Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PA Game Commissioners Adopts 2012-13 Seasons And Bag Limits

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2012-13, including a move to allow Mentored Youth Hunting Program participants to take part in fall turkey seasons and establishing antlerless deer license allocations.

            Other changes include expanded bear hunting opportunities in urban/suburban Wildlife Management Units (WMUs); the extension of the fall archery deer season by one day to include Monday, Nov. 12; additional small game season dates prior to Christmas; the closing of the snowshoe hare season throughout the state, except in WMUs 2F, 2G and 3A; the addition of WMU 4C for bobcat hunting and trapping; the addition of WMUs 2G and 4D for fisher trapping; various changes to the beaver trapping seasons to reduce bag limits in WMUs 3A and 3D and to increase bag limits in WMU 5D to address nuisance complaints
Licenses for the 2012-13 seasons will go on sale in mid-June.
Following are several articles on meeting highlights. 


The Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to a slate of deer seasons for 2012-13 that retains the split, five-day antlered deer season (Nov. 26-30) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 1-8) in 11 Wildlife Management Units.  The list includes (WMUs) 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. The package also retains the two-week (Nov. 26-Dec. 8) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.
Hunters with DMAP antlerless deer permits may use them on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, and will continue to be permitted to harvest antlerless deer from Nov. 26-Dec. 8 in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. Fees for DMAP permits are $10 for residents and $35 for nonresidents.
As part of the statewide archery deer season, the Board extended the closing day by one day to include Monday, Nov. 12, which is Veterans Day in 2012 and represents an additional day that some hunters may have off from work and be able to hunt.  The statewide fall archery deer dates are from Sept. 29-Nov. 12.
Additionally, the Board also gave final approval to retain the use of crossbows in the archery deer seasons. 
The Board retained the antler restrictions enacted for the 2011-12 seasons, which includes the “three-up” on one side, no counting a brow tine, provision for the western Wildlife Management Units of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, and the three points on one side in all other WMUs.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today set antlerless license allocations for each of the 22 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) for the 2012-13 seasons.  After hunters purchase a general hunting license, they may apply for antlerless deer licenses based on staggered timelines, which will be outlined in the 2012-13 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest presented to each license buyer and published on the agency’s website in early June. Licenses will go on sale in mid-June.
The Board also set the elk license allocation at 65 licenses (19 antlered elk and 46 antlerless elk) for the 2012 hunt. The allocation does not include the one Conservation Elk Tag, which was auctioned at the Safari Club International Banquet. 
Beginning in mid-June, applications for the public drawing of the elk licenses will be accepted through the agency’s online license sales system or when an individual purchases his or her 2012-13 license.  The applications cost $10.70, and only one application may be submitted each license year.  No mail-in applications are accepted.
Antlerless deer license allocations by WMU (along with the 2011-12 allocation figures) are:
WMU 1A allocation is 42,000 (42,000).
WMU 1B allocation is 33,000 (30,000). 
WMU 2A allocation is 59,000 (65,000). 
WMU 2B allocation is 67,000 (71,000).
WMU 2C allocation is 50,000 (58,000). 
WMU 2D allocation is 62,000 (60,000). 
WMU 2E allocation is 21,000 (25,000). 
WMU 2F allocation is 27,000 (34,000). 
WMU 2G allocation is 33,000 (23,000). 
WMU 3A allocation is 26,000 (26,000). 
WMU 3B allocation is 40,000 (40,000). 
WMU 3C allocation is 35,000 (29,000). 
WMU 3D allocation is 39,000 (39,000).
WMU 4A allocation is 29,000 (28,000). 
WMU 4B allocation is 26,000 (23,000). 
WMU 4C allocation is 35,000 (35,000). 
WMU 4D allocation is 36,000 (37,000).
WMU 4E allocation is 28,000 (29,000). 
WMU 5A allocation is 19,000 (19,000). 
WMU 5B allocation is 51,000 (50,000). 
WMU 5C allocation is 111,000 (117,000). 
WMU 5D allocation is 19,000 (22,000).

Follow this link for much more information on various seasons and changes.  One highlight is the addition of Fall turkey to the youth mentored hunt program.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Biggest Elk Confirmed, Sets Pennsylvania State Record

A bull elk taken in 2011 had the largest rack ever registered in Pennsylvania. Last week, officials of the Boone and Crockett Club announced that William G. Zeeof Doylestown, north of Philadelphia, had set a new state record while hunting in Goshen, Clearfield County. The bull's estimated live weight was 930 pounds.
Boone and Crockett trophies must be taken in fair chase, and scoring is based on antler size and symmetry. Zee's elk scored 442-6/8 B&C non-typical points, ranking ninth among all non-typical elk in Boone and Crockett records. The antlers are unusually wide, spanning 69 inches. The rack has nine points on the right antler and eight on the left, with antlers tallying 190-3/8 on the right and 188-1/8 on the left, with 47-7/8 inside spread and 29-7/8 in abnormal points.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission issued 57 licenses for the 2011 elk seasons. Fifty-three of the hunters were successful, taking 19 antlered and 34 nonantlered elk. Zee's trophy beats the previous Pennsylvania record taken in 2006 in Clinton County by hunter John Shirk.

Less Is More When Calling Toms In Pennsylvania's Crowded Woodlands

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's noteworthy in turkey hunting circles to get a Mexican or Canadian Slam -- shooting birds in those countries. It's a significant hunting achievement to score a U.S. Grand Slam -- taking Eastern, Osceola, Merriam's and Rio Grande turkeys. Put those turkey slams together and you've achieved a rare World Slam.
Do it all during one spring season with a bow and arrow and you're Jason Michael of Williamsport, Pa. Publicity about his unique achievement led the former electric and nuclear plant employee to quit his day job and go pro, guiding and helping to develop the Little Runt turkey decoy with DecoyPlanet.com.
Pro hunter Jason Michael shows a turkey decoy 
he helped to develop. Patience is everything -- 
get the turkeys in close.
But Michael said all of that is nothing compared to the extreme sporting challenge of shooting a gobbler in his home state.

"It's brutal," said Michael. "Pennsylvania is the hardest state you'll ever kill a turkey in because of all the people pressure. New York, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland -- they all have a lot of hunters -- but Pennsylvania has had the most hunters for the longest time."
The crowds come for turkeys that weren't always there, evidence of a significant wildlife management success.
When Pennsylvania held its first spring gobbler season in 1968, biologists estimated about 60,000 wild turkeys inhabited about half of the state's forestland. The initial six-day season resulted in the harvest of 1,636 toms.
With regulated hunting as a primary tool of turkey management, the population grew and the birds' range has swelled to blanket the entire state.
Game Commission analysis of hunter success surveys shows there are now more spring turkey hunters (230,000) than fall turkey hunters (163,000). Spring harvests average 38,000 to 45,000 toms, while fall harvests average 16,000 to 25,000 birds of either sex.
A hunter's primary concern during any high-pressure season has got to be safety, and in woodlands that attract camouflaged hunters with guns, there's special reason to be cautious.
"I put out a little orange tape," Michael said. "It will not screw up your hunt. Drape it on a sapling branch or wrap it around a tree, or put an orange band on your hat."
With lots of yelping and yakking all around him, Michael doesn't try to out-call the other hunters.
"I understand if you have one weekend to hunt, you may be anxious to get a shot. But pressing the birds too hard in Pennsylvania, where there's already a lot of pressure, is the wrong way to go," he said. "I back it down 10 percent. Just some soft hen yelping to let them think you're the more realistic of the calls they're hearing."
Over-calling, in fact, can drive the toms away.
"Many times the turkey hears yak, yak, yak and he thinks, 'That's another hunter,' so he'll circle around. I'll tell my other gunner to go over there 80 or 100 yards and don't do anything. The caller actually pushes the bird to a hunter who's not calling."
Experienced turkey hunters often bring several calls, but Michael said in high-pressure areas variety is vital.
"You've got to feel the flock out, give them what they want to hear. Give back what they give to you," he said. "In the middle of the season when the tom pitches down, try a box call or a slate call or a glass call or a mouth call. Throw several out to him. He'll usually call back to the one he thinks is most lifelike. When you find it, don't over do it. Let him come to you."
Having scouted the area preseason, Michael sets up 60 to 100 yards from where he believes the flock is roosting near a point the gobbler is likely to pass. At dawn he starts with a few soft tree yelps.
"When he takes off in the morning, he'll be on autopilot for a while. Get in his path," he said. "Then just do some basic calls. Not too much."
After the first 45 to 60 minutes, vocalizations should change.
"Go to a more excited hen yelp," he said, "getting more vocal and louder."
If nothing is happening by about 9 a.m., pack up and move.
"Now you're going to go walking around," he said. "Cautious, walking slowly, throwing some calls out there trying to get ahead of the tom. Move 50, 80, maybe 150 yards and reposition yourself."
From April 28 to May 12, legal hunting hours are 30 minutes before dawn until noon. Michael said the majority of birds are called between 10 a.m. and noon, when the gobblers tend to move off from the hens.
"You're kind of in desperation mode by then, but ultimately it can be the best time," he said.
May 14 to May 31, hunting hours stretch from a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset.
"After noon, hunt these turkeys like you'd hunt a deer," Michael said. "You're trying to put yourself in their travel path. You know where they roost -- you've got to be in position three hours before roosting time. Woodsmanship comes into play, and a pair of binoculars."
Michael said the hunting tool turkey hunters most often lack is patience. Too often, hunters shoot too soon.
"They rush the shot. With a shotgun, you don't want to shoot at 25 or 30 yards -- bring him in at least to the 20s," he said. "When a bird is committed to a decoy he'll stand up quick -- hunters think they've been spotted. But has the bird taken one step? Moved his body left or right? No, that's just him being a turkey. You can wait until he's right on your decoy to shoot, actually fighting it or attempting to mate it. Patience is everything."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Sets 2012 Walleye and Yellow Perch Limits

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today announced that the 2012 creel limits for Lake Erie yellow perch will be remain at 30 per day and walleye will remain at six per day.

Earlier this year, the PFBC adopted new regulations establishing adaptive creel limits for walleye and yellow perch based on the annual quotas established by the Lake Erie Committee, which consists of fisheries managers from Pa., Ohio, N.Y., Mich., and Ontario, Canada.

“Adaptive fishing regulations are based on the most recent fishery assessment results and are better aligned with the current status of the yellow perch and walleye stocks,” said Chuck Murray, the PFBC’s Lake Erie biologist. “This regulatory flexibility gave fisheries managers the ability to change daily harvest limits prior to the onset of the summer boat fishing season on Lake Erie.”

Murray said this year’s assessment showed that both yellow perch and walleye populations remain stable. Based on this, the creel limits are being held at the 2011 limits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Game Commission Cracks Down on Poachers


The Game Commission is adjusting how it goes after poachers.
In years past, when the agency`s deputy force was much larger, wildlife conservation officers looked for those shooting game at night and out of season largely independently. This past year, to account for a smaller deputy force, the commission tried its first-ever statewide, coordinated poaching task force.
Officers went out in a coordinated effort during what is traditionally the busiest two weeks of the nighttime poaching season, said Rich Palmer, director of the bureau of wildlife protection. That paid off with more than 300 public contacts, 192 citations and 94 warnings, he said.
Commission president Ralph Martone of New Castle praised the move, saying it`s important to show law-abiding sportsmen the wildlife — often trophy deer — that`s being stolen from them, and the efforts being made to curtail that activity.
"I think you get a lot of credit when you do that," Martone said.
Palmer said the commission is likewise getting more involved with tracking poachers and how they pay their fines.
Pennsylvania prior to last year joined the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact, which allows member states to share information on poachers and ban a hunter who broke the law in one place from hunting in another.
Last year, the commission entered 177 names into that system, Palmer said. It`s entered 84 already this year and that "will be going up significantly," he said.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has been working with that system, too. Don Lauver, an assistant director in the agency`s bureau of law enforcement, said the agency recently entered the names of seven people who had broken the state`s fishing and boating regulations — but failed to respond to their citations — into the system. That should make it impossible to buy a fishing license in any member state, he said.
That kind of thing may mean more money — or at least, money collected sooner — for the agencies, as well.
Changes in the law have also allowed the Game Commission to be more aggressive in making poachers pay their fines, Palmer added. In years past, "there were a lot of people who paid $5 a month" for years toward their penalties, Palmer said. Now, very few go beyond 180 days, and those who do see their license-buying privileges go on indefinite revocation, he said.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission`s fish kill hotline is doing its job — sort of.
The commission established a toll free number — 1-855-FISH-KIL — earlier this year to give the public a way to report fish kills and other pollution events. That`s generated some cases, said Jeff Bridi of the commission`s bureau of law enforcement. About half have been actual pollution calls; the other half were from people with general questions about the agency. Still, staff believes the hotline is "worth continuing," he said.
If anything, the commission needs to do more to make the public aware the number exists, he said. One way that will occur is, from this point forward, the number will be printed on the back side of fishing licenses sold.

Read more: Game Commission cracks down on poachers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/outdoors/s_791603.html#ixzz1sRE00lTP

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PA Fishing License Sales Up Over 20% As Trout Season Opens

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette    

Anglers along Pennsylvania's creeks and shorelines might find themselves a little more elbow-to-elbow than usual during today's statewide opening of trout season.
The state Fish and Boat Commission has sold about 20 percent more fishing licenses than at this time last year, a potential sales bonanza that could put an additional 60,000 anglers on Pennsylvania waters. It's not clear, however, if the extra licenses mean extra anglers or anxious anglers who got out early.

If the numbers hold and Pennsylvanians really are turning to low-cost outdoor recreation in tough economic times, it would mark a reversal in a 20-year trend away from outdoors participation, and a significant boon to the state.

The spike in sales, however, could be a mere statistical anomaly -- mild weather luring anglers to buy licenses early to fish at special-regulation waters where trout fishing was legal before today. If that's the case, a continuing downward spiral in fishing and other outdoor activities could foreshadow an increasingly harsh economic climate for outdoors industries and negative health and social impacts among kids and young adults, described by one best-selling author as "nature deficit disorder."

Last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission painted an optimistic view of license sale statistics.

"With this spring's record warm weather and the significant jump in license sales, [Fish and Boat] expects the opening day to be very busy," the agency said in a written statement. "The 20 percent jump in license sales amounts to about 53,000 more anglers who have bought a license compared to this same time last year."

A few days later, on April 9, executive director John Arway said a reversal in the trend was not conclusive, but the numbers had continued rising.
"We're up about 60,000 license sales compared to last year, up about 22 percent," said Mr. Arway, who grew up in North Huntingdon and Cranberry.

Last year, Pennsylvania sold a little more than 800,000 fishing licenses, which cost $22.70 for a resident 16 or older. That's down from more than 1 million sold each year from 1977 through 1995.
A 22 percent increase in license sales would add about $3.5 million to an agency mostly funded by the anglers who use its services.

The Fish and Boat Commission spent about $52 million of its $60 million annual budget in 2011. Most of its spending is on fisheries management, and most of its revenue is from license and permit fees. Additional funding comes from a federal excise tax on fishing-related equipment and motor fuel sales, and timber and mineral rights leases on agency-owned properties. No money for wildlife management comes from the state's general fund.
This could be a good year for Fish and Boat's bottom line. Gov. Tom Corbett recently signed a bill that provides $1 million for shale-related expenses to each of the state's wildlife agencies -- Fish and Boat and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Mr. Arway said his agency reviews some 5,000 well permit requests per year.
"We couldn't keep up with the workload the [shale] industry was placing on us," he said. "When there's a pipe crossing a stream -- any kind of stream or wetland encroachment -- the industry has to work with us for the permit review before the Department of Environmental Protection issues a work order. We had to put other things aside, and I was spending angler and boater dollars to keep up with that."

The new shale-related funding law includes additional provisions that may help Fish and Boat pay for upgrades to 16 agency-managed dams -- seven in Western Pennsylvania -- that were declared "high hazard" and closed by DEP.

At this week's quarterly business meeting, the Fish and Boat Commission discussed dam-repair initiatives and hiring of staff to manage the shale-related workload.
"I'm going to add several people for those duties," Mr. Arway said. "The money doesn't come until September, and I'm not sure when we can spend it."

Additional revenue from license sales also would be used to improve the agency's oversight of nongame aquatic animals and reptiles, Mr. Arway said.
Fishing license sales have fluctuated up and down about 4 percent in each of the past several years. A 20 percent shift is seen as unusual and substantial.

If sales are up, Allegheny County anglers will have had a lot to do with it. Allegheny routinely leads the state in fishing license sales, dwarfing the numbers sold in other counties. Fish and Boat statistics show that in 2011, Allegheny County anglers bought 50,312 resident fishing licenses, while 26,757 were sold in No. 2 ranked York County. In all, more than 90,000 fishing licenses and permits of all types were bought in Allegheny County last year.

The most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, released in 2006, found that Pennsylvania anglers spent nearly $1.8 billion in retail sales a year and logged nearly 18 million fishing days, not including those of children who aren't required to have a fishing license.

Nationwide, the American Sportfishing Association acknowledged a downward trend in fishing-related spending. Yet the trade group reports more than 1 million jobs supported by anglers, and $45 billion annually in retail sales by some 40 million anglers -- the association notes that's 33 times the average attendance per game at all Major League Baseball parks combined.

Still, that 20 percent increase in Pennsylvania license sales sounds "fishy" to Sylvia Cabrera of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Usually we see ups and downs. It could be the weather, it could be the economy, but that sounds like a lot," she said. "We should have the first preliminary report in July.
She did acknowledge, however, that "Pennsylvania is one of our states with the highest participation of hunting and fishing."

Mr. Arway said other factors, including high gas prices, could be keeping people closer to home to go fishing and boating. It may be too soon to tell if the spike in fishing license sales is an early sign that Pennsylvanians are getting back to nature, or a temporary redistribution in sales.

"If that's the case, it'll even out as time goes on," he said. "The peak [license] sales period is [the] week before the opening day of trout season. The week after next we'll have a pretty good feel if it's a true increase."

2012 Right to Keep and Bear Arms Rally Announced

The 7th annual Right to Keep and Bear Arms Rally will be held on May 8th, 2012 in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. The organizers are putting together a great lineup of speakers, some excellent prizes and a list of issues to push with the legislature.

If you love the right to keep and bear arms in Pennsylvania as much as we do we hope you will plan to attend and help spread the word!

Speakers include:

Daryl Metcalfe — State Legislator
As a Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe has been one of Pennsylvania gun owners’ steadfast allies in the fight against the gun ban lobby trying to push failed gun control schemes the public doesn’t support.

Larry Pratt — Executive Director, Gun Owners of America

Larry Pratt has been the executive director of GOA for over 30 years and has dedicated that time towards “no-compromise” pro gun lobbying and action.

Kim Stolfer — Gun Rights Activist

As Chairman of Firearm Owners Against Crime, Kim Stolfer fights tirelessly as one of the leaders of the Pennsylvania gun rights movement.

Click on the image to enlarge

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Clubs Urged To Start Planning For Junior Hunts

                                    July 22 deadline established for those applying for pheasants

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 or other special hunts that have been established for squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl or spring gobbler.

            “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 nearly 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 urges local clubs to consider hosting a junior pheasant hunt or other special junior hunts in their communities.”

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.

Roe noted that the junior pheasant guide can be adapted and used by clubs to host other special hunts, including for rabbit, squirrel, waterfowl and spring gobbler.

            To view the guide, go to the Game Commission’s website, put your cursor over “HUNT/TRAP” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting” in the drop-down menu listing, select the “Pheasant” in the “Small Game” listing, and choose “Junior Pheasant Hunt Planning Guide” in the Junior Pheasant Hunt” section. 

Once a club schedules a junior hunt, it can submit the information for posting on the Game Commission’s on-line “Special Hunts” calendar, which enables those looking to participate in special hunts to locate and register on-line for an opportunity near them.  Clubs that want to have their junior hunt advertised in the “Special Hunts” calendar should contact Samantha Pedder, Game Commission Outreach Coordinator, at sapedder@pa.gov, or at 717-787-4250 (ext. 3327). 

“Real-time registration information of how many participants are signed up is one benefit to clubs having their event included in the ‘Special Hunts’ calendar, in addition to reaching more potential participants,” Pedder said.

            To bolster participation in the junior pheasant hunt, the Game Commission again plans to stock pheasants just prior to this special season.  For the 2012 hunt, the agency will release 15,000 birds on lands open to public hunting.  These areas will be identified in the 2012-2013 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 22, and the only two stipulations to be eligible are that clubs must have registration open to the public and the hunt must be held on lands open to public hunting.

To participate in these junior hunts, 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 junior hunt, but all participants must comply with the mandatory fluorescent orange requirements established for the season.

            Based on previous surveys of junior pheasant hunt participants, about half of the juniors successfully bag 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 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Game Commission Helping The World Connect With Wildlife

Live feed from a barn owl nest box is stirring excitement

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission this week unveiled a new “web cam” broadcast live from a Perry County barn owl nest box. Interest in this unique wildlife viewing opportunity is growing steadily on the worldwide web.

Southcentral Region Wildlife Diversity Biologist Clay Lutz helps prep the barn owl nest box for its live feed video camera.
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“The best way to get people acquainted with wildlife and to help them further appreciate its importance is to give them a front-row seat to the action,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “That’s what our new web cams and live-feed broadcasts are doing, using technology to connect people with wildlife. 

“We began our ‘wild cam’ broadcasts a few weeks ago with snow geese scenes from off Willow Point at our Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Look for more exciting locations to be wired for broadcast after the barn owls to help our website followers get more acquainted with and closer to Pennsylvania wildlife. It is part of our commitment to be the first and best source of information on Pennsylvania wildlife.” 

The “PGC Wild Cam” section of the website was created to help people develop a greater appreciation of wildlife via broadcasts from places they’d rarely – or would want to – visit throughout the Commonwealth. Partnering with Pix Controller of Murrysville, and WildEarth of South Africa, the Game Commission is stationing remote video cameras at wildlife destinations that transmit a wireless cellular data signal to a video server that, in turn, streams the live footage to the agency website at
. To watch the “PGC Wild Cam,” click on the photo button in the center of the page featuring to barn owls. 

Since it went live, the barn owl box signal has been strong, much to the satisfaction of viewers. But as well-designed as this system is, there have been and will be times when the signal is interrupted or lost. It also may take several minutes for the live feed to appear in the viewer window. These situations are an inherent part of webcasting, but hopefully will become less and less an issue for viewers as systems are perfected. This whole undertaking involves cutting-edge technology from the moment the system collects the image until it is requested by your computer. 

The team of Game Commission personnel who selected the barn and placed the gear in the barn owl box was Clay Lutz, Southcentral Region diversity biologist, and Tracy Graziano and Hal Korber, who both are wildlife conservation education specialists at the agency’s Harrisburg Headquarters. They chose the barn because it was situated where there was a strong cellular signal, direct sunlight, and, most importantly, a landowner who was kind enough to permit the intrusion. 

The remote camera placed in the nest  box is hardly noticeable to the barn owls. 

“The system used by the Game Commission employs three marine batteries, two solar panels, a charge controller and video camera,” noted Graziano. “The package has built-in self sufficiency, drawing from the sun for energy and using cellular towers to send its signal. But this technology surprises us occasionally. It’s a new frontier and we’re working to perfect ways we can use it effectively.”

The Perry County nest box, fitted with an unobtrusive camera, had seven eggs. Two more were added from another Perry County nest box that had to be removed because it was impeding storage in a silo. Two other eggs from this troubled nest went to another barn owl nest box in Juniata County. The eggs from the donor nest box were maintained by Zoo America in Hershey until they were placed in new nest boxes. 

Barn owls are found almost worldwide and have 36 subspecies. Although they are globally secure, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in North America significant population declines have occurred over the past several decades, likely from losses of grassland habitat, potential nest sites and prey species. Since the mid 1960s, barn owl numbers have dropped nearly two percent annually in North America, according to Breeding Bird Survey data. In Pennsylvania, barn owls have been associated mostly with southern tier counties and have been classified as a “maintenance concern” species in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan since 2006. 

As a maintenance concern species, barn owls are considered abundant and fairly secure in Pennsylvania, but are a species for which some level of management attention is recommended. The main focus in managing them is to ensure the continued viability of core populations, to protect key habitats, and maintain monitoring. Because they have undergone recent declines, barn owls are a maintenance species. It remains a nocturnal species that has been insufficiently studied. 

Nest boxes play an important role in stemming attrition in Pennsylvania's barn owl population.
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In 2005, the Game Commission used its regional wildlife diversity biologists to begin a Barn Owl Conservation Initiative, which seeks to study the biology and ecology of Pennsylvania’s barn owls to better understand and conserve this species. Biologists conducted site visits to determine barn owl activity, monitor active nest sites, conduct outreach to landowners, and distribute and/or install barn owl boxes. Barn owls are banded to provide information on longevity, causes of mortality, and dispersal. In 2010 (the latest year which information is available), biologists confirmed 62 active barn owl nests – 12 were new sites – bringing the total number of nest sites to 138 since searches began in 2005.

In 2010, biologists banded 254 nestlings and three adults at 52 nest sites as part of the Barn Owl Initiative. Clutch sizes ranged from 1 to 10. To date, 32 banded barn owls have been recovered; 22 dispersed from their natal site an average distance of at least 58 miles. 
For more information on barn owls and the Barn Owl Initiative, visit the Game Commission’s website and enter “barn owl” in the search engine in the right column.