnets for wandering flocks of waxwings, bluebirds, robins and many other species. Resident mockingbirds feistily stake their claim to berry patches, protecting them from other birds. Even pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and ruffed grouse are attracted to wild fruits and forage on them during cold, snowy months.

Winter-Persistent Fruits             


Warbler feeding on poison ivy berries

Wild fruits and berries are a critical food source for many birds, especially those that are migrating or experiencing cold winter months when they are in need of quick energy. Many kinds of trees and shrubs produce fruits; only a few of those keep through the cold wintery months. Winter-persistent fruits include rose hips, fruits of hollies, common winterberries, sumac and poison ivy. Usually bright red, these winter-persistent wild fruits often add color to the landscape. The bright colors act as a beacon to birds that forage on them through hard times. The white berries of poison ivy vines attract many birds including yellow-rumped (myrtle) warblers that seek out this food in cool weather. Even downy and pileated woodpeckers will commonly feast on poison ivy berries.

Long List of Fruit-Eating Birds


Black-capped chickadee in a crabapple tree

There is a long list of birds that take advantage of colorful winter fruits. The fruit-eating birds run the gamut of size and color in the state, from tiny chickadees to ruffed grouse and turkeys, and from the subdued colors of sparrows to the bright reds and blues of cardinals and blue jays. Many eastern bluebirds make it through the winter by subsisting on sumac and poison ivy berries. American robins and hermit thrushes will stop along their migration route or stay a bit longer in winter to forage on abundant wild food such as dried grapes, sumac, poison ivy and holly berries. Anyone who participates in a Christmas Bird Count knows that winterberries are a real attractant for many bird species and a lovely spray of red on the gray, wintery landscape.

Even dried grapes in arbors, both natural and man-made, can attract a hungry cardinal or chickadee. If you listen in a riparian woods, you might hear songbirds snapping up the fruits of hackberry—a stealthy way to find wintering grosbeaks and purple finches. The corky bark of hackberry is a clue for the identification of this unappreciated wildlife food source.

Red Cedar: The All-In-One Wildlife Tree

Red cedar is another attraction for birds. Actually, “red cedar” is a juniper and produces blue cone-like “berries” that many birds eat. This is where cedar waxwing got its name. Robins, chickadees, bluebirds, mockingbirds and many other birds gobble up juniper berries and then hide in its dense foliage at night for protection from cold temperatures and winds. When it is windy or especially cold, many birds can be found in a red cedar tree eating the blue berries. Red cedars attract many “semi-hardy” birds that are not well-equipped to fight the cold weather Birders can find species that normally are not winter-persistent, like hermit thrush, in red cedar stands.

Plan Ahead

For wildlife lovers, planting some of these wild shrubs and trees on their property is a great way to provide leafy “bird feeders” year-round. Take note of what the birds are eating now in the hardest weather to make plans for future wildlife plantings. Many fruit-bearing shrubs and trees can be acquired through natural plant nurseries and the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery.

Article: Doug Gross, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife diversity biologist

Photos: Jacob Dingel


Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough has announced a temporary closure to feral swine hunting in Butler County.

Feral swine are not native to Pennsylvania, but sometimes are found roaming freely on public and private lands. Because of the damage feral swine cause to the habitat upon which Pennsylvania’s native wildlife depends, licensed hunters statewide are permitted to take any feral swine they might encounter.

However, the same executive order that permits hunters to take feral swine also gives the Pennsylvania Game Commission authority to place a hold on the hunting of feral swine so as not to interfere with special trapping operations that typically are considered the most effective way to eradicate this nuisance animal species.

Hough has enacted this authority.

Trapping by authorized professionals only can occur from the end of the flintlock muzzleloader deer season to the start of spring turkey season, and from the close of the spring turkey season to the start of the archery deer season.

The temporary restrictions on hunting feral swine began at the close of hunting hours January 9, 2015.

When the special trapping effort comes to an end, and feral swine again may be hunted in Butler County, the Game Commission will announce the change by news release, and on its website,

Join the Christmas Bird Count


Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are urging wildlife enthusiasts to join the tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the United States in the Audubon Society’s 116th Annual Christmas Bird Count, taking place through Jan. 5.

Participants in this year’s count already are excitedly reporting their results. 

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen-science survey in the world, and the data collected through the count allows researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

Local counts will occur on one day, sometime on or before Jan. 5. Volunteers can pick the most convenient circle, or participate in more than one count. There is a specific methodology to the Christmas Bird Count, but everyone can participate. The count takes place within “Count Circles,” which focus on specific geographical areas. Each circle is led by a “Count Compiler,” who is an experienced birdwatcher, enabling beginning birders to learn while they assist.

Those who live within the boundaries of a Count Circle can even stay at home and report the birds that visit their backyard feeders.

In either case, the first step is to locate a Count Circle that’s seeking participants and contact the local Count Compiler on Audubon’s website,, to find out how you can volunteer.

There is no fee to participate in the Christmas Bird Count.

Douglas Gross, who heads up the Game Commission’s endangered and non-game bird section, said data collected through the Christmas Bird Count is valuable in monitoring the distribution of bird species. The agency can use these data to track changes in species populations and better manage our feathered resources. 

In the 2015 count, for instance, Carolina wrens were detected in all but one of the state’s Count Circles – continuing a positive trend for a bird once regularly found only in Pennsylvania’s southeastern counties. The 2015 count also was able to document a pine siskin invasion, and tracked cackling goose numbers in Pennsylvania at all-time highs.

With the very mild weather this winter, there may be many surprises found during these counts.  For example, many more American robins are being found in some count circles due to the mild weather and abundance of soft mast.

The data generated from the Christmas Bird Count is published each year on the National Audubon website and summarized each year in the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology’s journal, “Pennsylvania Birds.”

By reporting their results in eBird, the data are available to others and to the agency for its management.

But helping to provide important information isn’t the only reason to participate, Gross said.

“It’s a lot of fun, too,” he said.


Return of the Eagle Cam


The Pennsylvania Game Commission is pleased to announce the 2016 Hanover, Pa. bald eagle nest live stream!* Watch bald eagle nest activities LIVE here:

If you enjoy watching the eagles and would like to contribute to the conservation of Pennsylvania wildlife here are a couple of ways you can do so.

1) You can donate directly to the Game Commission:

2) You can purchase one of two calendars: a “Wildlife of Pennsylvania” calendar or the NEW “Birds of Pennsylvania” calendar. The calendars are available for $9.25 and can be purchased through the Outdoor Shop.

All proceeds from the calendars are used by the Game Commission to fulfill its mission of conserving Pennsylvania’s wildlife species.

Thank you for considering a donation or purchase of a calendar to show your support of wildlife. We hope you enjoy the ‪#‎PGCeaglecam‬.

*This project is a joint effort between HDOnTAP, Comcast Business, Codorus State Park and the Friends of Codorus State Park.

Give the Gift of Conservation



You can help support Pennsylvania wildlife through the purchase of several Pennsylvania Game Commission products.

This year, for the first time, the Game Commission is offering a 2016 calendar featuring the birds of Pennsylvania. This calendar is full of stunning images of native birds. Additionally, the Game Commission still offers the classic wildlife of Pennsylvania calendar.  The purchase of a calendar not only makes a great gift, but also supports wildlife conservation in the Commonwealth.

In 1982, the Pennsylvania Game Commission developed the Working Together for Wildlife program to give the public a way to contribute to wildlife; a way for hunters and nonhunters alike to work with the agency to help wildlife. Since its inception, Working Together for Wildlife has generated over $3 million to benefit wildlife.

2015_WTFW_Patch_GroundhogEach year, the program features either a mammal or a bird art print and patch. These have become collector’s items and the collectors can feel proud of their investment in Pennsylvania’s wildlife. A groundhog was the featured mammal for 2015. The print and patch can be ordered from the Outdoor Shop. All proceeds, support Pennsylvania wildlife.

The Game Commission also offers a voluntary waterfowl management stamp. The sales from the art support wetland habitat acquisitions and management.2015_Duck_Stamp_Print

Many more items are available in the Outdoor Shop including: patches, 2015_Big_Game_Records_Bookpins, framed and unframed art, wall charts, hats and collectibles as well as books such as

2015 Pennsylvania Big Game Records Book

Pennsylvania Deer Hunting, Through The Pages of Game NewsPGC_Cook_Book_2nd_Edition

Pennsylvania Game Commission, Game Cookbook, Second Edition

Pennsylvania Wildlife Student Guide

On behalf of the commonwealth’s wildlife, the Game Commission would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all Working Together for Wildlife contributors for their generosity in helping conserve Pennsylvania’s woods and wilds.

Pennsylvania State Game Lands

The Pennsylvania state game lands system, which since 1919 has provided critical habitat for wildlife statewide, and a network of lands open to public hunting and trapping, now tops 1.5 million acres.

State Game LandsSmall2

That’s a land base larger than the state of Delaware. Pennsylvania is the only independent state wildlife agency that owns and manages such extensive lands. And Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said all Pennsylvanians can take pride in the achievement of what the 1.5 million acre milestone represents.

“Early in its existence, the Game Commission recognized the importance of preserving wildlife habitat, and at the same time, creating opportunity for hunters and trappers by opening those lands to the public, ” Hough said. “For years and years, Pennsylvania hunters and trappers have paid into this system with the purchase of their licenses, and the sporting arms and ammunition they use in the field. Countless conservation organizations have stepped up to fund land purchases, and hundreds of private individuals donated parcels that were added to the system.

Game Lands Documentary

The Game Commission has produced a documentary chronicling Pennsylvania’s state game lands system. It can be viewed below.

Future of Game Lands

Taking care of the tremendous land resource state game lands represent is no small feat.

A lot of manpower and money goes into modifying habitat to get the greatest return for wildlife. The Game Commission’s 2015-20 Strategic Plan calls for the agency to transition management practices on state game lands to create more young-forest habitats through timber harvest, planting native warm-season grasses and prescribed fire. The Game Commission will also focus efforts on enhancing hunter opportunities on game lands.


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