From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

2016-17 Hunting and Furtaker Licenses On Sale

Buy your 2016-17 hunting or furtaker license online or at an issuing agent today!





Cavity Nesting Birds are Losing Habitat

About half of Pennsylvania is forested, and slightly more than half of that forestland is dominated by large trees. Only a small percentage of these large trees are dead, deteriorating or harboring cavities that birds and mammals use for dens or nest sites. To help offset this disparity, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has been manufacturing nest boxes for everything from bluebirds to wood ducks for years at its Howard Nursery in Centre County.

bbbox.dingelHoward Nursery

In recent years, Howard Nursery has produced in excess of 2,000 bluebird boxes, 5,000 bluebird box kits, hundreds of wood duck, kestrel, barn owl and bat boxes for placement on State Game Lands and other lands enrolled in the Game Commission’s cooperative public access programs. These wildlife homes are also available for sale to the public for placement on private land.


Nest Boxeswd.dingel

Bluebirds and wood ducks, in particular, have benefited greatly from nest boxes. Both species – reeling from insufficient nesting sites for years – have rebounded to respectable numbers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere as a result of thousands of nesting boxes being placed afield by wildlife managers, hunters and boy scouts, to name a few. Other beneficiaries of these wildlife boxes include house wrens, tree swallows, flying squirrels, screech owls and woodpeckers.

The Value of Dead Trees

Nest boxes are invaluable to wildlife, but they won’t replace a squirrel’s need for dead trees and snags. It has been estimated that dead trees and trees that contain decaying wood provide important habitat for about 25 percent of the forest wildlife species in the northeastern United States. Considering that, it quickly becomes obvious that nesting boxes only can help ease the demand. Moreover, nest boxes just don’t provide the insulating qualities that tree cavities offer in winter. They are mostly a warm-weather solution to the plight of cavity-nesters, not a panacea.


Keep Dead Trees

The Game Commission’s ongoing nest box program and the efforts of caring conservationists have helped many native cavity-nesters exceed the limitations imposed by insufficient natural nesting sites. But nesting boxes are only part of the answer to Pennsylvania’s shortage of dead trees and snags. Private landowners can play an important role in maintaining the scarce and valuable resource of dead and dying trees by conserving as many as possible.


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,

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

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

Banded Doves

What a decade of data has shown

This month, dove hunters will be partaking in one of the most active wing-shooting seasons of the year. At about the same time, dove biologists will be closing out the busiest dove monitoring project in the United States: six weeks of nation-wide dove banding.


Photo Credit: Lisa Williams

The dove hunter and the dove bander each play a crucial role in the largest dove data collection effort in the country: the annual capture, banding and recovery of more than 46,000 wild mourning doves in the U.S.

Dove Banding

Dove banding occurs each year in Pennsylvania from early July through mid-August. In more than 20 counties, Game Commission personnel begin spreading seed at trap sites in mid-June. In late June, wire cages appear near the bait piles as the seed continues to appear.

In early July, eager doves find that the wire contraptions are now blocking access to the free food, but as luck would have it, there are convenient tunnels leading to the delicious seed. Once inside the trap, birds continue to feed contentedly. Imagine a dove’s surprise then, when a human rushes up, pops the bird into a holding bag, places an aluminum band on its right leg, and quickly releases it.

Why all the fuss? doveband

The national banding program gathers data that is critically important to the National Dove Harvest Management Strategy. Setting seasons and bag limits requires a detailed understanding of key population factors including: 1) the annual survival of adult and juvenile doves; 2) the annual recruitment of young doves into the fall population, and; 3) the proportion of adult and juvenile doves that are harvested each year. None of these estimates would be possible without a comprehensive and sustained banding effort among federal and state wildlife agencies.

Dove Hunter Reports

All of the work required to band these 46,000 doves each year would be meaningless without dove hunters. When a successful hunter harvests a banded dove, he or she reports the band number and harvest location of the bird to the national Bird Banding Laboratory. Bands are engraved with a toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND) and a web address figure_how_recovered (002)( that make reporting simple and quick. Without this “encounter” or “recovery” information, the time and effort that goes into banding doves would be nearly worthless. Banding information is only meaningful when a banded bird is recovered at a later date. The hunter benefits, too, by receiving a report of when and where the dove was banded.

More than three quarters of all band returns come from dove hunters Randomly finding a dead banded dove on the landscape does occur, but these random encounters count for less than 10 percent of all recovered bands.

What have we learned?

You might be surprised at the important information gleaned from those shiny little rings on the ankle of a dove. For instance, we know that most doves banded in Pennsylvania are recovered in Pennsylvania. That tells managers that the majority of the annual Pennsylvania dove harvest is derived from Pennsylvania-breeding birds. In fact, the majority of Pennsylvania mourning doves are homebodies, traveling an average of 54 miles from their banding location to the point of recovery.recovery

By tracking the encounters of a banded cohort after banding, we can get a sense of the typical life span of wild mourning doves. For instance, in the bar graph, notice that the birds banded in 2006 (shown in deep purple) continue to be recovered in smaller and smaller proportions through 2011 Since we began intensive dove banding in Pennsylvania, we’ve learned that the typical life span (i.e. the average age of recovered birds) is 1.2 years.

For doves banded in Pennsylvania, the longest life span on record is that of a bird that was at least 8½ years old. This bird was banded as an adult near Reading in 2005, and was harvested by a hunter less than 2 miles away in December 2012.

Together, these pieces of information, provided through the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and dove hunters, provide a glimpse into the welfare of the mourning dove population. This data feeds directly into population models that determine the season length and daily bag limit of mourning doves from year to year. Without an ongoing dove banding effort, the setting of sustainable mourning dove seasons would be based on guesswork rather than science. By carefully calibrating dove harvest regulations with annual population dynamics, a sustainable dove season can be enjoyed by today’s dove hunters as well as future generations who follow us into the dove fields.

By: Lisa Williams

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Game Bird Biologist