From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Join the Christmas Bird Count


Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are urging wildlife enthusiasts to join the tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the United States in the Audubon Society’s 116th Annual Christmas Bird Count, taking place through Jan. 5.

Participants in this year’s count already are excitedly reporting their results. 

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen-science survey in the world, and the data collected through the count allows researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

Local counts will occur on one day, sometime on or before Jan. 5. Volunteers can pick the most convenient circle, or participate in more than one count. There is a specific methodology to the Christmas Bird Count, but everyone can participate. The count takes place within “Count Circles,” which focus on specific geographical areas. Each circle is led by a “Count Compiler,” who is an experienced birdwatcher, enabling beginning birders to learn while they assist.

Those who live within the boundaries of a Count Circle can even stay at home and report the birds that visit their backyard feeders.

In either case, the first step is to locate a Count Circle that’s seeking participants and contact the local Count Compiler on Audubon’s website,, to find out how you can volunteer.

There is no fee to participate in the Christmas Bird Count.

Douglas Gross, who heads up the Game Commission’s endangered and non-game bird section, said data collected through the Christmas Bird Count is valuable in monitoring the distribution of bird species. The agency can use these data to track changes in species populations and better manage our feathered resources. 

In the 2015 count, for instance, Carolina wrens were detected in all but one of the state’s Count Circles – continuing a positive trend for a bird once regularly found only in Pennsylvania’s southeastern counties. The 2015 count also was able to document a pine siskin invasion, and tracked cackling goose numbers in Pennsylvania at all-time highs.

With the very mild weather this winter, there may be many surprises found during these counts.  For example, many more American robins are being found in some count circles due to the mild weather and abundance of soft mast.

The data generated from the Christmas Bird Count is published each year on the National Audubon website and summarized each year in the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology’s journal, “Pennsylvania Birds.”

By reporting their results in eBird, the data are available to others and to the agency for its management.

But helping to provide important information isn’t the only reason to participate, Gross said.

“It’s a lot of fun, too,” he said.



Return of the Eagle Cam


The Pennsylvania Game Commission is pleased to announce the 2016 Hanover, Pa. bald eagle nest live stream!* Watch bald eagle nest activities LIVE here:

If you enjoy watching the eagles and would like to contribute to the conservation of Pennsylvania wildlife here are a couple of ways you can do so.

1) You can donate directly to the Game Commission:

2) You can purchase one of two calendars: a “Wildlife of Pennsylvania” calendar or the NEW “Birds of Pennsylvania” calendar. The calendars are available for $9.25 and can be purchased through the Outdoor Shop.

All proceeds from the calendars are used by the Game Commission to fulfill its mission of conserving Pennsylvania’s wildlife species.

Thank you for considering a donation or purchase of a calendar to show your support of wildlife. We hope you enjoy the ‪#‎PGCeaglecam‬.

*This project is a joint effort between HDOnTAP, Comcast Business, Codorus State Park and the Friends of Codorus State Park.

Give the Gift of Conservation



You can help support Pennsylvania wildlife through the purchase of several Pennsylvania Game Commission products.

This year, for the first time, the Game Commission is offering a 2016 calendar featuring the birds of Pennsylvania. This calendar is full of stunning images of native birds. Additionally, the Game Commission still offers the classic wildlife of Pennsylvania calendar.  The purchase of a calendar not only makes a great gift, but also supports wildlife conservation in the Commonwealth.

In 1982, the Pennsylvania Game Commission developed the Working Together for Wildlife program to give the public a way to contribute to wildlife; a way for hunters and nonhunters alike to work with the agency to help wildlife. Since its inception, Working Together for Wildlife has generated over $3 million to benefit wildlife.

2015_WTFW_Patch_GroundhogEach year, the program features either a mammal or a bird art print and patch. These have become collector’s items and the collectors can feel proud of their investment in Pennsylvania’s wildlife. A groundhog was the featured mammal for 2015. The print and patch can be ordered from the Outdoor Shop. All proceeds, support Pennsylvania wildlife.

The Game Commission also offers a voluntary waterfowl management stamp. The sales from the art support wetland habitat acquisitions and management.2015_Duck_Stamp_Print

Many more items are available in the Outdoor Shop including: patches, 2015_Big_Game_Records_Bookpins, framed and unframed art, wall charts, hats and collectibles as well as books such as

2015 Pennsylvania Big Game Records Book

Pennsylvania Deer Hunting, Through The Pages of Game NewsPGC_Cook_Book_2nd_Edition

Pennsylvania Game Commission, Game Cookbook, Second Edition

Pennsylvania Wildlife Student Guide

On behalf of the commonwealth’s wildlife, the Game Commission would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all Working Together for Wildlife contributors for their generosity in helping conserve Pennsylvania’s woods and wilds.

Pennsylvania State Game Lands

The Pennsylvania state game lands system, which since 1919 has provided critical habitat for wildlife statewide, and a network of lands open to public hunting and trapping, now tops 1.5 million acres.

State Game LandsSmall2

That’s a land base larger than the state of Delaware. Pennsylvania is the only independent state wildlife agency that owns and manages such extensive lands. And Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said all Pennsylvanians can take pride in the achievement of what the 1.5 million acre milestone represents.

“Early in its existence, the Game Commission recognized the importance of preserving wildlife habitat, and at the same time, creating opportunity for hunters and trappers by opening those lands to the public, ” Hough said. “For years and years, Pennsylvania hunters and trappers have paid into this system with the purchase of their licenses, and the sporting arms and ammunition they use in the field. Countless conservation organizations have stepped up to fund land purchases, and hundreds of private individuals donated parcels that were added to the system.

Game Lands Documentary

The Game Commission has produced a documentary chronicling Pennsylvania’s state game lands system. It can be viewed below.

Future of Game Lands

Taking care of the tremendous land resource state game lands represent is no small feat.

A lot of manpower and money goes into modifying habitat to get the greatest return for wildlife. The Game Commission’s 2015-20 Strategic Plan calls for the agency to transition management practices on state game lands to create more young-forest habitats through timber harvest, planting native warm-season grasses and prescribed fire. The Game Commission will also focus efforts on enhancing hunter opportunities on game lands.

Antlers and Age


Photo: Jacob Dingel

Antlers are an endless source of conversation. A common question is at what age do bucks exhibit a decline in antler size.


 Antler development is influenced by age, annual and permanent environmental conditions, the individual’s nutritional state as well as genetics. As a yearling, a buck expresses only 25-30% of his maximum antler potential. At 2 years old, a buck expresses about 60% of his antler growth potential. This increase continues with age until a buck reaches his maximum antler potential around 5-7 years old.

 Bucks consuming a less than optimal diet would be expected to reach their maximum antler size at an older age. Once a buck reaches his maximum antler potential, subsequent antler growth is not necessarily smaller. They just won’t be any bigger. And while nutrition does influence antler size, antler size still increases with age even in bucks with low quality diets.

 Almost 70% of the adult bucks harvested in Pennsylvania are 2.5 years old. It is unlikely that many reach the age (> 8+ years old) where a decline in antler production is noticeable.

 Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission