From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Those fawns might not be traveling with mom.


Photo: Jacob Dingel

Does and fawns are often seen together in the winter. Everyone knows that it is mom and her fawns from last spring. But as usual things aren’t always as they seem in the deer world.

There is a theory that orphaned male fawns are less likely to disperse as yearlings because they no longer have a mother to drive them away from their birthplace. Research here in Pennsylvania studying male dispersal tested this theory. If a doe and button buck were captured, we would know this buck was not orphaned. Then we could test the hypothesis: are non-orphaned males more likely to disperse?

But we needed to take a step back and first ask if does and fawns traveling together are related.

Tissue samples were taken from does and fawns captured together in 2003 and a genetic analysis was conducted to determine if they were, in fact, related. (To read the Journal of Wildlife Management publication click here).

It turns out you might as well flip a coin to determine if a fawn is related to the adult doe you see nearby – at best, 51% of fawns were related to the adult doe in the capture group!

What does this mean for us regular folk? Well, if someone tells you they saw a doe with triplets… maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. First, the odds of three fawns surviving to the age that they travel with their mom are not good. Mortality rates for fawns make it unlikely that all live to that age.  Second, our research shows fawns don’t always travel with their mother!

Here’s the practical application: if you are managing an area and want to monitor recruitment of fawns into the population, you should look at the ratio of fawns to does –sum up all the fawns you see and divide by the number of adult does you observe. Don’t hang your hat on observations of a how many does you see with fawns.

As fawns become more independent they don’t spend all of their time with their mother. Hanging with Aunt Suzie is just as likely as tagging along with mom.

By: Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission



Pittman-Robertson Act

How do hunters fund conservation efforts?
Did you know that wildlife and habitat management as well as public hunting lands are funded by sportsmen?

This occurs in several ways. When hunting licenses, permits and tags are purchased, it provides direct revenue to the Game Commission. This money is used to pay for a variety of expenses, which range from wildlife research projects and habitat treatments to equipment purchases, staff salaries and benefits. These monies also pay for hunter access projects such as land acquisitions. In addition, the purchase of a hunting license results in a unique function of the federal government through the implementation of the Pittman-Robertson Act by the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Melanie - Small Game - Shotgun - Aiming

Photo: Joe Kosack

Pittman-Robertson Act
The Pittman-Robertson Act requires the IRS to collect taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment from the manufacturer as goods are produced and shipped for retail sale. These funds are then deposited in an account managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service solely for the purpose of redistributing the money to states for wildlife management, public hunting access, land purchases and other specified wildlife related projects and administration by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Public relations and law enforcement activity funding are prohibited by the act. Pittman-Robertson funds are collected and deposited for apportionment to the states, tribes and territories automatically every year without this action having to be reviewed or approved by the U.S. legislature through any budgeting process.

How does the Pittman-Robertson Act work?
The Pittman-Robertson legislation requires a state like Pennsylvania to sign what is termed “Assent Legislation” before it is eligible to receive Pittman-Robertson funding. This legislation was passed into law by the Pennsylvania Assembly and signed by the governor at the time, prior to receiving any federal funding. Essentially, the legislation states that Pennsylvania will utilize all of its hunting license revenue, as well as all federal funds received for this purpose, for the administration of the Game Commission and its activities and operations. The funding cannot be diverted to other uses such as balancing a state budget. This assures that all money from license revenues, the lands of the Game Commission and all federal funding provided to the Game Commission stay with the agency for its main purpose of managing wildlife and providing hunting access.

The amount of funding provided to each state is based on a simple formula that accounts for the total land acreage of the state and the number of unique hunters, both resident and non-resident, that purchased a hunting license in a given year. Pennsylvania had more than 980,000 certified hunters in the 2014-15 license year.

Pittman-Robertson funding is a reimbursable grant program. The Game Commission is responsible for 25 percent of the cost of grant expenditures. That 25 percent can also come from matching services from partners. An example of this is the agency’s Hunter Education, Recruitment and Retention grant, which utilizes a valuation of time spent in the regions by volunteer hunter education instructors assisting in and conducting hunter-trapper education programs.

plowOn what does the Game Commission spend Pittman-Robertson money?

The Game Commission spends Pittman-Robertson money on many different things including habitat management equipment; land acquisitions; wildlife research projects; hunter education and hunter recruitment activities; the cost of keeping buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure in good shape; and salaries for staff working on those things.

What happens to surplus grant money?
There has never been any surplus grant funds for the Game Commission. The agency obligates all of its Pittman-Robertson funds within two state fiscal years and has never returned funds.

By: Gary Camus, Pennsylvania Game Commission