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Northeast Region News Releases


For Information Contact:June 25, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 NE Game Commission Office Open Saturday, July 7

Pennsylvania Game Commission Northeast Region Director Daniel Figured announces the Northeast Region Office will be open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, to accommodate persons wishing to purchase a hunting license.

“There is an annual rush to purchase general hunting licenses just prior to the initial sale of antlerless deer licenses,” Figured said. “We try to accommodate the increase in demand by offering additional office hours for license sales.”

On Monday, July 9, county treasurers will begin accepting antlerless license applications by mail from residents only, one per person, statewide.

Normal business hours of the Game Commission Northeast Region Office are from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office is located at 3917 Memorial Highway in Dallas. The office phone number is (570) 675-1143.


For Information Contact:June 8, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Game Commission To Present Program On Chronic Wasting Disease
Emerging threat to PA deer herd topic of monthly educational program

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will be presenting a program on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) as part of its summer wildlife educational series. This program will be held Wednesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. at the Back Mountain Regional EMA building in Dallas.

NE Region Wildlife Management Supervisor Kevin Wenner will present information on the status of CWD in PA, how it affects deer, factors that influence disease transmission, and control measures currently in place.

“Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious and always fatal infection first detected in captive and wild deer in Pennsylvania in 2012,” said Wenner. “The management of CWD is critical to the long-term health of Pennsylvania’s deer herd.”

The Back Mountain Regional EMA building is located at 3593 Route 118 (a half-mile west of the intersection of routes 118 and 415), in Dallas.

No reservations are required.

For more information contact the Game Commission Northeast Region Office at (570) 675-1143.


For Information Contact:April 2, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Eagle Scout Project Benefits Bats

Corey R. Bohn, of Swoyersville, Luzerne County, recently completed an Eagle Scout service project aimed at helping out one of Pennsylvania’s most misunderstood species of mammals, the population of which has plummeted in recent years. Bohn, a member of Boy Scout Troop 143 in Swoyersville, built eight wooden bat boxes and delivered them to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region headquarters in Dallas.

The boxes are designed to provide female bats with an ideal place to roost and rear their young in the spring and summer months. Each box can hold over 200 nursery colony bats and may help local bat populations in areas where they are erected.

“Several species of Pennsylvania bats have been suffering from a disease called white-nose syndrome, which weakens and kills bats in their winter hibernacula,” explained Game Commission Information and Education Supervisor William Williams. “Some bat species have experienced population declines as high as 95 percent. Projects such as this provide bats with ideal locations to establish nursery colonies.”

Bohn enlisted the help of other Troop 143 Scouts and their leaders to help build the boxes. The boxes will be erected by Game Commission wildlife habitat enhancement personnel on state game lands and other public lands in the Game Commission’s Northeast Region. Bat boxes are placed within close proximity to a body of water so that the bats have easy access to emerging insects.

Eagle Scout service projects develop a Scout’s leadership skills and provide important lessons in project development and management. An Eagle Scout service project must benefit the community and it is considered the “application phase” of what an Eagle Scout candidate has learned thus far through Scouting.

“Bats benefit humans by eating insects. They reduce agricultural damage and prevent possible disease transmission,” Williams added. “Corey did an excellent job in visualizing this valuable project and seeing it to completion.”

Each year, the Game Commission works cooperatively with Boy Scouts across the state in their quest to become Eagle Scouts.


For Information Contact:March 30, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Eagle Scout Project Benefits Wood Ducks

Elliot Blasko, of White Haven, Luzerne County, recently completed an Eagle Scout service project aimed at helping area wood duck populations. Blasko, a member of Boy Scout Troop 473 in Freeland, built ten wooden wood duck boxes and recently delivered them to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region headquarters in Dallas.

The boxes are artificial nesting structures that provide female wood ducks with ideal places to lay their eggs and tend to ducklings prior to them fledging. “Wood duck hens typically build their nests in tree cavities near wetlands and, in many areas, they have difficulty finding suitable natural nesting sites,” said Game Commission NE Region Information and Education Supervisor William Williams. “Wood duck boxes provide an excellent man-made alternative to natural tree cavities and placing them in wetlands can increase local duck populations.”

Blasko received monetary donations from a number of sources to help purchase materials. Project contributors include Northeast Chapter Delta Waterfowl, Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society, Chapter 803 Pheasants Forever, Hickory Run Chapter North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, Murphy’s Lumber, Freeland Rotary, Valley Trophy Company, and Mr. Jesse Costello.

Blasko enlisted the help of other Troop 473 Scouts and their leaders to help build the boxes. The boxes will be erected by Game Commission wildlife habitat management personnel in wetlands on State Game Lands 40 in Luzerne County, and at other suitable sites on area game lands.

Eagle Scout service projects develop a Scout’s leadership skills and provide important lessons in project development and management. An Eagle Scout service project must benefit the community and it is considered the “application phase” of what an Eagle Scout candidate has learned thus far through Scouting.

“Elliot did an excellent job in visualizing this valuable project and seeing it to completion,” Williams said. “He gained insight into the interesting aspects of wood duck reproduction activities and his project will help boost local wood duck populations.”

Each year, the Game Commission works cooperatively with Boy Scouts across the state in their quest to become Eagle Scouts.


For Information Contact:March 6, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Game Commission Conducts Controlled Burns For Wildlife

Pennsylvania Game Commission Northeast Region Director Daniel Figured announces more than 4,200 acres of state game lands and public access properties in the region are scheduled to be treated using controlled burns in 2018. Controlled burning is a habitat enhancement tool that can be used effectively to promote healthy forests, oak regeneration, and grass lands.

Fire helps to promote oak forest regeneration by reducing competition from less desirable tree species (such as black birch and red maple) through a controlled and slow-moving fire. After fire moves through an area, more fire-tolerant oak trees and seedlings remain and become the dominant species as the forest grows. Oak acorns benefit a variety of wildlife because of their high nutritional value and are sought after as a fall food source by a variety of birds and mammals as they prepare for winter.

“Controlled burn operations are scheduled to be conducted on 14 different game lands, located in nine counties of the Northeast Region this year. The Game Commission has been using controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat since 2008, with outstanding results,” said Figured.

Throughout controlled burn operations, safety is the primary consideration from planning through implementation. The entire operation is overseen by a “Burn Boss,” who develops a detailed plan required to be approved by the Game Commission and other agencies. Timing of the burn is weather dependent and takes into account the amount of moisture both in the ground and the growing vegetation. Access to the burn site is restricted to only highly trained fire personnel and all necessary local fire and emergency personnel are notified in advance.

In the weeks prior to a burn, fire breaks are established or maintained around the entire area. Just prior to initiating burn operations, a small and easily extinguished “test fire” burn is conducted to check fire behavior and smoke-dispersal patterns. If the Burn Boss approves the fire to proceed, an experienced crew made up of personnel from the Game Commission and other natural-resources agencies uses a regimented process to burn the site.

Work crews are assigned to various jobs including interior ignition, wind and temperature monitoring, and perimeter containment using specialized Utility Task Vehicles, water packs, and a variety of hand tools. As the fire begins to burn out, areas with flames near the perimeter are extinguished and those on the interior allowed to burn out gradually. The entire area is then closely monitored over the next few days.

State game lands in the Northeast Region, and the acreage scheduled to receive controlled burn treatment, include SGL 141 (Carbon, 481); SGL 226 (Columbia, 50); SGL 165 (Northumberland, 449); SGL 84 (Northumberland, 240); SGL 91 (Luzerne, 498); SGL 13 (Sullivan, 402); SGL 180 (Pike, 833); SGL 183 (Pike, 338); SGL 300 (Lackawanna, 310); SGL 292 (Luzerne, 171); SGL 36 (Bradford, 246); SGL 123 (Bradford, 202), SGL 70 (Susquehanna, 45); and SGL 187 (Luzerne, 22).

Additionally, the Game Commission will assist landowners in conducting controlled burns on public access properties within the northeast region.

“Controlled burn operations are initiated in March and will continue through late fall,” Figured explained. “Areas treated with controlled burns will not be a pretty sight initially, however, these operations will ultimately result in areas with excellent habitat that is beneficial to wildlife.”

A controlled burning notification map that details information on burns that are planned and burns that are imminent can be found on the Game Commission web site at www.pgc.pa.gov under wildlife/habitat management/controlled burning.


For Information Contact:February 8, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Game Commission Partners With Conservation Groups To Improve Habitat
Project on state game lands in Bradford County to benefit wildlife

Bitter cold and high winds did not deter Pennsylvania Game Commission employees and volunteer members of the Susquehanna Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, Wilson F. Moore Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the NEPA Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society from recently daylighting an overgrown apple and pear orchard on State Game Lands 219 in Warren Township, Bradford County.

The effort will increase the availability of food to wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse and woodcock. The project area contains apple, crabapple and pear trees that were being dwarfed by less desirable trees, including black cherry and red maple.

Game Commission habitat-improvement personnel and conservation organization volunteers removed competing trees with chain saws, providing sunlight and enabling fruit trees to maximize their yield. An understory of invasive honeysuckle, autumn olive and multi-flora rose also was removed to lessen competition for soil nutrients.

Performing this habitat-management activity in the winter provides the additional benefit of making more browse available to deer and other wildlife at a time when food is limited.

“There are several orchards on State Game Lands 219 where fruit trees have been overtaken by the surrounding forest,” explained Game Commission Land Management Group Supervisor Phil Kasper. “Rejuvenating these orchards is extremely important.”

The Game Commission develops and maintains strong partnerships with conservation organizations and the work of their volunteers helps the agency further its habitat improvement goals.

“These gains for wildlife were made possible by volunteers who literally showed how much they care,” Kasper added. “We appreciate their efforts.”

Those interested in becoming members of the fine organizations that took part in this project are asked to visit their websites for more information.

Quality Deer Management Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
Ruffed Grouse Society

 

PGC Photo (1) L-R: NEPA Chapter RGS President George Nichols; Robert Harris; John Wazlinski; PGC Habitat Management Employee Aaron Baysore; Robert Wagner (kneeling), PGC Land Management Group Supervisor Phil Kasper; PGC Habitat Management Crew Supervisor Darren Pettyjohn; PGC Forester Chad Barclay. Absent from photo – QDMA Branch Director Matt Sellers


For Information Contact:January 8, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Spruce Plantings On Game Lands To Help Northern Flying Squirrel
State endangered mammal requires old-growth conifers for food and shelter

Scattered remnants of a diminishing boreal forest are the last footholds for the state-endangered northern flying squirrel in northeastern Pennsylvania. The diminutive nocturnal rodent, with its disproportionately large eyes and unique ability to glide through the air, is in trouble. Forest fragmentation, the loss of trees necessary for food and shelter, and competition with a close cousin have kept this species precariously clinging to survival in the commonwealth. But help may be on the way in the form of a habitat-improvement project taking shape on state game lands in the Poconos.

Similar but different

Pennsylvania is home to two species of flying squirrels. Both weigh less than 3 ounces, are 8 to 10 inches long including the tail, and appear identical. The southern flying squirrel (SFS) and northern flying squirrel (NFS) are brown on the back – the northern sporting a slightly reddish tint. The key differentiating physical characteristic is the SFS has belly hairs that are all white, while the NFS has belly hairs that are whitish at the tip, but grayish at the base. The SFS is a habitat generalist found in hardwood forests throughout the state where it eats a steady diet of nuts, seeds and insects. In contrast, the NFS is a habitat specialist that requires unbroken stands of coniferous forests for survival. An ongoing study in Pennsylvania initiated in 2001 found the NFS only in the Pocono region and at isolated sites in Warren and Potter counties. While the NFS’s diet is somewhat varied, it is partial to consuming lichens and underground fungi found in hemlock/spruce forests. The specific habitat requirements of the NFS made this species especially vulnerable to population declines.

Night gliders

Northern flying squirrels are most active during the evening hours and their large eyes are an adaptation for nocturnal activity. Flying squirrels have skin flaps that extend between the wrists and ankles, and tails that are flattened top to bottom and used for steering when gliding from tree to tree. Northern flying squirrels travel principally by gliding (traveling an average distance of 65 feet) and take short jumps while on the ground. Tree cavities provide the best nest sites and one litter of young is produced in mid- to late May, with an average litter size of two. The young squirrels are fully weaned and ready for “test flights” at about three months. Pennsylvania’s flying squirrels are active year-round and they may cluster together in cold weather to keep warm. Predators include owls, hawks, bobcats, raccoons and snakes.

Shrinking habitat

Factors influencing the northern flying squirrels decline in Pennsylvania include:

  • Mass clearcutting and wildfires that removed conifer trees, especially eastern hemlock and red spruce, from the landscape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Loss of older conifer stands to development across the NFS range.
  • The recent declining health of hemlock forest stands caused by hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA).
  • Competition with the SFS in marginal habitat. Research suggests that the SFS may carry and transmit an intestinal parasite lethal to the NFS.

 

The NFS-fungus connection

The primary food source of the NFS is the fruiting body (truffle) of an underground fungus that grows on the roots of conifer trees. Hemlock and spruce trees depend on the fungi for efficient water uptake and the fungi rely on their tree hosts as a source of carbohydrates. Maintaining this three-component beneficial relationship was a key consideration when Game Commission foresters and biologists developed a plan to improve habitat conditions for the NFS.

State Game Lands 149

State Game Lands (SGL) 149 encompasses approximately 1,991 acres within the Pocono Plateau region in Foster Township, Luzerne County. The game lands has documented populations of NFS along the hemlock-dominated Sandy Run stream corridor and adjoining uplands that provide the habitat necessary for this species to exist.

The SGL 149 Management Plan identified the need to maintain and expand the game lands’ existing boreal forest component to support NFS populations. In 2011, Northeast Region foresters, mammal biologists, and region biologists delineated existing core NFS habitat along Sandy Run. A 300-foot buffer zone was then designated around the core habitat to meet NFS foraging needs, bringing the total project area to 650 acres

The ideal tree

While red spruce is scattered throughout SGL 149, it is not present in great numbers or found forming established stands. Red spruce can act as a “surrogate” tree species for birds and mammals that depend on eastern hemlock. Red spruce is immune to HWA and is shade tolerant. Seedlings planted under a hemlock understory can persist over 40 years, awaiting to be “released” with additional amounts of sunlight. When Game Commission biologists conduct NFS studies, most of the squirrels are captured within 50 feet of a red spruce. The continuing destruction of Pennsylvania’s hemlocks caused by HWA made this tree the perfect choice to plant and improve NFS habitat.

Planting with a purpose

Planting red spruce trees to improve NFS habitat on SGL 149 was initiated by Game Commission personnel before the ravages of HWA affected hemlock stands along Sandy Run. But the anticipated spread of the disease to this game lands was at the forefront of habitat-improvement planning.

Red spruce seedlings were raised at the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery from seed-producing cones collected at isolated stand locations in northeastern Pennsylvania. Over 2,000 bare-root trees were introduced into the soil by agency foresters, biologists, and habitat-improvement personnel in the spring of 2011. Many were planted directly under the core NFS habitat hemlock canopy. Foresters reasoned that the inevitable thinning of the hemlock branches would result in increased sunlight reaching the red spruce seedlings below – and allow them to reach for the sky. Other seedlings were planted in “canopy gaps” within the surrounding buffer zone with the hopes of extending the core area along Sandy Run to nearby conifer stands.

The present

Game Commission Northeast Region forester Zach Wismer recently made a site visit to evaluate the project area. He discovered that seedlings from the 2011 plantings are well established and persisting in areas with full conifer shade – although they show no noticeable growth.

“This speaks to their extreme shade tolerance and low palatability to white-tailed deer,” said Wismer. As predicted, HWA is now present in the Sandy Run drainage and affecting mature hemlock in the core NFS habitat. Thinning of hemlock crowns is beginning and the increased sunlight will soon facilitate spruce tree growth. Most seedlings planted in canopy gaps receiving partial sunlight have grown to over 3 feet and they may indeed help realize the goal of extending NFS habitat to nearby conifer stands. Similar NFS habitat improvement projects were initiated by the Game Commission on state game lands in Carbon and Monroe counties in 2012.

Where are they?

Game Commission biologists gather information on NFS populations while providing squirrels with a place for raising their young by installing and monitoring nesting boxes in and around known NFS habitat. These artificial tree cavities decrease the risk of predation and increase juvenile survival rate. A network of over 750 boxes are in place at historic and potential NFS sites. Through the use of nesting boxes, biologists have verified new populations and confirmed several more historic ones.

The future

“The rare Northern flying squirrel is a fascinating member of Pennsylvania’s wildlife community that is rarely observed in a natural state,” said Wismer. “We are working hard to keep it thriving here in Pennsylvania.” This living relic of the northern forests may have been given the opportunity to continue gliding in our woodlands through the dedicated work of Game Commission personnel who looked to the future – and planted a few thousand trees.


For Information Contact:January 2, 2018
William WilliamsFor Immediate Release
 Game Lands Snowmobile Trail To Be Plowed
Riders on State Game Lands 12 may encounter poor trail conditions

Snowmobile enthusiasts looking to ride on the CCC Road snowmobile trail on State Game Lands 12 in Bradford County may experience poor trail conditions.

Land Management Group Supervisor Phil Kasper reports that Marcellus gas drilling activity continues on the northern tier portion of SGL 12 and that large portions of the trail will be plowed in order to allow vehicle access.

“Plowing and cindering of the road to maintain safe driving conditions for gas operations personnel will negatively affect trail conditions,” said Kasper. “Unfortunately, this means that the road will likely not be suitable for snowmobile riding for the duration of the winter months.”