From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

#EggWatch turned into #HanoverEagletNews

It’s been an eventful couple of months for the eagle pair featured on the camera. After cozying up their nest, the eagle couple was captured beak-to-beak on video, in what resembled their sharing a kiss. Then on Valentine’s Day, the first egg was laid. A second egg followed on Feb. 17.

Over the next few weeks, the birds became a nationwide sensation – particularly during a snowstorm when one of adults allowed itself to be buried in falling snow so that the eggs could remain warm and dry. While such behavior is typical, it’s seldom something that can be viewed.


On the morning of March 24, live stream viewers caught the first glimpse of an eaglet. The following morning, viewers spotted a second eaglet.


Eagles feed eaglets.


Live stream viewers can follow the eaglet conversation on social media by searching #HanoverEagletNews. People can also post screen captures and read updates on the Game Commission’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

The eagle cam is a joint project of the Game Commission, HDOnTap and Comcast Business. Viewers from more than 140 countries have accessed the live stream so far. And the total duration of the video viewed so far equals nearly 380 years’ worth.

Dave Dombroski, vice president of Comcast Business for its Keystone Region, said the company is proud to partner in this endeavor, which not only captivated viewers around the world, but has helped educate them about our national bird and symbol of freedom, the bald eagle.

HDOnTap provided the camera that relays high definition video from the nest, as well as the live streaming services so many have used.

The Game Commission also would like to thank the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Codorus State Park and the Friends of Codorus State Park, Swam Electric and Sunbelt Rentals for their roles in making the eagle cam a reality.

Click to view the eagle cam on the Game Commission’s website. The live stream can be played by clicking on the window near the top of the page, and all sorts of other useful information about eagles also is available at the site.

Age-Old Question about White-tailed Deer

Have you ever wondered about the age of wild white-tailed deer? One of our biologists recounts some surprising recent discoveries in this blog post.

A few months ago I told you the story of Doe #151 that was spotted in a trail camera picture. After a little investigating, it was confirmed that this doe was 13.5 years old – tagged as a fawn in 2001 in the Quehanna Wild Area. Amazing and rare, right? Well, maybe not. 

I received a call a couple of weeks ago regarding another tagged doe that was harvested during the muzzleloader season. Data records showed that we first met this lovely lady in March 2003 not far from Echo, Pa. in Armstrong County. If she was tagged as a fawn, she would have been 12.5 years old when she was harvested. However, she was tagged as an adult. With no way to confirm her birth year, her minimum age would have been 13.5 years old.

But wait, there is more! A colleague received a report of an ear-tagged deer regularly visiting someone’s backyard near Kittanning. Are you ready? This doe was tagged just a few hundred yards away from there in February 2003 as an adult, which means she is closing in on her 14th birthday this spring. That is a minimum age for this girl. That means that we received two phone calls in less than a week of two does that were tagged a month apart in Armstrong County over a decade ago.

Our lovely lady from Echo won’t be getting any older but her “sister” is still keeping it real in Armstrong County. Ms. 151 may still be out there, too. That makes three confirmed reports of does in the last four months that are 13.5 years old from two different areas. Maybe I should start playing the lottery.

-J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Graduation of the 30th Class of Wildlife Conservation Officers



Pennsylvania gained 25 new wildlife conservation officers on February 28.

The 30th Class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation graduated during a ceremony at Susquehanna Township Middle School. The graduates were commissioned as officers, and have been assigned to their new districts. For the first time in over a decade, every one of the agency’s 136 WCO districts will be filled.

Members of the 30th class, their hometowns and their new assignments can be found here.

Cadet Journey

Thirty-one cadets from all across the state arrived at the training school on March 9, 2014.  After 51 weeks of intensive training, 25 cadets successfully completed the program. These individuals have emerged ready to meet the challenges of a district wildlife conservation officer.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Duties

Game Commission WCOs are responsible for administering a wide variety of agency programs within an assigned district of about 350 square miles. Primary duties include law enforcement, responding to wildlife conflicts, conservation education and administration of the Hunter-Trapper Education program. Officers also are responsible for supervising and training part-time deputy wildlife conservation officers.

Ross Leffler School of Conservation History

In 1930, Ross Leffler, then president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, proposed the establishment of a training school for game protectors. When the training school opened its doors in 1932, in Brockway Jefferson County, it was the first such conservation officer training school in the world and served as a model for other states.

From 1932 until 1935, the Ross Leffler School or Conservation offered in-service training for game protectors. The Commission voted to make the school a permanent facility and enrolled its first class of trainees in 1936, and continued training new classes at this facility until 1986. In 1987, the training school was moved to the Harrisburg headquarters.

Past, Present and Future

Six-hundred-seventy-three individuals have graduated from the Ross Leffler School of Conservation since the first class enrolled in 1936.

“These men and women are the face of the Pennsylvania Game Commission for the next 25 years and we are confident that they will serve the agency and the public well,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Director of Training Timothy Grenoble.


Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

Visitor Center

Did you know that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has a visitor center in Kleinfeltersville, Pa.? The educational center is located within the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Visitors to the area enjoy the wildlife watching and hunting opportunities.

Waterfowl Hunting

The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area was originally created in the early 1970s to promote waterfowl hunting in eastern Pennsylvania. It covers 6,254 acres and is located on the Lancaster/Lebanon County line. While at first glance, the habitat may seem to have occurred naturally, Middle Creek is intensely managed for specific purposes. Dikes, shallow water impoundments and critical nesting areas are created and managed to attract thousands of ducks, geese and swans during their migration.


Water Control Structures

The front side of this dike serves as a small dam creating a shallow pond behind it. Water control structures are located along the dike. During various times of the year, managers can add or remove boards to change the water levels.


When managers remove boards, the water levels drop and the exposed mudflats attract a variety of wildlife. Waterfowl and other migratory birds such as shorebirds feed on the abundant supply of annual seeds and protein-rich invertebrates that shallow water marshes provide.


Similar to small dikes, shallow impoundments are created to collect and hold shallow water throughout most of the year.


These impoundments provide feeding areas for dabbling ducks which feed by tipping over to reach the seeds and aquatic plants in the shallow water.


Important Waterfowl Habitat

In 2010, Middle Creek was designated as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Middle Creek annually hosts a large percentage of the continent’s population of snow geese and tundra swans and provides critically important migratory stopover habitat.


During the spring migration, visitors can often see snow geese put on incredible flight displays. Visit our website for more information on Middle Creek and waterfowl migration updates.

PGC Photos: Hal Korber/Jacob Dingel

River Otter Recovery

otter.Kosack PGC Photo: Joe Kosack

River Otter Sightings

Your chances of seeing a river otter in the wild have always been slim to none due to their elusive behavior. Today, viewing opportunities are at their greatest in many parts of Pennsylvania.

Once widely distributed and relatively abundant, otter populations entered a period of very low numbers beginning in the mid-1800s. Habitat destruction, in the form of water pollution, caused the extirpation of river otters from most of Pennsylvania, and much of the entire country, more so than any other factor.

Toxic Streams

Toxic stream conditions were produced by drainage from tanneries, mines, oil wells, chemical works, factories and foundries. Deteriorating water quality quickly eliminated fish and other aquatic life from waterways nationwide, leading to a 75 percent decline in North American otter populations.

The last recorded otter in the Allegheny River was in 1899. The last in Pymatuning Swamp was in 1908. River otters were never completely extirpated from Pennsylvania, but their numbers were vastly reduced. The Pocono region always supported otters, especially the counties of Wayne, Pike and Monroe.

Improved Habitat and Reintroduction Efforts

As a result of dedicated efforts of concerned biologists and state wildlife agencies throughout the country, reintroduction efforts, improved habitat quality, legal protection and regulated harvest bolstered otter populations during the mid- to late 1900s.

Nationwide, 21 states implemented river otter restoration projects during 1976-1998, releasing 4,018 river otters. During 1982-2004, the Pennsylvania River Otter Reintroduction Project released 153 river otters in central and western Pennsylvania.

Otter restoration efforts in Pennsylvania and similar efforts in neighboring states resulted in significant range expansion. Pennsylvania’s otter population has been protected and growing for more than 30 years since otter restoration was initiated. Restoration efforts, range expansion of native population, and influx from Ohio, New York and Maryland restoration efforts led to successful population recovery.

Increasing Otter Population

All data suggest that otter populations are currently increasing in density and expanding geographically throughout Pennsylvania. Otter populations occupy all major river systems.

The Delaware, Susquehanna, Allegheny and Youghiogheny Rivers support sustained otter populations and act as travel corridors from which new populations disperse and expand geographically. The Potomac and Lake Erie watersheds maintain less dense populations, and continue to increase in otter numbers annually.

In all states surrounding Pennsylvania, river otters are harvested annually. As Pennsylvania otter populations increased and expanded, monitoring efforts have determined that a highly-regulated harvest is feasible. Careful planning and sound harvest management will safeguard Pennsylvania’s healthy otter population for future generations to enjoy.

Pennsylvania Coyote Hunting FAQ


When can I hunt coyotes?

During most of the year coyotes may be hunted with only a general license, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, during any open big game season, you will need to be lawful to hunt the appropriate big game or have a furtaker’s license.

How can I hunt coyotes during big game seasons with my general license?

If you do not have a furtaker license, during big game season you may only hunt coyotes if you are lawful to hunt the big game that is season. That includes but is not limited to:

-wearing the appropriate fluorescent orange for the big game season

-using the appropriate arms for the big game season

-having appropriate licenses and unused tags for the big game season

-abiding by the hunting hours listed in the digest for the big game season

May I hunt coyotes on Sundays with my general hunting license during the big game season?

Yes. You do NOT need a furtaker license to hunt coyotes on Sundays because Sundays are not considered open season for big game.

May I hunt coyotes at night during a big game season with my furtaker license?

Yes. Only those with furtaker licenses may hunt coyotes at night during the big game season. However, you should expect to undergo quite a bit of scrutiny from an officer if you are approached while hunting coyotes at night during a big game season. The officers will just be doing their job under the circumstances.

May I use electronic predator calls and decoys while hunting coyotes?

Yes. Electronic calls and decoys are permitted for coyote hunting.

May I use a dog to hunt furbearers?

Dogs are permitted to hunt furbearers. Electronic devices used for locating dogs while training or hunting, including such devices as e-collars, radio-telemetry dog tracking systems and beeper collars are permitted.

What arms may I use to hunt coyotes?

Firearms legal for hunting furbearers include manually operated rifles or handguns of any caliber, manual or semi-automatic shotguns and, bows and crossbows.

It is UNLAWFUL to take furbearers, including bobcats, with shotguns using shot larger than size number 4 buckshot, or implements that are not lawful firearms, bows or crossbows.

*Big game season coyote hunting firearm regulations apply. Please see second bolded subheader above.

May I use a gun-mounted light while coyote hunting?

Persons hunting for furbearers, including coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, opossums and weasels, may use gun-mounted lights that DO NOT project a laser-light beam.

Can I use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt coyotes?

No. Semi-automatic rifles are not lawful hunting devices in Pennsylvania. The prohibition on semi-automatic rifles is in the statue and not the regulations. The Board of Commissioners has no authority to change it. It would require a change from the legislature.

Where can I read more about coyote hunting?

Details about furtaking seasons and bag limits can be found on page 68 of the Digest:

2014 Annual Legislative Report Highlights

This report showcases what’s working in wildlife conservation, as well as where more work is needed. It also illustrates the varied roles in which the Pennsylvania Game Commission serves as it works with other agencies, partners and the public in performance of its duties. The report also aims to familiarize more Pennsylvanians with the agency, its stakeholders and the resource it so diligently works to protect.

– Executive Director R. Matthew Hough

-Former Commission President Robert W. Schlemmer

Mission: To manage Pennsylvania’s wild birds, wild mammals, and their habitats for current and future generations.

Vision: To be the leader among wildlife agencies, and champion of all wildlife resources and Pennsylvania’s hunting and trapping heritage.

The Game Commission’s mission and vision statements guide the agency in all it does. Funded primarily by hunting and furtaker license sales, as well as revenue from things like timber sales and oil or gas leases on state game lands, and a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, the Game Commission is supported almost entirely by hunters and trappers, or assets that have been procured with license dollars.

Our Science


-There are 480 species of wild birds and mammals in Pennsylvania. No species has been extirpated through lawful hunting or trapping since the agency’s creation in 1895. The growth among populations of bald eagles, river otters, fishers, elk and black bears are proof-positive of the agency’s effective science-based management.

-Worldwide research into white-nose-syndrome is being led by Game Commission scientists. Agency researchers have developed techniques to identify its presence earlier and have closely tracked surviving bats in a search for answers.

-An unprecedented migration of snowy owls last winter was documented with help from our wildlife biologists. A website, tracked the migration by mapping movements with research telemetry radios as the owls wintered in the Mid-Atlantic.

Protecting Our Resource

law enforcement

-There are 222 full-time wildlife conservation officers and 360 part-time deputies serving the Game Commission. Each WCO has a coverage area of about 325 square miles. In addition to law-enforcement duties, officers lead hunter-education classes and teach students and communities about wildlife issues.

-The Game Commission’s Woodland Tracking Team, an elite squad of wildlife conservation officers, helped search for alleged fugitive Eric Frein. These officers previously used their skills to save the lives of two individuals lost in the wilderness.

-Officers now are equipped with body cameras, thanks to overwhelming support from the state general assembly. Use of the cameras has been shown to make the jobs of law-enforcement officers safer, and the mobile cameras are a good match for the fieldwork wildlife conservation officers perform.

Our Wildlife Habitat


-Key land acquisitions during the 2013-14 fiscal year included separate purchases that led to the creation of two new state game lands. State Game Land 332 was formed after a 2,297-acre purchase in Indiana County, and State Game Land 335 grew out of a 1,121-acre purchase in Tioga County. The game lands system totals almost 1.5 million acres.

-More than 17,000 nesting structures and 1.8 million seedlings from the Game Commission Howard Nursery were distributed to improve wildlife habitat statewide in 2014.

Ensuring our Hunting Heritage


-The mentored adult hunting permit was created in 2014 as a way to introduce adult newcomers to hunting.

Our Conservation Team

-While state law places with the Game Commission the important task of managing the state’s wildlife resources and their habitats, it goes without saying that he job cannot be carried out without the help of many partners in conservation. Their efforts are vital to fulfilling the agency mission.

-View the full 2014 Annual Report: (PDF)


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