From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission


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What to Do When Approached by a Wildlife Conservation Officer

Each year Pennsylvania wildlife conservation officers (WCOs) check thousands of hunters, trappers and game land users for compliance with wildlife laws. These officers enforce laws intended to keep people safe, protect personal property and conserve Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources.

A compliance check by a wildlife conservation officer is an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to have positive interactions with officers while in Penn’s woods. Officers can explain laws and describe outdoor opportunities and conditions in the surrounding area.

meetWCO These are things that you can do to help ensure your experience with an wildlife conservation officer is a positive one:

While Hunting:

Wildlife conservation officers check hunters for firearm safety and compliance with hunting regulations. When approached by an officer, you are expected to follow all basic firearms handling rules.

  • DO NOT attempt to load or unload your firearm while being approached by an officer.
  • Point the muzzle of your firearm in a safe direction away from the approaching officer.
  • Make sure your safety is on. Keep your finger away from the trigger.
  • Comply with all instructions directed to you by the officer.

While Driving:

Wildlife conservation officers may stop motor vehicles at checkpoints used for gathering statistics and enforcing wildlife laws. In addition, officers have the authority to stop motor vehicles for violations observed on Pennsylvania’s highways.

An officer may direct a stop of the vehicle either by signaling a stop with a body gesture or through the use of emergency lights and/or siren. Wildlife conservation officers will identify themselves while in uniform or by providing a badge or state law enforcement officer credential.

When signaled to stop by a wildlife conservation officer please do the following:

  • As soon as safely possible, bring your vehicle to a complete stop and allow the officer to approach you. Failure to stop for an officer may result in criminal prosecution, significant fines and arrest.
  • Be courteous and follow any directions given by the officer pertaining the vehicle inspection. Your cooperation will expedite the inspection process.

You can help make your interactions with wildlife conservation officers positive by having a courteous attitude. By promptly complying with all requests as directed by the officer, you can help ensure a safe, pleasant and productive experience. You can also take advantage of the opportunity to ask the officer for advice and valuable tips.

-This text has been adapted from Warden Courtesies with permission from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.


Private Landowner Assistance Program

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I have a tract of land that I want to use to help wildlife, but I don’t know how to manage it.

A team of Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists is ready to assist you in making your property more attractive for wildlife, particularly species of greatest conservation need. They even make house-calls!

What is the Private Landowner Assistance Program?

In May of 2004, the agency created a Private Landowner Assistance Program, which is available to property owners who own a minimum of 25 acres of land. The Game Commission’s goal is to improve Pennsylvania’s landscape for wildlife species of special concern through developing detailed plans for interested landowners. Species of Greatest Conservation Need include rare and uncommon songbirds, hawks, owls, eagles and some mammals such as bats.

Although the plans focus on species of concern, a wide variety of species often benefit from these habitat plans. This program is custom-made for landowners who are interested in creating, preserving, or enhancing wildlife habitat.

What is the first step to get my property in this program?

Contact the regional wildlife diversity biologist serving your county. After a short interview, the biologist will send the interested property owner a landowner objective survey. After reviewing the survey, the biologist will visit the property and landowner. A detailed plan will be developed based upon the biologist’s findings and landowner’s chosen level of involvement.

How much does the program cost?

There is no fee associated with the landowner assistance program, nor is there a public access requirement.

Learn more about the Private Landowner Assistance Program and find contact information for your region biologist on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.


Deer Coat Color Variations

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Deer that aren’t brown often get a lot of attention.  There are several conditions that can produce non-brown coloration in deer:

Albinism is the result of reduction of melanin production only.  It is inherited through recessive gene alleles.  Melanin helps to protect the skin and eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.  This leaves these animals very sensitive to overexposure to sunlight increasing their risk of melanomas and retinal damage.  As a result, they usually die at an early age.

Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation also caused by recessive alleles.  However, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin.

Piebald is partial leucism resulting in irregular patches of white on an animal that otherwise has normal color and patterning.

Melanism is the result of excessive production of melanin resulting in darkening of skin, fur or feathers.  It is rarer than albinism.

Both albino and leucistic animals have white hair and pink skin; however, eye color is the key.  Due to the lack of melanin in the retinal pigmented epithelium and the iris, albinos usually have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through.  Leucistic animals have normal or blue colored eyes.

Prevalence

Most of the reports we receive about “albino” deer are actually piebald.  With the millions of genetic combinations that occur when deer breed, piebald deer are rare but widely documented throughout the range of the whitetail. Usually, they are reported at rates under 1% in the population. Limited observations indicate normal and piebald deer cross produce both normal and piebald offspring. This rate can increase if piebald deer are protected, making the genes for this condition more common in the population.

Pinto Deer, an article from Myths & Legends of the Whitetail, discusses this as well.

By: J.T. Fleegle,

Game Commission Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Photo: Sherry Sparks