Bears, birds and other sites mean spring has sprung

Signs of spring are creeping in even though many of us are still unaware.

Robins are back, I’ve seen a couple shivering on the branches in my back yard. Tulips and crocuses are above the ground, braving the snow flurries. Several times, as I hurried across a cold parking lot to get to the grocery store, I heard that wildest of all sounds – wild geese winging their way North again.

And one of the peskiest events of early spring is back – black bears making themselves at home at residences right in town. One friend related to me the adventures he has already had with a bear raiding his bird feeder, nearly destroying the feeder in the process.

So, it’s time to take the bird feeders inside, to not let garbage bags collect outside, even Fido’s food dish on the back porch will pull a hungry bear to your home. Remember that a bear can smell temptation up to a mile away.

It was an iffy proposition for awhile but finally it was approved that Pennsylvania would receive nearly 70 wild-trapped pheasants from Montana.

States like South Dakota, which initially provided wild ringnecks to Pennsylvania as part of the restoration program, have been reluctant to part with their own. It had been three years since Pennsylvania had placed wild pheasants into any of the state’s Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, which aim to restore to the state self-sustaining populations of wild ring-necked pheasants that eventually can be hunted.

However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission in late January received permission from a Native American tribe in Montana to trap and transport wild pheasants as part of the program.

“Organizations like Pheasants Forever deserve much thanks, as does the Crow Indian Reservation, the trapping crew that traveled to Montana to secure the birds, and Game Commission staff and our Board of Game Commissioners for their resolve to locate wild pheasants that could be brought here for release,” The Game Commission said. “With the release into the Franklin County WPRA, all four of Pennsylvania’s WPRAs now have received wild birds at least once. Hopefully these Montana birds will find their new home to their liking.”

The Franklin County WPRA was established in 2011, and was initially slated to receive wild pheasants in early 2012. The WPRA is located in the southwestern part of Franklin County and centers roughly on the borough of Mercersburg. U.S. Route 30 forms the WPRA’s northern border, and the WPRA runs south to the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Franklin County WPRA is among four that have been established in Pennsylvania. Pheasants previously have been released into the Central Susquehanna WPRA, which is located in parts of Northumberland, Montour, Columbia and Lycoming counties; the Somerset WPRA in Somerset County; and the Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties.

Only trapped-and-transferred wild pheasants are introduced into a WPRA, given their heightened chances for survival in the wild, compared to propagated birds.

There is no open season for taking pheasants in any Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, and releases of propagated pheasants also are prohibited there. Training dogs and hunting small game other than woodchucks, waterfowl and crows are prohibited within a WPRA from the first Sunday in February to July 31.

The Game Commission seeks the public’s help in making WPRAs more successful. Pheasant success within any WPRA relies on the availability of adequate nesting and wintering habitat, and privately held land accounts for most of the acreage within the WPRAs. Those who are interested in creating or enhancing pheasant habitat on land they own can contact the Game Commission’s WPRA biologist Colleen DeLong at 570-380-0833, or contact their local Pheasants Forever chapter.

Turkey gobblers are wearing themselves out in their quest to attract hens and get about the breeding business. Many of you probably do not remember the horrid battle that ensued between hunters and the Game Commission back in the 1970s when wild turkeys were hard to find. Sportsmen were adamant that the game-farm facilities were the way to reintroduce wilt turkeys into Pennsylvania’s forests, even though they had been raising and dumping them into the woods and fields for years and it hadn’t done the trick.

But when the Game Commission decided to listen the advice of their own biologists who insisted that trapping birds from established, wild strains would be the only way to establish truly wild, self-sustaining turkey flock across the state.

Against the protests and often sabotage tactics that many hunters launched against these efforts, the Game Commission stuck to its guns and the trap and transfer program was launched.

Within a few years, wild turkeys were spreading across the state until today, turkeys rival deer as the most-hunted, most-enjoyed species.

Let’s help in every way we can to encourage and support this wild pheasant restoration effort. Won’t it be great when we can enjoy what we had in the “old days,” cackling ringnecks rising out of the corn on a brisk November day?

In the meantime, this is prime time for silently ghosting around the turkey hangouts, getting a line on where an old boss gobbler is making himself known.