From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Amazing Antlers

Antler growth is a complex process driven by hormones and photoperiod (day length).  Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. It has the capacity to grow an inch or more per day.  Annually, antler growth begins when the days are noticeably lengthening. Antlers grow from the tip and contain thousands of blood vessels. 


PGC Photo: Jacob Dingel

As the summer progresses and day length begins to decrease, testosterone production increases.  This triggers mineralization or hardening of the antlers.  The soft tissue is transformed directly into bone by the depositing of minerals within the cartilage matrix through the extensive capillary network-hardening the antlers from the base to the tip.  Antler-hardening takes about a month starting in mid-July and ending in mid-August.  Then, the velvet dries up and gets rubbed off.

After the breeding season, testosterone levels drop off and antlers are shed in late winter/early spring.  Then, the process starts all over again.  Natural variation, general health (which relates to nutrition), and even the buck’s birth date contribute to the timing of antler drop which occurs any time from December through March.

By; Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

PA 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.