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PA Hunt Clubs: Plan Your Junior Pheasant Hunt Now

HARRISBURG – While Pennsylvania’s junior pheasant hunt seems like a long way off, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe noted that now is the time for hunting clubs to make plans to host an organized junior pheasant hunt.

“The future of hunting is directly related to the continuing participation of young Pennsylvanians,” Roe noted. “The goal is to successfully compete with all the other activities and recreational opportunities that vie for a young person’s time. It’s truly a challenge for the Game Commission, as well as Pennsylvania’s one million hunters.

“To maximize this opportunity for younger hunters, and to ensure we pass along the importance of ethics and sound ideals that have shaped our hunting heritage, the Game Commission and Pheasants Forever urge local clubs to consider hosting a junior pheasant hunt in their community.”

Those clubs interested in hosting a junior pheasant hunt are encouraged to use the 26-page planning guide prepared by the Game Commission and the Pennsylvania State Chapter of Pheasants Forever.  The booklet offers a step-by-step guide on how to develop an organized junior pheasant hunt.  The guide-book includes: a sample timeline; suggested committees and assignments; general event planning considerations; and several sample forms and news releases.  It also includes event evaluation guides so clubs and organizations may consider changes for future junior pheasant hunts.

The guide can be viewed on the Game Commission’s website, by clicking on “Hunting” in the left-hand column of the homepage, then selecting the pheasant photo and then choosing “Junior Pheasant Hunt Planning Guide.”  Later this year, the agency will update this section to include a listing of locations that the Game Commission plans to release birds for the 2009 junior pheasant hunts, as well as a listing of all the junior pheasant hunts being hosted by local clubs.

To participate in the junior pheasant hunt, youngsters must be 12 to 16 years of age, and must have successfully completed a basic Hunter-Trapper Education course.  As required by law, an adult must accompany the young hunters.  Participating hunters do not need to purchase a junior hunting license to take part in the youth pheasant hunt, but all participants must wear the mandatory 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on their head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees.

To bolster participation in the junior pheasant hunt, the Game Commission again plans to stock pheasants just prior to this special season.  For the 2010 hunt, the agency will release 15,000 birds on lands open to public hunting.  These areas will be identified in the 2010-2011 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, as well as in future Game Commission news releases and on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).

Additionally, the Game Commission will provide, free of charge, a limited number of pheasants to those clubs that host a junior pheasant hunt. Applications must be received by July 31, and the only two stipulations to be eligible is that clubs must have registration open to the public and must be held on lands open to public hunting.

Based on previous surveys, about half of the junior participants successfully bagged game; a male relative had accompanied most of them; the majority of participants were between the ages of 12 and 14; and many of them intend to hunt again.  The agency also received many positive comments about the junior hunting opportunity.

Pheasants Forever is a national non-profit habitat conservation organization with a system of hard-working local chapter volunteers dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasants and other wildlife populations.  Pheasants Forever emphasizes habitat improvement, public awareness and education, and land management policies that benefit private landowners and wildlife alike.  For more information, visit the organization’s website (www.pheasantsforever.org).

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PA 2010-2011 Hunting Licenses On Sale June 14th

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and eight Chicks
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HARRISBURG – Beginning Monday, June 14, Pennsylvania hunting and furtaker licenses for the 2010-11 seasons will go on sale throughout the state, according to Carl G. Roe, agency executive director.  Licenses will be available through the Game Commission’s Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS), over-the-counter at all Game Commission region offices and the Harrisburg headquarters, as well as the more than 600 in-state and out-of-state issuing agents.  Licenses also are available through the PALS website:  https://www.pa.wildlifelicense.com.

For the 2010-11 license year, all fees are the same as they have been since 1999.  However, there is a 70-cent transaction fee attached to the purchase of each license and permit, which is paid directly to Automated License Systems, the Nashville-based company that runs PALS.

“PALS enabled the Game Commission to modernize the licensing system and improve security,” Roe said. “To ensure faster processing, personal information is now recorded through a Pennsylvania driver’s license scan. This eliminates data entry; provides a more secure, reliable and accurate means to gather and store license holder records; and eliminates license buyer duplicity.

“For all these reasons – and more – the Game Commission has eliminated paper applications. Nonresidents who have always submitted a paper application will need to use PALS either on the agency’s website or at an issuing agent. It’s fast, easy and secure.”

Roe noted that all license-issuing agents are now part of an integrated, real-time, cyber network that allows them to offer licenses that up until now simply could not be provided via the old license system.

“Now all license agents can issue senior lifetime licenses; Mentored Youth Hunting Program permits; elk drawing applications; bobcat and fisher permits; even resident landowner reduced-fee hunting licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program Harvest (DMAP) permits,” Roe said. “Hunters also can purchase the special spring gobbler license, which allows them to harvest a second gobbler in the 2011 spring gobbler season.”

New features this year will be the rotation of up to 10 random survey questions of which a license buyer may be asked one question that requires a positive, negative or no response. Additional survey questions may be asked of specific constituents based upon the license privileges they purchase.

Roe also noted, as originally envisioned by the U.S. Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly, PALS now will enable the agency to suspend issuing licenses to those, who through court order, have had their hunting license privileges revoked for failure to pay child support.

Roe reminded hunters that, under state law, only Pennsylvania County Treasurers may issue antlerless deer licenses. However, thanks to PALS, county treasurers now may issue an antlerless deer license for any WMU, so long as its allocation isn’t sold out.

Applications for the regular round of antlerless deer licenses for residents begins July 12, and nonresidents can apply beginning July 26.  An antlerless license application will be printed with every general license purchased, and an application also will be available in the 2010-11 Hunting and Trapping Digest for the first and second round of unsold antlerless deer licenses. Except for Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 2B, 5C and 5D, hunters only may apply for one license during each application period.

“Hunters will need to continue using pink envelopes to mail antlerless deer license applications to the county treasurer of their choice to process the applications and mail back antlerless deer licenses,” Roe said. “Hunters will have the option of listing their first, second and third WMU preferences for doe licenses on their applications. Treasurers will fill the highest WMU preference listed by the hunter. This option will eliminate reapplication for a doe license if your first WMU preference – or second – is sold out. However, hunters do not need to list alternative WMUs if they only plan to hunt in one specific WMU.”

A list of all County Treasurer mailing addresses is included in the 2010-11 Digest, which is provided to each license buyer. More details on the new procedures for applying for a doe license can be found in the Digest, which has been posted in the right-hand column of the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).

Another change will be the new look and feel of licenses. The yellow strip – similar to a fishing license – will fit into your old license holder, or one of the smaller new ones. Carcass tags are different-looking, too. They’re squarer, have perforated holes and are preprinted with your name and address. Licenses will fold into a 2.5-inch by 3.5-inch, tear-resistant document.

Roe reminded hunters that, in conjunction with the move to PALS, the Game Commission now is able to accept online harvest reports for deer, wild turkey, bobcat and fisher.  In addition to reporting deer and wild turkey harvests within the prescribed time limits, those who possess a DMAP, bobcat or fisher permit are required to report, regardless of whether they harvested an antlerless deer, bobcat or fisher, respectively.  Each online harvest report costs the Game Commission 50 cents.

“A hard-copy of the postage-paid report card still will be available in the 2010-11 Digest, but the agency is hoping hunters will report online to save on the cost of postage and data entry,” Roe said. “Reporting online also will ensure your harvest data will not be lost in the mail.”

Waterfowl and migratory game bird seasons are not included in the 2010-11 Digest, as those seasons won’t be established until mid-August.  Once seasons are set, the Game Commission will produce the annual Guide to Migratory Game Bird Hunting brochure, which will be posted on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and mailed to U.S. Post Offices.  However, applications and directions for the public drawing to waterfowl hunting blinds in the controlled hunting areas at the Game Commission’s Pymatuning and Middle Creek wildlife management areas are in the 2010-11 Digest.

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Totally, Like Everything, PA Deer Management Assistance Program

corner of the deer exclosure
Image by Dave Bonta via Flickr

HARRISBURG – Landowners looking to enroll in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), which is designed to help landowners manage deer on their properties, have until June 12 to mail an application to the appropriate Game Commission Region Office. Applications will be accepted by U.S. mail only, as postmarks will be required to establish processing priorities.
In addition, a map delineating the property boundaries must be enclosed with the application. Landowners may obtain DMAP applications from the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on “D.M.A.P.” in the “Quick Clicks” box in the right-hand column of the homepage. Applications also can be obtained from any Game Commission Region Office or the Harrisburg headquarters.
Eligible lands for DMAP are: public lands; private lands where no fee is charged for hunting; and hunting club lands owned in fee title so long as the club was established prior to Jan. 1, 2000, and it provides a club charter and list of current members to the agency.
Coupons for DMAP antlerless deer harvest permits are issued to landowners at a rate of one coupon for every five acres in agricultural operations or one coupon for every 50 acres for all other land uses. Management plans are required when an applicant for DMAP requests more than the standard rate for issuance of DMAP harvest permits, or when the property acreage falls below the minimum for the standard issuance rate.
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How To Avoid Being Eaten By Bears, 2010 Edition

Despite being quadrupeds, bears can stand and ...
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HARRISBURG – With spring well underway across the state, many Pennsylvanians are spending more time outdoors and seeing more wildlife – and signs of wildlife – in their yards and other places they frequent. Among the wildlife becoming more visible are Pennsylvania’s roughly 17,000 black bears, all of which are looking for food.

Since bears are found throughout most of the state, Mark Ternent, Pennsylvania Game Commission black bear biologist, said bear sightings are common at this time of year.   Food for bears is naturally scarce in spring until green-up, which is ahead of schedule this year. But that doesn’t mean bears emerging from dens aren’t getting into trouble. After several months of hibernation, they are once again searching for food.  Thus, sightings and, in some cases, conflicts are increasing.

Spring: When A Bear’s thoughts turn to Food

“Now is the time to keep bears from becoming a nuisance later in the summer,” Ternent said.  “Bears that wander near residential areas in search of springtime foods are less likely to stay or return if they do not find anything rewarding.  Conversely, if bears find food in backyards, they quickly learn to associate food with residential areas and begin to spend more time in those areas.  As a result, encounters between humans and bears, property damage and vehicle accidents involving bears may increase.”

Ternent noted capturing and moving bears that have become habituated to humans is a costly and sometimes ineffective way of addressing the problem.  That is why wildlife agencies around the country tell people that a “fed bear is a dead bear.”

“The best solution is to prevent bears from finding something to eat around your house in the first place,” Ternent said.  “Anything edible placed outside for any reason – whether it is food for wildlife or pets or unsecured garbage – gives bears a reason to visit your property.  Homeowners should begin now to remove food sources that might attract bears.”

5 Things to do to keep Bears off your Property

Ternent listed five suggestions that could prevent attracting bears to a property:

Play it smart. Do not feed wildlife. Food placed outside for wildlife, such as corn for squirrels, may attract bears.  Even bird feeders can become “bear magnets.”  Bear conflicts with bird feeding generally don’t arise in the winter because bears are in their winter dens.  But at other times of the year, birdfeeders will attract problem bears.  If you do chose to feed songbirds during the summer, Audubon Pennsylvania offers some tips, including: avoid foods that are particularly attractive for bears, such as sunflower seeds, hummingbird nectar mixes or suet; bring feeders inside at night; or suspend feeders from high crosswires so they are at least 10 feet above the ground and four feet from anything a bear can climb, including overhead limbs.

Keep it clean. Don’t put out garbage until pick-up day; don’t throw table scraps out back; don’t add fruit or vegetable wastes to your compost pile; and clean your barbecue grill regularly.  If you have pets and feed them outdoors, consider placing food dishes inside overnight. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Keep your distance. If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. Shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. Don’t approach it.  If the bear won’t leave, call the nearest Game Commission regional office or local police department for assistance.

Eliminate temptation. Bears that visit your area are often drawn there. Neighbors need to work together to reduce an area’s appeal to bears. Ask area businesses to keep dumpsters closed and bear-proofed (chained or locked shut with a metal lid).

Check please! If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to get in, try to determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously, using outside lights to full advantage and from a safe position, such as a porch or an upstairs window. All unrecognizable outside noises and disturbances should be checked, but don’t do it on foot with a flashlight. Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings providing the chance for a close encounter.

Pennsylvanians also are reminded that if they see cubs alone, it does not necessarily mean they have been abandoned or orphaned.

“During the spring, sows may leave their cubs for several hours, typically up in a tree, while they forage,” Ternent said. “If you encounter cubs, leave the area the way you entered it and leave the cubs alone.  Staying in the vicinity prevents the mother from returning, and attempting to care for the cubs is illegal and may result in exposure to wildlife diseases or habituate the young bears to humans.

“Cubs that have been removed from the wild and habituated to people are difficult to rehabilitate for release back into the wild and may result in the cub being euthanized.”

Ternent noted that, as a result of Pennsylvania’s large human and bear populations, it is not uncommon for people and bears to encounter one another.

“Bears needn’t be feared, nor should they be dismissed as harmless; but they should be respected,” Ternent said.  “In the past 10 years fewer than 20 people have been injured by bears in Pennsylvania, and there are no known records of a Pennsylvania black bear killing a human.

“Injury from a black bear is often the result of a human intentionally or unintentionally threatening a bear, its cubs, or a nearby food source, and the best reaction is to defuse the threat by leaving the area in a quiet, calm manner.”

More Bear Tips:

Ternent also advised:

Stay Calm. If you see a bear and it hasn’t seen you, leave the area calmly.  Talk or make noise while moving away to help it discover your presence.  Choose a route that will not intersect with the bear if it is moving.

Get Back. If you have surprised a bear, slowly back away while talking softly.  Face the bear, but avoid direct eye contact.  Do not turn and run; rapid movement may be perceived as danger to a bear that is already feeling threatened.  Avoid blocking the bear’s only escape route and try to move away from any cubs you see or hear.  Do not attempt to climb a tree.  A female bear may falsely interpret this as an attempt to get at her cubs, even though the cubs may be in a different tree.

Pay Attention. If a bear is displaying signs of nervousness – pacing, swinging its head, or popping its jaws – about your presence, leave the area.  Some bears may bluff charge to within a few feet.  If this occurs, stand your ground, wave your arms wildly, and shout at the bear.  Turning and running could elicit a chase and you cannot outrun a bear.

Fight Back. If a bear attacks, fight back as you continue to leave the area.  Black bears have been driven away with rocks, sticks, binoculars, car keys, or even bare hands.

“Learning about bears and being aware of their habits is a responsibility that comes with living in rural and suburban Pennsylvania or recreating in the outdoors,” Ternent said.

In 2003, a regulation prohibiting the feeding of bears went into effect.  The regulation made it 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 exceptions to this regulation are “normal or accepted farming, habitat management practices, oil and gas drilling, mining, forest management activities or other legitimate commercial or industrial practices.”

The regulation enables Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCOs) to issue written notices that direct landowners to discontinue wildlife feeding, even if not intended for bears, including songbird feeding, if the feeding is attracting bears to the area and causing problems with bears nearby.

Report a Bear

To report nuisance bears, contact the Game Commission Region Office nearest you.  The telephone numbers are: Northwest Region Office in Franklin, Venango County, 814-432-3188; Southwest Region Office in Bolivar, Westmoreland County, 724-238-9523; Northcentral Region Office in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, 570-398-4744; Southcentral Region Office in Huntingdon, Huntingdon County, 814-643-1831; Northeast Region Office in Dallas, Luzerne County, 570-675-1143; and Southeast Region Office in Reading, Berks County, 610-926-3136.

More information on bears is available on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on the “Wildlife” tab in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, and then selecting “Black Bears” From the “Mammals” section.

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Eagles in Pittsburgh: On the River at the Point

Jamie On the River
Image by lcthulou via Flickr

PITTSBURGH – Steeler Country is now home to the Eagles! No, not the cross-Commonwealth rival Philadelphia Eagles; a pair of American bald eagles.

“While bald eagles are not an uncommon sight as they hunt for fish in the Three Rivers area of Pittsburgh, this is the first confirmed nesting pair of bald eagles in Allegheny County,” said Gary Fujak, Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer for western Allegheny County. “The nest is in Crescent Township, but – in order to protect the nest from disturbances – we are not going to disclose the exact location, and we are working with the landowner to keep the area secure.”

The Game Commission annually monitors bald eagle nests – both existing and new – to measure nesting population trends and nesting success. Monitoring helps the agency to continue to follow bald eagle’s recovery and let’s biologists know immediately if problems are occurring, both locally and statewide. Wildlife Conservation Officers protect nests and work with landowners to ensure the safety of bald eagles and their future success. When discovered, new nest sites are protected and reproduction is monitored.

Matt Hough, Game Commission Southwest Region Director, noted that this marks the third new nest in the region.

“We encourage anyone who believes he or she saw a bald eagle nest to notify the Southwest Region Office,” Hough said. “In addition, we encourage wildlife viewers to enjoy viewing eagle nests from a distance to eliminate possible disturbances.

“Please remember that bald eagles receive federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which safeguard the birds and their nests from disturbances and destruction, and such acts carry heavy fines and penalties.”

The Game Commission’s management plan for bald eagles calls for more public education about eagles. An informed public guided by good “eagle etiquette” will be the best advocate for a continued bald eagle recovery and the best chance that any Pennsylvanian can see a bald eagle near his or her home in the future.

When the Game Commission announced its 2009 bald eagle nesting tally last June, there were at least 170 known nests in 48 counties; by the end of the year, the number increased to 174 known nests. In 2008, Game Commission biologists estimated Pennsylvania had 140 known nests in 47 counties. The final nest count turned out to be 156.

As recently as 1983, there were only three eagle nests remaining in Pennsylvania. That year, the Game Commission began a seven-year bald eagle restoration program in which the agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wilderness nests. The Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund provided financial assistance for this effort. In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from sites at Dauphin County’s Haldeman Island and Pike County’s Shohola Falls.

Since 1983, Pennsylvania’s eagle nests have produced more than 1,200 eaglets, and the population has increased by about 15 percent annually. But, while this growth and expansion are to be celebrated, there has been some “crowding” reported in some areas.

“There’s still plenty of new or sparsely-used territory for nesting pairs in the Commonwealth,” said Doug Gross, Game Commission biologist. “Some of the best remaining eagle nesting habitat includes the Susquehanna’s north and west branches, the Monongahela River, the Youghiogheny River and the Lake Erie shoreline. There also are many large lakes and impoundments scattered across the state with more than adequate fisheries and no eagles.”

While the Game Commission currently classifies the bald eagle as a threatened species in Pennsylvania, they were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2007, because delisting goals had been achieved.

For more information on bald eagles in Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Wildlife,” choose “Endangered Species,” then select “Bald Eagle” in the list of “Threatened Species.”

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