From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – 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

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.

Lean more 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