From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Those fawns might not be traveling with mom.


Photo: Jacob Dingel

Does and fawns are often seen together in the winter. Everyone knows that it is mom and her fawns from last spring. But as usual things aren’t always as they seem in the deer world.

There is a theory that orphaned male fawns are less likely to disperse as yearlings because they no longer have a mother to drive them away from their birthplace. Research here in Pennsylvania studying male dispersal tested this theory. If a doe and button buck were captured, we would know this buck was not orphaned. Then we could test the hypothesis: are non-orphaned males more likely to disperse?

But we needed to take a step back and first ask if does and fawns traveling together are related.

Tissue samples were taken from does and fawns captured together in 2003 and a genetic analysis was conducted to determine if they were, in fact, related. (To read the Journal of Wildlife Management publication click here).

It turns out you might as well flip a coin to determine if a fawn is related to the adult doe you see nearby – at best, 51% of fawns were related to the adult doe in the capture group!

What does this mean for us regular folk? Well, if someone tells you they saw a doe with triplets… maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. First, the odds of three fawns surviving to the age that they travel with their mom are not good. Mortality rates for fawns make it unlikely that all live to that age.  Second, our research shows fawns don’t always travel with their mother!

Here’s the practical application: if you are managing an area and want to monitor recruitment of fawns into the population, you should look at the ratio of fawns to does –sum up all the fawns you see and divide by the number of adult does you observe. Don’t hang your hat on observations of a how many does you see with fawns.

As fawns become more independent they don’t spend all of their time with their mother. Hanging with Aunt Suzie is just as likely as tagging along with mom.

By: Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission


Pittman-Roberston Act

How do hunters fund conservation efforts?
Did you know that wildlife and habitat management as well as public hunting lands are funded by sportsmen?

This occurs in several ways. When hunting licenses, permits and tags are purchased, it provides direct revenue to the Game Commission. This money is used to pay for a variety of expenses, which range from wildlife research projects and habitat treatments to equipment purchases, staff salaries and benefits. These monies also pay for hunter access projects such as land acquisitions. In addition, the purchase of a hunting license results in a unique function of the federal government through the implementation of the Pittman-Robertson Act by the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Melanie - Small Game - Shotgun - Aiming

Photo: Joe Kosack

Pittman-Robertson Act
The Pittman-Robertson Act requires the IRS to collect taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment from the manufacturer as goods are produced and shipped for retail sale. These funds are then deposited in an account managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service solely for the purpose of redistributing the money to states for wildlife management, public hunting access, land purchases and other specified wildlife related projects and administration by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Public relations and law enforcement activity funding are prohibited by the act. Pittman-Robertson funds are collected and deposited for apportionment to the states, tribes and territories automatically every year without this action having to be reviewed or approved by the U.S. legislature through any budgeting process.

How does the Pittman-Robertson Act work?
The Pittman-Robertson legislation requires a state like Pennsylvania to sign what is termed “Assent Legislation” before it is eligible to receive Pittman-Robertson funding. This legislation was passed into law by the Pennsylvania Assembly and signed by the governor at the time, prior to receiving any federal funding. Essentially, the legislation states that Pennsylvania will utilize all of its hunting license revenue, as well as all federal funds received for this purpose, for the administration of the Game Commission and its activities and operations. The funding cannot be diverted to other uses such as balancing a state budget. This assures that all money from license revenues, the lands of the Game Commission and all federal funding provided to the Game Commission stay with the agency for its main purpose of managing wildlife and providing hunting access.

The amount of funding provided to each state is based on a simple formula that accounts for the total land acreage of the state and the number of unique hunters, both resident and non-resident, that purchased a hunting license in a given year. Pennsylvania had more than 980,000 certified hunters in the 2014-15 license year.

Pittman-Robertson funding is a reimbursable grant program. The Game Commission is responsible for 25 percent of the cost of grant expenditures. That 25 percent can also come from matching services from partners. An example of this is the agency’s Hunter Education, Recruitment and Retention grant, which utilizes a valuation of time spent in the regions by volunteer hunter education instructors assisting in and conducting hunter-trapper education programs.

plowOn what does the Game Commission spend Pittman-Robertson money?

The Game Commission spends Pittman-Robertson money on many different things including habitat management equipment; land acquisitions; wildlife research projects; hunter education and hunter recruitment activities; the cost of keeping buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure in good shape; and salaries for staff working on those things.

What happens to surplus grant money?
There has never been any surplus grant funds for the Game Commission. The agency obligates all of its Pittman-Robertson funds within two state fiscal years and has never returned funds.

By: Gary Camus, Pennsylvania Game Commission

Operation Game Thief



If you see poaching activity, you can now report the details through an online system called Operation Game Thief. The program will collect important information and send it to the appropriate region office. Upon dispatcher review, the report will be forwarded to an officer to investigate. This efficient system is used by many states and provinces to help stop wildlife crimes.


Be a Conservation Hero! Poachers are Thieves… help us catch them.

Have you witnessed a wildlife crime against big game (deer, turkey, bear and elk) or a species that is protected, endangered or threatened? Call Operation Game Thief’s toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to report wildlife violations: 1-888-PGC-8001or fill out an Operation Game Thief Reporting Form online.

Calls to the Operation Game Thief telephone number are always answered by a secure recording device. Although it is beneficial to provide your contact information in case officers have follow-up questions, callers may remain confidential, however, those who wish to claim any monetary reward, must provide contact information.

What crimes should you report?

Wildlife crimes affect us all, whether we are hunters, trappers, bird watchers or others who enjoy walking in the woods. The illegal shooting or taking of big game or protected, endangered or threatened species, or any crime against those species should be reported through Operation Game Thief. Other violations should be reported to the region office serving the county in which the violation is taking place as quickly as possible.

What information should you provide?

Please provide as many details as possible:

  • Description of WHAT YOU SAW and the SPECIES involved
  • DATE and TIME of occurrence
  • Description of PERSON(S): height, weight, hair color, eye color, approximate age, tattoo or other distinguishing feature, clothing, sporting arm
  • VEHICLE Description: color, make, model, dents, decals, bumper stickers; license number and state; road/route; direction of travel
  • Your name and phone number (require to claim any monetary reward) and whether or not you choose to remain confidential

Chronic Wasting Disease, Disease Management Areas and Approved Locations

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) eventually resulting in death.

Current Status: 
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in three locations in Pennsylvania: a captive deer farm in Adams County (fall 2012); free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties (2012 firearms season); and a captive deer farm in Jefferson county (spring 2014). Following the detection of CWD in both captive and free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania, an executive order was issued by the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; the removal of high-risk cervid parts; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited. Increased testing continues in these areas to determine the distribution of the disease. Newly confirmed cases will alter the boundaries of DMAs as the Game Commission continues to manage the disease and minimize its affect on free ranging cervids.

Transporting Deer Carcasses

It is unlawful to remove deer from any DMA unless it is being taken to an approved location.

Businesses listed on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s CWD webpage have have been approved to receive deer carcasses from within disease management areas.

A new online map has been developed to easily show approved processors, taxidermists and disposal sites. Hunters planning to hunt deer in a disease management area are encouraged to review CWD information and the approved locations map. Questions can be directed to the appropriate region office: or


Tis the Season to Complete Hunter-Trapper Education

Firearms deer season is right around the corner. Have you completed your hunter-trapper education? By state law, all first-time hunters and trappers, regardless of age, must successfully complete hunter-trapper education before purchasing a hunting or furtaker license.

Course Options

IMG_0285Students must be at least 11 years old to attend a classroom hunter-trapper education course. Parents may attend with their children. This training is designed to produce safe, responsible, knowledgeable, and involved participants. Find a course by using the class calendar.

Students 16 and older can complete hunter-trapper education requirements completely online at The online course can be completed on any device, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. It can be completed at the student’s pace. The online course is supplemented with educational animations and videos, in addition to the content taught in the classroom course. The online course costs $19.50 which is payable upon successful completion of the course. After passing the course, students can print the certificate and purchase a hunting license.

Those who prefer to learn alongside others interested in hunting can supply a zip code and use the course locater to find a classroom course taught by a volunteer instructor.

Register today!

Advanced Classes
If you’re looking to advance your hunter education, consider taking one of the other available classes: Successful Bowhunting, Successful Turkey Hunting, Successful Furtaking, and Cable Restraint Certification. Find out more on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.

How Homeowners Can Reduce Conflicts with Bears


If you live in one of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania that has black bears, chances are you’ve seen a black bear or know someone who has seen one. The Pennsylvania black bear population has grown considerably in the past 40 years. In the 1970s, it was estimated that 4,000 black bears lived in Pennsylvania. Today approximately 18,000 live in the state. Black bears live in a variety of habitats but prefer to stay near forested areas. The black bear is an omnivore, which means it will eat just about anything. That sometimes leads to conflicts with humans.

Causes of Black Bear Conflicts

People sometimes leave food out for bears without realizing it.

  • Birdseed left out in feeders can potentially become “bear seed.” Bears don’t know that this food is only meant for birds. The nutritious seeds make a great meal for bears.
  • Another accidental bear attractant is garbage. Food scraps discarded in household trash make a fine dinner for bears. Fifty percent of conflicts with bears involve birdfeeders, and 40 percent involve garbage – imagine the reduction in nuisance bear problems if a few simple steps were taken to reduce these attractants.
  • Additionally, bears may discover that outdoor pet food can become a regular treat. When food is left out for a cat or dog, the bear sees it as an easy opportunity for a meal.
  • A bear attractant that people often don’t consider is an outdoor grill. When food is cooked on the grill, residual grease or food often remains. Bears will be more than happy to try to lick that up.

How to Reduce a Bear’s Attraction to Your Property

  • Put bird feeders and seed away or keep it inside at night. Birds don’t need supplemental feeding in the spring and summer months.
  • Keep garbage inside until trash day. Wait until the morning of pick-up to put garbage out. Try to keep the trash inside, in a garage or shed. It is also a good idea to put ammonia, bleach or powdered garden lime in the bags. This will help eliminate the odors and give the trash a bad smell or taste to the bear.
  • Don’t leave extra pet food outside.
  • Burn off all grease and food on the grill.

When to Call the Pennsylvania Game Commission about a Bear bear2

If you have tried the aforementioned deterrents and a bear still frequents your property, or, if a bear is acting aggressively or damaging property, you may want to call the Game Commission. The agency may deem the bear a candidate to trap and relocate. Region office contact information can be found here:


Bear Trap Photos Provided By WCO Hower

Trapping and Relocating Bears

Trapping bears is a last solution because it does not always work. Some bears will not go into traps because they have been caught before or are just naturally wary of them. If the bear is caught and relocated it will often make its way back, even if it is moved several miles away. When relocating bears, wildlife conservation officers try not to take them across major highways because if the bear attempts to go back it has a greater chance of getting hit on the highway. This limits the traveled distance and locations for appropriate releases. Bear relocations may also result in the bear causing conflicts in the area where it was released.

Feeding Ban

It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemical, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate an area. The intent of this regulation is to protect the public from bears, not to put a stop to other wildlife feeding or songbird feeding. However, the regulation enables Game Commission wildlife conservation officers to issue written notices to cease songbird and other wildlife feeding if bears are being attracted to the area and causing a nuisance for property owners or neighbors.

What is often called a “nuisance bear” actually is just a bear being a bear. By following some of the advice and tips in this article, you can help prevent nuisance bear problems.

By: Mark Kropa

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Wildlife Conservation Officer


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