Bald Eagle Fatally Shot in Western PA

ATV riders contacted the state Game Commission when they found an injured bald eagle in a rural part of northern Cambria County on May 10th.  Wildlife conservation officers arrived on scene to find an injured mature bird with blood coming from its mouth.  The eagle died on the way to the state veterinary laboratory in State College. 

“The lab confirmed that it suffered at least gunshot wound,” explains Tom Fazi, Southwest Region information and education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  “It’s a rural area, but maybe somebody saw something or heard something, and we’re looking for any leads… to find out who may have done this.” 

The Game Commission’s Tip Hotline is 1-888-PGC-8001.  You can also call the Southwest Region office directly at 724-238-9523.  A cash reward may be offered for information leading to an arrest, and tipsters may remain anonymous.  It is believed the bird was found on or around the day of the shooting. 

Pennsylvania’s bald eagle population is growing, but they are still classified as a threatened species.  Bald eagles are also protected under state and federal law

(photo courtesy of Hal Korber, Pennsylvania Game Commission)

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 11.23.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Matt Paul brings you the latest updates on the possible privatization of Pennsylvania Lottery management. Also, Governor Tom Corbett discusses his Thanksgiving holiday and we get a preview of deer season from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle Nest Numbers Soar

Bald Eagle Chicks

Bald Eagle Chicks

The number of bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania now tops 200.  The state Game Commission counts 203-nests in 50-counties.  “As recently as 1983 there were only three known nests, and they were all in Crawford County,” Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser tells us. 

1983 was the year the Game Commission implemented its bald eagle restoration program.  From that restoration effort, Feaser says, PA went from 3 active nests in 1983 to 100 in 2006.  “Now here we are, just five years later, and we’ve more than doubled the number of active bald eagle nests.”   

Crawford County still tops the list of bald eagle nests.  It and Pike County each have 19 known nests.  Lancaster County follows with 18.  None of those counties should be a surprise, because bald eagles thrive around major waterways.

This is the first year that the Game Commission has published an “Eagle Watching in Pennsylvania” guide, which you can find on their website.  “Pennsylvanians now have a greater opportunity of seeing a bald eagle, today, than any other generation since the Civil War,” Feaser says. 

Meanwhile, nesting bald eagles have temporarily put the brakes on a road construction project in York County.  PennDOT says the work on Route 30 will resume in August, as they do not want to disturb the chicks.  Bald eagles are currently classified as a threatened species in Pennsylvania.  There are 10 known bald eagle nests in York County.

Whitetail Deer

Should PA Lift its Sunday Hunting Ban?

Pennsylvania’s prohibition on Sunday hunting doesn’t mesh with today’s busy lifestyles, according to State Rep. John Evans (R-Erie), who chairs the House Game and Fisheries Committee.  “There are limited opportunities that folks have to go out into the field,” Evans tells us.  In the weeks ahead, Evans will introduce legislation that would simply lift the ban.  “We’re not going to try to dictate to the Game Commission what opportunities should be made available to Sunday hunting… but we just want to bring ourselves in line with [nearly] 40-other states that currently permit at least some form of Sunday hunting,” Evans says. 

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau can be counted among the vocal opponents of Sunday hunting.  “What farmers want is that one day a week, during the hunting seasons, when they can relax and have some peace on their own property,” says PFB spokesman Mark O’Neill.  Farmers and other private landowners control about 80% of the huntable land in the Keystone State, and O’Neill says many farmers open up their property to hunters in order to control wildlife populations.  “Farmers are not anti-hunting, they’re pro-hunting, but they just feel that Sunday is the day that should be left to other enterprises… or just taking it easy.”   

On the flip-side, Evans says we’ve already gotten away from the “blue law” mentality that was behind PA’s Sunday hunting prohibition.  “We can buy liquor in state liquor stores on Sunday, for goodness sakes,” he points out.  Evans also notes that farmers – or any private landowner – would be able to post their land to disallow Sunday hunting at any time.    

Rep. Evans’ committee is in the midst of three statewide hearings on the topic.  The first was held last week in Somerset County; the next two will be scheduled for northeastern PA, and the state capitol.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not take a position on the Sunday hunting issue.

Ruffed Grouse in the Wild

Habitat Improvement Projects Underway

Wildlife habitat improvement projects are underway, this spring, on Pennsylvania’s 1.4-million acres of State Game Lands.  “In today’s age it’s not hard to understand there’s an enormous amount of landscape that’s being turned from wildlife habitat due to developments,” says Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser.  That’s why he tells us it’s critical to ensure that wildlife have access to shelter, food and water.  The projects include food plots, wetland restoration and specific timber cuts to benefit wildlife.  “So that there’s more of a diversity of the vegetation that benefits a wide array of wildlife.”   

Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan shows that 300 acres of habitat are being lost every day.  The primary culprit: urban/suburban sprawl.  “While that also creates some different, alternative habitat for a host of smaller wildlife,” Feaser says, “It still creates problems because that diversity that wildlife depends on has been taken away in some cases.”  Many tracts of State Game Lands were formerly stripped or mined, and the Game Commission projects are designed to ensure that the vegetation that returns will be beneficial to wildlife. 

State law requires the Game Commission to spend a minimum of $4.25 per general hunting license, and $2.00 for each antlerless deer license on habitat improvement each year.  “We as an agency have exceeded that legislated minimum by several hundred thousand dollars annually,” Feaser says.  During the 2009-2010 license year, the Game Commission spent $5.9-million dollars on habitat improvement projects.  That’s more than $570,000 dollars over the mandated minimum based on the number of licenses sold.  The Game Commission does not receive any state taxpayer dollars. 

In unrelated Game Commission news, they’ve teamed up with the Pittsburgh Pirates to offer discounted tickets to fans with a hunting or furtaker license.  The promotion applies to select home games in July, August and September.