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Everything Pennsylvania Bear Hunting 2010

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HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania bear hunters will be able to enjoy a full-week of archery bear season (Nov. 15-19), followed by a Saturday opener of the three-day firearms bear season, which will run Nov. 20, and the following Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22 and 23, according to Carl G. Roe, Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director.

“Pennsylvania’s bear population covers more than three-quarters of the state, and includes a number of world-class trophy bears,” Roe said. “This has earned Pennsylvania recognition as one of the top states for bear hunters. Every year, we have a number of bears exceeding 500 pounds included in the harvest.”

Since 1992, six bears with an estimated live weight of 800 pounds or more have been taken in Pennsylvania. The possibility of another 800-pounder being taken by a hunter is always in play when Pennsylvania’s bear season opens.

In 2009, the largest bear taken was a 668-pound (estimated live weight) male taken in Jefferson Township, Dauphin County, by Edward Bechtel, of Lykens, on Dec. 3.  In all, 13 bears taken by hunters weighed 600 pounds or more, further illustrating Pennsylvania’s status as a major bear hunting destination.

The 2009 bear harvest of 3,512 is second only to the 2005 bear harvest, in which hunters took a record 4,164 bears.  Other recent harvests were: 3,075 in 2000; 3,063 in 2001; 2,686 in 2002; 3,000 in 2003; 2,972 in 2004; 3,122 in 2006; 2,360 in 2007; and 3,458 in 2008. Over the past ten years, hunters have taken more black bears than in any other decade since the Game Commission began keeping bear harvest records in 1915.

“Conditions this year are favorable for another record harvest,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist. “Bear populations are up in many parts of the state relative to past years; hunter participation is expected to be good, based on the number of bear licenses being purchased; and acorns are plentiful, which tends to keep bears out of dens and active through the fall hunting season. The only unknown is if we will have favorable weather for hunters on opening day.

“Weather can have a huge impact on the season’s outcome, but so can fall food conditions. However, our fall food surveys indicate that acorn production is exceptional over large parts of Pennsylvania this year. But, even with good food conditions, pre-season scouting will still be important.”

Bears were taken in 54 counties last year, which was the same as 2008, but an increase from 2007, when bears were taken in 49 counties. The state’s top five counties — all from the Northcentral Region – along with the 2008’s harvest results in parentheses, were: Clinton, 295 (139); Lycoming, 280 (252); Tioga, 217 (236); Cameron, 214 (75); and Potter, 181 (294).

The total bear harvest by WMU for 2009, including 2008’s harvest results in parentheses, were: WMU 1A, 8 (21); WMU 1B, 36 (67); WMU 2C, 247 (227); WMU 2D, 128 (166); WMU 2E, 77 (117); WMU 2F, 282 (246); WMU 2G, 1,027 (729); WMU 3A, 255 (313); WMU 3B, 292 (392); WMU 3C, 73 (177); WMU 3D, 276 (199); WMU 4A, 125 (145); WMU 4B, 43 (43); WMU 4C, 141 (105); WMU 4D, 442 (456); WMU 4E, 58 (53); WMU 5B, 1 (0); and WMU 5C, 1 (1).

Hunters will need to have a general hunting license and a bear license.  Bear licenses are not part of the junior or senior combination licenses, and must be purchased separately.

All hunters who harvest a bear must immediately tag it with their field harvest tag that is part of the bear license, and, if during the statewide three-day season, transport the carcass – minus entrails – to one of the Game Commission bear check stations within 24 hours, and present it along with their general hunting license and bear license. During the archery season, hunters should contact a PGC region office within 24 hours to have their bear checked.

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Interested in learning more about what’s going on with black bears in your county? Please consider visiting the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s “Field Officer Game Forecasts” found on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Developed to share field officer perspectives and observations on game and furbearer trends in their respective districts and to help hunters and trappers get closer to the action afield, the field reports have been warmly received by many hunters and trappers since they were added to the website.

“Our field officers spend a tremendous amount of time afield, often in areas hunters and trappers are eager to learn more about,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “Their observations have value to hunters and trappers so we decided to make them accessible to anyone who enjoys hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – resident or nonresident.”


Hunters who harvest a bear during the three-day statewide season (Nov. 20, 22-23) must take it to one of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s check stations within 24 hours. Check stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 20; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 22 and 23.  In addition, all check stations will be open on Sunday, Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

During the five-day archery bear season (Nov. 15-19) or after 8 p.m. on Nov. 23, hunters with bears to be checked should contact any of the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which the harvest took place for assistance. Office telephone numbers are listed on page 5 of the 2010-11 Hunting and Trapping Digest, issued with hunting licenses.

Check station information is listed on page 38 of the 2010-11 Digest. The only changes in bear check station information since the printing of the digest is that the Mifflin County and Southcentral Region Office bear check stations have been moved.

The new Mifflin County check station will be opened at the Brown Township Municipal Building, which is about one mile from the previous site at the Mifflin County Youth Park. The Brown Township building is about 80 yards off Route 655, one mile west of the Route 322/655 interchange.

The Southcentral Region Office check station has moved to the new Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center (aka “Armory”) on Route 26, 0.3 miles south of the Routes 22/26 interchange that is one mile west of Huntingdon, Huntingdon County.

Also, the Game Commission has made several operational changes at check stations, including the use of handheld scanners, to expedite the processing of bears and to improve hunter satisfaction during this important process.


Hunters can check traffic and road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of roadways by simply calling 511 or logging onto the Department of Transportation’s website (www.511pa.com) before heading out for bear season.

“’511PA’ is Pennsylvania’s official travel information service,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “This service from PennDOT provides travelers with reliable, current traffic and weather information. This site enables hunters to check on the status of road conditions before heading out to their bear hunting destination.”


Pennsylvania Game Commission officials point out that one of the biggest mistakes bear hunters make is failing to locate areas with good fall food supplies – acorns, beechnuts, apples, corn – before the hunting season and overlooking areas of dense cover where bears like to hide.

“Signs to look for while scouting include droppings; bedding areas, which are scratched out depressions, usually at the base of a tree or log; and active trails with tracks,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist. “In beech stands, look for fresh claw marks on tree trunks indicating that bears are feeding in the area, and in oak stands look for fresh droppings that are almost completely composed of acorns bits. Either of these signs suggests bears are feeding nearby and, if food conditions are right, they will likely still be there come hunting season. A good time to scout is early November, so you can assess local mast conditions.”

Other bear hunting tips include:

● Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as: swamps and bogs, mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets, north-facing slopes, regenerating timber-harvest areas, wind-blown areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby.

● Organized drives are effective. Hunters working together often increase their odds of taking bears, especially those bears holding out in thick cover. Develop plans to safely drive likely bear hideouts and follow them to the letter. A minor slip-up by a driver, flanker or stander is all a bear needs to elude even the best-planned drive. Regulations limit the size of organized drives to 25 people or less.

● Hunting on-stand early and late in the day gives hunters a great chance to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas. Hunt areas that provide cover to traveling bears and ensure there is either a good supply of mast or cornfields or cover near where you plan to hunt.

● Use the wind to your advantage. If a bear gets a whiff of you, you’re busted as a hunter. Bears have an outstanding sense of smell. They often let their noses guide the way as they travel. Always place yourself downwind of expected travel lanes when hunting on-stand or driving. Bears are cagey enough without giving them more advantages.

●Stay focused and assume nothing. Black bears blend in well in forest settings at dawn and as dusk approaches. Spend too much time looking one way and you can miss a bear. Even though bears are quite heavy, they often are surprisingly quiet moving through the forest. You may see a bear before you hear it coming. Staying alert and remaining vigilant are critical.


● A bear license is required to participate in any bear season.

● Only one bear may be harvested per license year from all seasons combined.

● A hunter who harvests a bear must complete all information on his or her bear harvest tag and attach it to the ear of the animal immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, hunters who kill a bear must take it, along with their general hunting and bear licenses, to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bear check stations are maintained at the agency’s six regional offices and at other locations listed on page 38 in the 2010-11 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

● Once a hunter has used his or her bear harvest tag, it is unlawful to possess it in the field. Also, hunters are reminded to remove old licenses from their holder before placing a new one in it. If you keep an old license in the holder, you may accidentally use it to tag big game and unintentionally violate the law.

● It is unlawful to kill a bear in a den; use a radio to locate a bear that has a radio transmitter attached to it; hunt in areas where artificial or natural bait, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals, minerals, including residue or other foods are used, or have been used, as an enticement to lure wildlife within the past 30 days; use scents or lures; pursue bears with dogs; or to hunt bears in a party of more than 25 persons.

● During the firearms bear season, hunters are required to wear at all times 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on their head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees. In WMUs where the archery bear season and fall wild turkey season run concurrently, bowhunters, when moving, are required to wear a hat containing 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange. The hat may be removed when the hunter is stationary or on stand.

● Bears may be hunted with: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns with an all-lead bullet or ball, or a bullet designed to expand on impact – buckshot is illegal; muzzle-loading long guns 44-caliber or larger; long, recurve or compound bows or crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds. Also, crossbows are legal for the archery bear season.

● It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemicals, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate in an area.

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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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How To Avoid Being Eaten By Bears, 2010 Edition

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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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Springtime Safety Alert: Leave that Cute and Cuddly Critter Alone

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HARRISBURG – Whether hiking in the woods, driving through the countryside or simply enjoying nature in your backyard, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials encourage outdoor enthusiasts to leave wildlife alone, and in the wild, especially young of the year.
“Being outdoors in the spring is an enjoyable way to spend time and learn more about nature,” said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. “In the coming months, it will become common to find young deer, rabbits, birds, raccoons or other wildlife, some of which may appear to be abandoned. Rest assured that in most cases, the young animal is not an orphan or abandoned and the best thing you can do is to leave it alone.”

Meet The Parents?

DuBrock noted adult animals often leave their young while the adults forage for food. Also, wildlife often relies on a natural defensive tactic called the “hider strategy,” where young animals will remain motionless and “hide” in surrounding cover while adults draw the attention of potential predators or other intruders away from their young.

“While it may appear as if the adults are abandoning their young, in reality, this is just the animal using its natural instincts to protect its young,” DuBrock said. “Nature also protects young animals with camouflaging color to avoid being detected by predators.

No, We Cannot Keep It

“Wild animals are not meant to be pets, and we must all resist our well-meaning and well-intentioned urge to want to care for wildlife. Taking wildlife from its natural settings and into your home may expose or transmit wildlife diseases to people or domestic animals. Wildlife also may carry parasites – such as fleas, ticks or lice – that you wouldn’t want infesting you, your family, your home or your pets.”
DuBrock noted that, each year, people ignore this advice by taking wildlife into their homes and then are urged to undergo treatment for possible exposure to various wildlife-borne diseases, such as rabies.
“In nearly all cases, people’s well-meaning and well-intentioned actions still require that the animal be put down in the interest of public health,” he said. “Unfortunately, pop-culture has instilled in people a certain stereotype of what a rabid animal looks like. And, while some animals will act vicious and even foam at the mouth, many times an infected animal will be quiet and still, or simply appear uncoordinated or unafraid. Handling these animals can result in exposure to rabies and require that someone undergo treatment as a precaution, especially if the animal can’t be captured for testing.”
In addition to protecting public health, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection Director Rich Palmer said that the agency also is concerned with wildlife implications from humans handling wildlife.

Humans Can Be Habit Forming

“Habituating wildlife to humans is a serious concern, because if wildlife loses its natural fear of humans it can pose a public safety risk,” Palmer said. “For example, a few years ago, a yearling, six-point buck attacked and severely injured two people. Our investigation revealed that a neighboring family had illegally taken the deer into their home and fed it as a fawn. This family continued to feed the deer right up until the time of the attack.
“This particular incident was the subject of numerous news stories around the state, and serves as a fitting example of the possible consequences that can stem from feeding or simply getting too close to wildlife.”
In addition, Palmer noted that it is illegal to take or possess wildlife from the wild. Under state law, the penalty for such a violation is a fine of up to $1,500 per animal.

“Under no circumstances will anyone who illegally takes wildlife into captivity be allowed to keep that animal,” Palmer said. “While residents love to view wildlife and are very compassionate, they must enjoy wildlife from a distance and allow nature to run its course.”


Palmer also pointed out that, under a working agreement with state health officials, any “high risk” rabies vector species confiscated after human contact must be euthanized and tested; it cannot be returned to the wild. Though any mammal may carry rabies, species identified in the agreement are: skunks, raccoons, foxes, bats, coyotes and groundhogs.

“Except for some species of bats, populations of all other rabies vector species are thriving,” Palmer said. “Therefore, to protect public health and safety, it only makes sense to put down an animal for testing, rather than risk relocating a potentially rabid animal, and to answer the question of whether any people were exposed to the rabies virus.”

DuBrock said it is always wise to avoid wild animals and even strange domestic pets because of the potential rabies risk.

“Animals infected with rabies may not show obvious symptoms, but still may be able to transmit the disease,” DuBrock.

People can get rabies from the saliva of a rabid animal if they are bitten or scratched, or if the saliva gets into the person’s eyes, mouth or a fresh wound. The last human rabies fatality in Pennsylvania was a 12‑year‑old Lycoming County boy who died in 1984

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