Visiting the Bear Dens

One of our 2013 Bucktails, Alec B., recently had the chance to shadow a biologist from the PA Game Commission as they checked bear dens.  He shares his awesome experience with us:

The best kind of teddy bear!

The best kind of teddy bear!

I got to go check bear dens in the Sproul State Forest with the PA Game Commission Black Bear Biologist Mark Ternent. I went bear trapping with him last July, and got invited back to check out the bear dens this spring. Due to the rain we only went to one den, luckily that one had a sow with four cubs.

We started the day off by driving back into the Sproul State Forest towards the den, and ended up hiking about half a mile to the den from the access road. Even though we had to hike in the rain and we all got soaked, it was worth it. Once we got to the den Mark Ternent and Ethan Kibe ( Black Bear Bio Aide for the Game Commission) walked up to the den and tranquilized the sow. After the tranquilizers took their effect, we set up a tarp over the den. Then the fun part started, they pulled out the cubs from the den!!!!

Mark handed me two little bear cubs. They were so cute! The cubs were kind of grouchy at first, but then fell asleep in my coat. We weighed and ear tagged each cub. Out of the four cubs 3 of them were females and 1 was a male.

Cuddling and tagging the bear cubs, all in a day's work.

Cuddling and tagging the bear cubs, all in a day’s work.

Even though it poured and we had to hike through the rain, I would not have traded this experience for anything. I feel blessed that I have gotten a closer glance at the world of these fascinating creatures.

 -Alec B.

Trout Coming Home

This poem was written and sent to us by Jacob S., a 2013 PA Brookie.  It reflects the trout’s journey home to find a mate after the long winter months.  The accompanying photos, also taken by Jacob, show some beautiful winter scenes.


Black capped chickadee huddles near its home to stay warm.

Black capped chickadee huddles near its home to stay warm.


As the sun cascaded from the heavens

The stream softly gurgled

The trees leaned as if they were listening

Birds were singing their sad, sad, song


As the water flowed smoothly over the rocks

A trout, beautiful in design

Swimming upstream

Gracefully cutting

Right through the water


Trying desperately to return

To the nesting grounds

Where his mate lay

To find the place he would stay


-Jacob S.


Gorgeous sunny afternoon in the winter.

Gorgeous sunny afternoon in the winter.

These are some serious icicles!

These are some serious icicles!

Sun finally breaks through to send some warmth our way!

Sun finally breaks through to send some warmth our way!


Come Blaze a Trail With Me

Jacob S., a 2013 PA Brookie, shares his experience in the field as he prepares to blaze a trail for his Eagle Scout project this spring:

“I went out hiking at the Howland Preserve today. The purpose of my hike was to plan a project that involves blazing a trail. These are some of the sites I saw. We started at the farmhouse in the morning. The temperature was 26°F with some light flurries. We traveled the first half of the trail that was already blazed but not cleaned up from the winter. We immediately found traces of deer and bear scat. There was evidence of coyotes because we found a deer carcass.  Much of the invasive grasses were knocked down and we only needed to clear branches from the path.

Frozen waterfall and floating ice chunks at Howland preserve.

Frozen waterfall and floating ice chunks at Howland preserve.

This doesn't seem like a good place for a picnic table...

This doesn’t seem like a good place for a picnic table…

Along the path we watched the remaining ice float down the Susquehanna River. However, a beautiful waterfall is still frozen.  As we looked up we saw a round picnic table in a tree. It remains there since the area was flooded. We then traveled to the next section of the trail that has not been blazed. This is what I will be doing as my Eagle Scout project in the spring. Along the deer paths we saw a man-made pheasant habitat where 500 pheasants were released for population growth. The pheasants didn’t stay, they moved on. Towards the end of our hike we found a very interesting nest made of grasses and seemed to have hung in a tree or bush at one time. In the nest there was an empty, small, cream colored egg. Not sure if it had black spots or just dirt. We are still trying to determine what bird made this.

Howland Preserve I 008

To end our hike, we saw a couple of very soothing pools of water and a huge tree. The trunk of the tree was large enough for a car to drive through. I am very excited to begin work on this project in April. Can’t wait to see what else we can see.”

-Jacob S.

Tranquil pools along the path add to a beautiful nature hike.

Tranquil pools along the path add to a beautiful nature hike.

Woodpeckers Under Siege!

2013 Bucktails student Nicholas M. recently discovered the nesting site of a Red Bellied Woodpecker, and documented its location.  It seems the site is under siege by European Starlings – hopefully the woodpeckers can defend their territory against the invaders! Nick reports from the field…


“In the above picture a Red Bellied Woodpecker has made residence in a dead tree. I was fortunate enough to view this while taking a walk down the mostly frozen Poquessing creek. Hopefully in April or May there will be little  woodpeckers. Unfortunately, this location is also under siege from the returning European starlings.

European Starlings are an invasive nuisance who were purposely introduced in 1890 by organizations such as the American Acclimatization Society and the Portland Song Bird Club. These birds typically nest in cavities such as the one formed in the picture above by the Red Bellied Woodpecker. Twice while I was there, a starling had the audacity to land on the woodpecker’s property, and twice the Red Bellied Woodpecker had to deliver a sharp peck to the intruding black bird before it flew away.

Below the entrance hole, you might have noticed the tree has been thoroughly pecked at. I believe this is due to drumming, a method most woodpeckers use to attract mates, but it could also be due to other reasons such as an insect infestation. If it is due to drumming, it seems a female is interested. The shot with her in it was the last picture I got before a large, blundering, creature scientifically known as Nicholassus idioticus tried to approach the nesting site for a better shot and scared away both woodpeckers. Aka myself.

The Red Bellied Woodpecker has enough threats, from predators to starlings, that I am an unneeded stress. When April or May comes I’ll pay this location another visit and hopefully see signs of a nesting pair of woodpeckers.”


Female woodpecker checks out the male's handiwork.

Female woodpecker checks out the male’s handiwork.

Both woodpeckers keep watch for the threat of more starlings.

Both woodpeckers keep watch for the threat of more starlings.


Reports from the Field: Snowy Owl

PA Brookies student Logan recently sent me an email to share his very exciting wildlife encounter.  He wrote: Last week I was fortunate enough to observe two Snowy Owls in the wild and was hoping to share my experience.  In his words…


Logan's first snowy owl photo.

Logan’s first Snowy Owl photo.

Every winter, Snowy Owls migrate from the tundra regions of Canada and Greenland to areas with less harsh conditions.

This year, the number of Snowy Owls is higher then ever before due a surplus of lemmings and voles in the tundra, and because of their high numbers, the birds are migrating farther south.  Snowy Owls are the largest owl species in North America and prefer large open spaces such as fields and shorelines.

Logan's second Snowy Owl Photo

Logan’s second Snowy Owl Photo

As of December 27, Snowy Owls have been spotted in 31 counties across the state of Pennsylvania. I had been following sightings in my own county and on December 22nd was able to go out and look for them. I was fortunate enough to observe and photograph two Snowy Owls near New Wilmington in Lawrence County; the first was on the ground along a fence line, the second in an open field.

If you wish to learn more about the snowy owls, this article is a good place to start:  It also includes the address for reporting your own Snowy Owl sightings.


Applications are now available for both youth and adult mentors for the 2014 summer field schools including Bucktails, Brookies and Drummers!  Click here to learn more.




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Michele Kittell, Executive Director
116 Market St.
Lewisburg, PA 17837

phone: 570.245.8518


A Cooperative Intiative

A Cooperative Intiative

The Wildlife Leadership Academy is a cooperative initiative of various state agencies and conservation organizations. It is coordinated and
administered by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.