From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

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

What’s wrong with that deer?


We get LOTS of photos of deer with wart-like, hairless tumors on their brown coats.  These unsightly masses are more often than not cutaneous fibromas.  They can develop anywhere on the body (see attached photos).  Fibromas are caused by a virus.  The virus is an obligate inhabitant of a deer’s skin and poses no known threat to people or domestic animals.  Transmission is thought to occur through biting insects and possibly by direct contact with other infected deer or various contaminated materials that might scratch the skin allowing the virus a way in. 


While ugly and in some cases grotesque, fibromas are merely surface blemishes as they do not spread to internal organs.  In most cases, fibromas are small and resolve on their own.  If 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.  As stated the virus associated with fibromas does not infect humans so the only concern for hunters would be fibroma with a secondary bacterial infection rendering a deer unfit for consumption.

There is an article in Life & Times of the Whitetail series, Boring Brown, that discusses fibroma.  You can also find information in the Wildlife Disease Reference LibraryFibromas and in this two-minute radio program.

By: J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Banded Doves

What a decade of data has shown

This month, dove hunters will be partaking in one of the most active wing-shooting seasons of the year. At about the same time, dove biologists will be closing out the busiest dove monitoring project in the United States: six weeks of nation-wide dove banding.


Photo Credit: Lisa Williams

The dove hunter and the dove bander each play a crucial role in the largest dove data collection effort in the country: the annual capture, banding and recovery of more than 46,000 wild mourning doves in the U.S.

Dove Banding

Dove banding occurs each year in Pennsylvania from early July through mid-August. In more than 20 counties, Game Commission personnel begin spreading seed at trap sites in mid-June. In late June, wire cages appear near the bait piles as the seed continues to appear.

In early July, eager doves find that the wire contraptions are now blocking access to the free food, but as luck would have it, there are convenient tunnels leading to the delicious seed. Once inside the trap, birds continue to feed contentedly. Imagine a dove’s surprise then, when a human rushes up, pops the bird into a holding bag, places an aluminum band on its right leg, and quickly releases it.

Why all the fuss? doveband

The national banding program gathers data that is critically important to the National Dove Harvest Management Strategy. Setting seasons and bag limits requires a detailed understanding of key population factors including: 1) the annual survival of adult and juvenile doves; 2) the annual recruitment of young doves into the fall population, and; 3) the proportion of adult and juvenile doves that are harvested each year. None of these estimates would be possible without a comprehensive and sustained banding effort among federal and state wildlife agencies.

Dove Hunter Reports

All of the work required to band these 46,000 doves each year would be meaningless without dove hunters. When a successful hunter harvests a banded dove, he or she reports the band number and harvest location of the bird to the national Bird Banding Laboratory. Bands are engraved with a toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND) and a web address figure_how_recovered (002)( that make reporting simple and quick. Without this “encounter” or “recovery” information, the time and effort that goes into banding doves would be nearly worthless. Banding information is only meaningful when a banded bird is recovered at a later date. The hunter benefits, too, by receiving a report of when and where the dove was banded.

More than three quarters of all band returns come from dove hunters Randomly finding a dead banded dove on the landscape does occur, but these random encounters count for less than 10 percent of all recovered bands.

What have we learned?

You might be surprised at the important information gleaned from those shiny little rings on the ankle of a dove. For instance, we know that most doves banded in Pennsylvania are recovered in Pennsylvania. That tells managers that the majority of the annual Pennsylvania dove harvest is derived from Pennsylvania-breeding birds. In fact, the majority of Pennsylvania mourning doves are homebodies, traveling an average of 54 miles from their banding location to the point of recovery.recovery

By tracking the encounters of a banded cohort after banding, we can get a sense of the typical life span of wild mourning doves. For instance, in the bar graph, notice that the birds banded in 2006 (shown in deep purple) continue to be recovered in smaller and smaller proportions through 2011 Since we began intensive dove banding in Pennsylvania, we’ve learned that the typical life span (i.e. the average age of recovered birds) is 1.2 years.

For doves banded in Pennsylvania, the longest life span on record is that of a bird that was at least 8½ years old. This bird was banded as an adult near Reading in 2005, and was harvested by a hunter less than 2 miles away in December 2012.

Together, these pieces of information, provided through the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and dove hunters, provide a glimpse into the welfare of the mourning dove population. This data feeds directly into population models that determine the season length and daily bag limit of mourning doves from year to year. Without an ongoing dove banding effort, the setting of sustainable mourning dove seasons would be based on guesswork rather than science. By carefully calibrating dove harvest regulations with annual population dynamics, a sustainable dove season can be enjoyed by today’s dove hunters as well as future generations who follow us into the dove fields.

By: Lisa Williams

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Game Bird Biologist

Prescribed Fire and Wildlife

buckfireFind a Burn, Bag a Buck

…or a bear, potentially a turkey, maybe even a grouse. Prescribed burning improves wildlife habitat, and hunters should consider a new twist in their scouting this fall; find a burned area!

Fire has shaped Pennsylvania’s wildlife habitats for thousands of years with recurring fires that maintained oak forests, open woodlands, and grassy meadows – the perfect mix for turkeys, deer and other wildlife. But such habitats are actually threatened with fire removed from the equation. After 70 to 100 fire-free years, we’re seeing that formerly open habitats are now clogged with rank vegetation and oak forests are being replaced by fire-intolerant birch and maple; all to wildlife’s detriment. That’s why prescribed burning is an essential habitat management tool.

Prescribed Burning to Improve Hunting Opportunity

Who were the first prescribed burners in Pennsylvania? The Seneca, Susquehannock, Delaware and other tribes. Why did they burn? To improve hunting grounds and game populations.

Prescribed burning improves wildlife habitat and hunting opportunity by:

  • Increasing soft mast production in shrubs like blueberry, huckleberry, and blackberry
  • Rejuvenating succulent browse plants preferred by deer and elk
  • Promoting oak habitats and their vitally important acorns
  • Maintaining grasses and broadleaf plants sought by brooding turkeys and grouse


Is Burning the Woods Safe?

PAnatomy_Prescribed-Firerescribed burns are much different than images we’re seeing in the news. Prescribed burns are conducted under very specific weather and “fuel” conditions ensuring fires are low to moderate intensity (fuel refers to the dried leaves, grasses, and brush that are consumed in the fire). Additionally, prescribed burns are normally repeated every 3 to 10 years, preventing fuels from building to dangerous levels. In this way, prescribed burns also reduce the risk of unplanned wild fires.

Prescribed burns are conducted by highly trained crews with hundreds of hours of training and experience. Long before burn day, crews are planning operations and prepping fire lines to ensure safety, both for themselves and the public.

Is Wildlife Harmed?

BlueberryFawn2Prescribed burn ignition patterns provide wildlife escape routes as the burn progresses. Burning during appropriate weather conditions ensures spread rates are slow and flame heights are low. From fawns to turtles, even the slowest wildlife can reach safety. Before the smoke clears animals are often seen returning to burned areas.

Because peak prescribed burning occurs in spring, we often hear concerns over impacts to ground nesting birds like turkeys and grouse. Prescribed burns may disrupt a few nests; however hens often re-nest and some nests in the burn area may not be harmed. Most importantly, burns occur on a relatively small percentage (less than 10%) of the landscape. In that light, the direct impacts are quite small and benefits far outweigh potential negatives.

Learn More

Prescribed burning is a valuable tool to improve habitat and hunting opportunity. It’s a great benefit to utilize this technique in Pennsylvania. To learn more about prescribed fire visit the PA Prescribed Fire Council Facebook page and keep an eye out for upcoming prescribed fire updates on the Game Commission’s website. Burned areas can be a haven for wildlife and finding a burned area could lead to great hunting this fall.


Benjamin C. Jones

Chief, Habitat Planning and Development Division

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Duck Banding

This summer, waterfowl biologists across the state and the nation are capturing ducks and placing identification bands on them. The leg bands help biologists to learn about the migration patterns, harvest rates and life expectancy of the birds.

Watch this video to learn more about the leg banding process and its importance as a management tool.

Check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission Facebook page this month for another duck banding video!

We want to hear from you!


Seeking Input

‘The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) are seeking public input through Sept. 11 on the draft 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. The draft plan and comment forms can be found at: Questions can be directed to the Game Commission at or to the Fish and Boat Commission at Use “SWAP” in the subject line.

Purpose of Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan

The purpose of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan is “to conserve Pennsylvania’s native wildlife, maintain viable habitat, and protect and enhance Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” First developed in 2005, the plan has been the Commonwealth’s blueprint for managing and protecting imperiled species. As required by Congress, State Wildlife Action Plans must be revised no less than every 10 years. For the past 10 years the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan and associated funding from State and Tribal Wildlife Grants have been crucial for protecting and recovering imperiled species and their habitats.

“State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP) are designed to help keep our common native species from becoming more rare,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “For rare species already listed as threatened or endangered, the plan is a framework to assist with their recovery. The SWAP is a unique opportunity to plan how we can work together to protect, conserve and enhance not only our diverse fish and wildlife resources but also the habitats that allow them to continue to live and survive on our Commonwealth’s lands and in our waters.”

“Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan is a commitment to maintaining the Commonwealth’s vast diversity of native wildlife, something we are bound to preserve in accordance with our state constitution,” added Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “It isn’t enough to say we will. We are bound by our constitutional promise to generations yet to come and our conservation ethic to manage all of the state’s natural resources wisely. This plan helps us do that, and it ensures our efforts will be in step with the federal government and other states.”

Bringing together conservation agencies and organizations from across the Commonwealth, for nearly three years  the Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission, and their partners have compiled and analyzed information related to species, habitats, threats, conservation actions to address the threats, and monitoring of these species and habitats. The revised draft plan has identified 664 species including 90 birds, 19 mammals, 18 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 65 fishes and 450 invertebrates that require attention.

A State Wildlife Action Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required for states to receive State & Tribal Wildlife Grant Program funds. The Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan is scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Sept. 30, 2015.


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