From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Stomach Bug

It’s not a surprise when someone is feeling under the weather this time of year. Runny noses, fevers, and the dreaded stomach bug which makes 24 hours feel like 24 days. But compared to deer, humans are fragile and weak. The injuries and parasites deer live with every day would have us begging for a swift end. However, sometimes the microscopic civilization deer transport and live with do cause them trouble.

An obvious outward sign of this is diarrhea. There are many infections and viruses deer live with that can cause diarrhea. And young animals are more susceptible to disease as a general rule. There cause can be a variety of infectious and non-infectious sources. Chronic diarrhea can result in fecal staining of the tail, around the anus and on the legs, which can result in irritation of the skin as well as secondary infections of the skin.

Many of the disease-causing agents we commonly see in deer only become clinically-significant when the deer population exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat. Parasites such as arterial worm, lung worm, and most of the GI nematodes can be found in deer without signs of disease. Typically, they only cause disease when deer densities are high. Certainly one way to achieve high concentrations of deer in an area is through feeding.

Have I mentioned feeding deer is a bad idea? Resist the temptation to “help” deer. Don’t feed them! Feeding deer can cause a host of problems to deer, habitat and even people. MassWildlife has put together a video that captures all these issues. Take a look.

*Video shared with permission from Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Article By: Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission




Berry Good Birding


Bluebird on staghorn sumac


Wild Winter Fruits Attract Many Birds

Birds eat wild fruits by the basketful. If you want to find birds, just find some wild berries. In winter, persistent berries such as staghorn sumac, poison ivy, juniper and winterberry are magnets for wandering flocks of waxwings, bluebirds, robins and many other species. Resident mockingbirds feistily stake their claim to berry patches, protecting them from other birds. Even pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and ruffed grouse are attracted to wild fruits and forage on them during cold, snowy months.

Winter-Persistent Fruits             


Warbler feeding on poison ivy berries

Wild fruits and berries are a critical food source for many birds, especially those that are migrating or experiencing cold winter months when they are in need of quick energy. Many kinds of trees and shrubs produce fruits; only a few of those keep through the cold wintery months. Winter-persistent fruits include rose hips, fruits of hollies, common winterberries, sumac and poison ivy. Usually bright red, these winter-persistent wild fruits often add color to the landscape. The bright colors act as a beacon to birds that forage on them through hard times. The white berries of poison ivy vines attract many birds including yellow-rumped (myrtle) warblers that seek out this food in cool weather. Even downy and pileated woodpeckers will commonly feast on poison ivy berries.

Long List of Fruit-Eating Birds


Black-capped chickadee in a crabapple tree

There is a long list of birds that take advantage of colorful winter fruits. The fruit-eating birds run the gamut of size and color in the state, from tiny chickadees to ruffed grouse and turkeys, and from the subdued colors of sparrows to the bright reds and blues of cardinals and blue jays. Many eastern bluebirds make it through the winter by subsisting on sumac and poison ivy berries. American robins and hermit thrushes will stop along their migration route or stay a bit longer in winter to forage on abundant wild food such as dried grapes, sumac, poison ivy and holly berries. Anyone who participates in a Christmas Bird Count knows that winterberries are a real attractant for many bird species and a lovely spray of red on the gray, wintery landscape.

Even dried grapes in arbors, both natural and man-made, can attract a hungry cardinal or chickadee. If you listen in a riparian woods, you might hear songbirds snapping up the fruits of hackberry—a stealthy way to find wintering grosbeaks and purple finches. The corky bark of hackberry is a clue for the identification of this unappreciated wildlife food source.

Red Cedar: The All-In-One Wildlife Tree

Red cedar is another attraction for birds. Actually, “red cedar” is a juniper and produces blue cone-like “berries” that many birds eat. This is where cedar waxwing got its name. Robins, chickadees, bluebirds, mockingbirds and many other birds gobble up juniper berries and then hide in its dense foliage at night for protection from cold temperatures and winds. When it is windy or especially cold, many birds can be found in a red cedar tree eating the blue berries. Red cedars attract many “semi-hardy” birds that are not well-equipped to fight the cold weather Birders can find species that normally are not winter-persistent, like hermit thrush, in red cedar stands.

Plan Ahead

For wildlife lovers, planting some of these wild shrubs and trees on their property is a great way to provide leafy “bird feeders” year-round. Take note of what the birds are eating now in the hardest weather to make plans for future wildlife plantings. Many fruit-bearing shrubs and trees can be acquired through natural plant nurseries and the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery.

Article: Doug Gross, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife diversity biologist

Photos: Jacob Dingel


Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough has announced a temporary closure to feral swine hunting in Butler County.

Feral swine are not native to Pennsylvania, but sometimes are found roaming freely on public and private lands. Because of the damage feral swine cause to the habitat upon which Pennsylvania’s native wildlife depends, licensed hunters statewide are permitted to take any feral swine they might encounter.

However, the same executive order that permits hunters to take feral swine also gives the Pennsylvania Game Commission authority to place a hold on the hunting of feral swine so as not to interfere with special trapping operations that typically are considered the most effective way to eradicate this nuisance animal species.

Hough has enacted this authority.

Trapping by authorized professionals only can occur from the end of the flintlock muzzleloader deer season to the start of spring turkey season, and from the close of the spring turkey season to the start of the archery deer season.

The temporary restrictions on hunting feral swine began at the close of hunting hours January 9, 2015.

When the special trapping effort comes to an end, and feral swine again may be hunted in Butler County, the Game Commission will announce the change by news release, and on its website,