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Southwest Region News


For Information Contact:Release #06-19
Patrick L. SnicklesSeptember 27, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Southwest Region Hosts Public State Game Lands Tour

BOLIVAR – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Southwest Region will be hosting a public tour of State Game Lands 108 in northern Cambria County on Sunday, October 13th. The tour will be from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. State Game Lands 108 encompasses 23,086 acres. This tour will be a 7.5-mile, self-guided, one-way, driving tour and will highlight mountainous terrain and early fall foliage on the Allegheny Front.

Items of interest along the tour route include a rehabilitated strip-mined area, which has been converted to small-game habitat. The area also serves as a study area for grassland nesting birds, including the Henslow’s sparrow, a grassland species of special concern. Northern harriers and endangered short-eared owls also inhabit the study area. Also highlighted are tree and shrub identification, wildlife habitat food plots and a deer exclosure fence. Each tour participant will be provided a brochure with directions and information about features along the tour route.

The tour begins at the game lands access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality, along state Route 53, in White Township. Look for the sign. The tour will conclude on state Route 865, near Blandburg in Reade Township.

Pennsylvania Game Commission land management, forestry and law enforcement personnel will be on hand to discuss the various habitat improvement projects on this state game lands and to answer questions.

Hope to see you there!


For Information Contact:Release #05-19
Patrick L. SnicklesSeptember 16, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Pennsylvania Game Commission Southwest Region Announces
Chronic-Wasting Disease Presentations

BOLIVAR – The Pennsylvania Game Commission Southwest Region announces the scheduling of five informational presentations on chronic-wasting disease (CWD) and related hunting regulations that are now in effect. These presentations will include information about the disease, how it is spread, established disease management areas (DMAs) and associated regulations regarding the transportation of deer and elk from within these DMAs or from out-of-state as well as management techniques currently being used and other options available to help slow the spread of the disease.

Presentations are scheduled as follows:

September 30, 2019; Ligonier Valley High School (Auditorium), 40 Springer Road, Ligonier, Pa. 15658.
October 02, 2019; Richland High School (Auditorium), 1 Academic Avenue, Johnstown, Pa. 15904.
October 17, 2019; Berlin Community Center, 700 North Street, Berlin, Pa. 15530.
October 23, 2019; Pitcairn-Monroeville Sportsmen’s Club, 505 Mosside Blvd., North Versailles, Pa. 15137.
October 28, 2019; Hilltop Baptist Church, 4859 Rt. 286 Hwy. W., Indiana, Pa. 15701.

All presentations begin at 7:00pm, concluding at 8:30pm. We encourage all those concerned about the health of our wildlife resources to come and learn more about how you can help slow the spread of this potentially devastating wildlife disease.


For Information Contact:Release #04-19
Patrick L. SnicklesJuly 12, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Barn Owls Banded in Somerset County

BOLIVAR – A female barn owl and five owlets were banded in a barn on private property in Somerset County on June 14, 2019. This is the first time barn owls have been banded in the Southwest Region.

According to Clayton Lutz, Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) Southcentral Region “The areas where barn owls are found in Pennsylvania is primarily the southeastern third of the commonwealth. The recently discovered barn owl nesting site in Somerset County is important as it represents the state’s western-most productive nest.” Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the PGC’s Southwest Region Tammy Colt added “Barn owls were historically found across the agricultural landscape of Pennsylvania’s southwest region but they seemed to disappear since the 1980s. This nest is the first to have owlets banded since the PGC’s Barn Owl Conservation Initiative began in 2005.”

Lutz also provided some background on the Barn Owl Conservation Initiative and the status of barn owls in Pennsylvania. “The barn owl is classified as a near threatened species of greatest conservation concern in our state’s Wildlife Action Plan. Although barn owls are found around the globe, they are a rare and declining species in Pennsylvania. Barn owls require grassland or farmland habitats where they hunt for their preferred food source – meadow voles. The intensification of agricultural practices along with other human developments, habitat fragmentation and reforestation has greatly reduced barn owl habitat. In response to the species decline, the conservation initiative began in 2005. Biologists actively search for nesting locations, install nest boxes and band fledgling owlets. Since its inception, we have documented nesting at 226 unique sites and have banded over 1,800 barn owls.”

Lutz further explained that despite the conservation initiative, barn owls continue to decline in Pennsylvania. As their name suggests, barn owls are often found in barns, silos and other manmade structures where they roost during the day and establish nests in the late spring and summer. Their nests are very simplistic, often laying their eggs directly on barn beams or on top of silage. The barn owl’s secretive and nocturnal nature can make them difficult to detect. Barn owls don’t vocalize with the more familiar “hoots” made by barred and great horned owls. Their calls consist of a “hissing screech.” Barn owls eat their prey whole, regurgitating the fur and bones in what is commonly referred to as an owl pellet.

Lutz pointed out barn owls affinity for structures and farmland necessitates their conservation occurs predominantly on private lands. Barn owls are a species that readily accepts the use of manmade nesting boxes. If you have barn owls using your property, or you would like more information on barn owl conservation, please contact your PGC regional office.


PGC Biologist Clayton Lutz holding adult female barn owl
PGC Biologist Clayton Lutz holding adult female barn owl. PGC Photo.

PGC Biologist Tammy Colt holding one of the owlets
PGC Biologist Tammy Colt holding one of the owlets. PGC Photo.

PGC Biologist Clayton Lutz returning the owlets to their nest box
PGC Biologist Clayton Lutz returning the owlets to their nest box. PGC Photo.


For Information Contact:Release #03-19
Patrick L. SnicklesJune 28, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Cambria County Adds Over 2100 Acres of State Game Lands In Upper And Lower Yoder Townships

BOLIVAR – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Southwest Region Director Thomas A. Fazi announces the addition of 2,166 acres of land to State Game Lands 042. This additional acreage lies in Lower Yoder and Upper Yoder Townships, Cambria County. Also, this newly acquired land already adjoins existing State Game Lands 042 and brings its total acreage to 17,811 acres.

It was purchased from Brookville Wood Products using funds from third party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects. A subsidiary entity of Equitrans Midstream Corporation was a large contributor and instrumental partner in this acquisition.

This newly added acreage is dominated by northern hardwood forests dotted with numerous small forest openings leftover from past logging activities. The headwaters of Mill Creek and Little Mill Creek flow down the moderately steep side slopes. Game Lands Management Group Supervisor (GLMGS) Travis Anderson stated “This additional acreage will allow for larger landscape habitat manipulation to improve the mountain range as a whole for all wildlife species, which in turn will result in better hunting opportunities across the entire game lands.” State Game Warden Seth Mesoras agrees, stating “This property will provide increased recreational opportunities for big game hunting, especially black bears.”

With regards to hunter access; GLMGS Travis Anderson says “Hunter access is primarily going to be from two locations, the existing state game land road off State Route 271 and a lower access road closer to Westmont that will have a parking area. Signs should be erected by fall hunting seasons to direct hunters to new parking areas off of Route 271.” GLMGS Anderson further stated “If we locate other areas that would provide key access to this tract of land we will assess the feasibility of developing them as part of our habitat management practices.”

Southwest Region Director Fazi added “I want to thank my staff for having the foresight to recognize the value of this land; doing the research and laying the groundwork that led to the agency being able to purchase it. Now everyone can benefit from the fruits of their labor for generations yet to come as this land, previously locked up in a private hunting lease, will now be open to all Commonwealth citizens to enjoy.”

State game lands are open to many types of outdoor recreation but current regulations do have some restrictions. No motorized vehicles of any type (including ATVs, UTVs and motorcycles) are allowed on these properties with the exception of those with Pennsylvania Game Commission approved special permits. Also, no camping is allowed on state game lands and no materials can lawfully be removed at any time except for berries and mushrooms. State Game Wardens will be increasing enforcement patrols on this newly acquired property. For a full summary of all state game lands regulations consult your Pa. Hunting & Trapping Digest or visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov.

Cambria County Adds Over 2100 Acres of State Game Lands


For Information Contact:Release #02-19
Patrick L. SnicklesMarch 1, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Southwest Region Welcomes New State Game Wardens

BOLIVAR – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Southwest Region Director Thomas A. Fazi announced today five recent graduates of the Commission’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation’s 31st Cadet Class have been assigned to the Southwest Region. These new State Game Wardens (SGWs) have assumed the duties of their new districts.

SGWs are field officers of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and are responsible for administering a wide variety of programs within an assigned geographical district averaging approximately 350 square miles. SGWs have statewide police authority, but primarily enforce the Commonwealth’s Game and Wildlife Code and regulations as well as federal laws governing natural resource conservation. In addition to law enforcement duties, SGWs conduct conservation education programs in schools and for a variety of audiences, administer the hunter education program, conduct wildlife surveys and respond to wildlife nuisance complaints within their districts. They are also responsible for recruiting and training a crew of Deputy State Game Wardens and a corps of volunteer Hunter-Trapper Education Instructors to assist them within their assigned districts.

“We are very happy for these new officer’s arrival and excited for them to hit the ground running in their new districts.” stated Region Director Thomas A. Fazi. He further stated “Our veteran officers have been stretched very thin for the last few years trying to cover the multiple vacant districts we’ve had in our region. These new officers are being welcomed with open arms! We wish them every success as they start their new careers serving the wildlife resources and the local citizens of their newly assigned districts.”

The Ross Leffler School of Conservation’s 31st Cadet Class graduated on February 23, 2019 after an extensive 50 week training program. Assuming their new field positions in the Southwest Region are:

  • Christopher Bence of Johnstown, assigned to western Greene County.
  • Zebulun Campbell of New Wilmington, assigned to western Allegheny County.
  • Denton Schellhammer of Johnstown, assigned to eastern Armstrong County.
  • Charles Schuster of Pottsville, assigned to northern Fayette County.
  • Adam Traynor of Eighty-Four, assigned to southern Washington County.

New State Game Wardens
The five newly assigned officers to the Southwest Region; from left to right: Christopher Bence, Denton Schellhammer, Zebulun Campbell, Charles Schuster and Adam Traynor. PGC Photo.

For Information Contact:Release #01-19
Patrick L. SnicklesJanuary 15, 2019
Information & Education SupervisorFor Immediate Release
 Westmoreland County Resident Reaches Plea Agreement In Regards To Multiple Game Law Violations

BOLIVAR – Several months ago, Westmoreland County State Game Warden (SGW) Michael Papinchak received information through the Washington Township Police Department concerning a possible game law violation. As a result of SGW Papinchak’s investigation, a search warrant was obtained and served upon Cory S. Wolford, 48 of Washington Township. With the assistance of the Washington Township Police, SGW Papinchak discovered a large variety of wildlife parts inside the home. Among those items were antlers, deer meat, deer hides, other animal pelts and skulls as well as wings, feet and tails of multiple protected birds. Drug paraphernalia were also confiscated. State Game Warden (SGW) Papinchak initially filed forty charges against Wolford that included 12 felony, 5 misdemeanor and 23 summary violations.

On December 13, 2018 a plea agreement was reached where Wolford plead guilty to one felony count of the unlawful killing or taking of big game (white-tailed deer), fifteen misdemeanor counts of the unlawful killing or taking of big game (white-tailed deer) and twenty-two summary counts of the killing or possession of protected birds and other wildlife species. In total, Wolford received a sentence of $10,155.00 in fines and could receive up to twenty-five years revocation of his hunting and trapping privileges.

SGW Papinchak stated “Along with the confiscated items, there were videos and photos indicating a long history of disregard for wildlife and our game laws. In one video Wolford stated it was the ninth deer so far that year. Anyone who appreciates wildlife and what it means to the quality of life in our state can recognize that penalizing this kind of activity is vitally important and requires each of us to be good observers. I am very grateful to the citizen who provided the initial information to the police in this case and anyone else who has ever stepped up to help; thank you.”

If you witness a wildlife crime against big game (deer, bear turkey or elk) or a species that is protected, endangered or threatened; call Operation Game Thief’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-PGC-8001 or fill out an “Operation Game Thief Reporting Form” online at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website: www.pgc.pa.gov. Violations can be reported 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Calls to the Operation Game Thief hotline are answered by a secure recording device. You can remain anonymous, however it is beneficial to provide your contact information so an officer can ask follow-up questions. Callers can still remain confidential, however, those who wish to claim any monetary reward must provide contact information. Other violations should be reported to the regional office serving the county in which the violation is taking place as soon as possible.