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Exploring a Career as a Wildlife Conservation Officer – Part 1

This blog post is the first of a three part series, written by Luke, a three year veteran of the Academy attending PA Bucktails as a student and Assistant Team Leader and PA Drummers as an Assistant Team Leader.  He was asked to write a paper about a potential career choice, and decided to explore the aspects of being a Wildlife Conservation Officer.


Luke leading his team at PA Drummers.

Luke leading his team at PA Drummers.

As a young child I was growing up as a follower of my dad and his passion for the outdoors. He would always take me fishing and I could not wait until the next time my dad took me out. I learned the true meaning of conservation and how to make it work. I was taught to never leave a trace in the outdoors. As I rose through the ranks of cub scouts I found myself fully fledged and followed my love for the outdoors and went into the boy scouts, which culminated in the rank of Eagle Scout. My scoutmaster always made us do a police line to clean up a campsite once the trip was over. One Boy Scout trip that I remember in particular is when we went to Mammoth Park and we stocked trout. That is when I realized that I would really enjoy a career in conservation. The moment when I was handed bucket and helped a younger scout release the trout was quite eye opening and very enjoyable.

In the summer of 2012 I attended my first year at the Pennsylvania Wildlife Leadership Academy and got to talk to many impressive adults that are wildlife professionals. I decided on becoming a Wildlife Conservation Officer after I talked to a few that were talking to us at the academy. In March I was lucky enough to go to the Penn State deer pens on main campus and tour the facility. The students that were talking to us asked us what the disease was in a picture of a deer. I remembered back to the necropsy we did back at the Academy and I answered the question as tuberculosis and was correct. I realized that I knew so much about deer and how they exist and what they do to be able to show my potential in a career dealing with the people who hunt them or research them. To go back to the Academy I had to do a daunting task of speaking in front of others about my experience and teaching the public. After I did a few outreaches I noticed that it wasn’t an issue to speak anymore and I gained a lot of points that I needed if I wanted to go back to the Academy. In 2013 I found myself at that camp again as an assistant team leader ready to help others and also talk to others about my career.

Once again I was with the Wildlife Conservation Officers and immediately knew that I wanted this job. I love the outdoors so I figured that this job would be perfect since it is all about the outdoors.

Through this project I would like to learn the details of how a Wildlife Conservation Officer goes about day to day jobs and tasks. Also, I would like to know the rules of the outdoors and what kind of authority they carry. I would like to know the average salary and if it is enough money to support a nice lifestyle. Additionally, I would like to know where and how long to go to college. I expect to learn all of these answers by completing this project.

I will focus my research on the day to day tasks of a Wildlife Conservation Officer and how they complete each of those tasks. I will also research which colleges I should apply to and how long I have to attend the college. Plus, I will find out whether or not there is additional schooling after the college. My research questions are is there jobs out there in PA or do I have to move? If I have to move where do I have to move to? Is there anyone that is willing to talk to me about this? Is there anyone willing to be interviewed for this project? My final question is, is the career the correct one for my future?

Category: Youth Blog · Tags: , , ,

Bird as Guardian Angel

Guest contributor, 11 year old Novella, shares a story about a startling experience she had in which a bird came to her rescue.  She reminds us that nature can be both fascinating and a little frightening!

There are different things that make me afraid. I am afraid when I watch scary movies, I am also afraid of snakes.  Last summer I had a little incident with a snake. This is how it all happened. I was spending the summer at my Grandparent’s house. I got bored so I went swimming in my Grandparents pool. After about an hour I got out of the pool and was drying off on the cement. After I got done drying off, I started to do some cartwheels in the grass. On a post about three feet away from me was a bird chirping its head off. I really didn’t pay attention but when it didn’t stop I thought “is it trying to tell me something”. I looked around but didn’t see a single thing. I thought I might jump back into the pool. It was a very hot summer day and it was very humid so I thought I could use another dip in. I thought I could wait to go back into the pool and just lie in the grass and watch the clouds float by. That’s when all the craziness started. I heard a hissing sound coming from about a foot away. I just thought it was something making a strange noise.

The bird was now chirping super loud. I tried to have it stop but it wouldn’t. I saw its gaze look from me to the ground and back. I looked down and screamed the loudest scream I could. Right there only about a foot away from me was a rattle snake. It was slithering through the grass and was hissing as it went. My Grandpa rushed out of the house after hearing me scream and he immediately knew what it was. He told me to walk over to him quickly. I didn’t walk I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I was petrified. My Grandpa called up his friend and they worked hard trying to get the snake out of the yard. They eventually were able to get the snake out of the yard.

I was very grateful that I wasn’t hurt and that nobody got hurt trying to get the snake out. Something horrible could have happen if that bird was not there to basically save me from that snake. So next time I see that bird if I ever do, I will give it a whole lot of bird seed.

Novella making e new (less scary) friend!

Novella making a new (less scary) friend!

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.  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.


When you give to the Wildlife Leadership Academy, you invest in the next generation of conservation leaders. Our students are passionate, caring and want to make a difference!

Make your investment in Pennsylvania's youth today!


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

phone: 570.245.8518


A Cooperative Intiative

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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.