Gardening, Fishing Regulations, Licensing, Local Events,
Articles Contributed by William Wasserman, Wildlife Conservation Officer, Pennsylvania Game Commission
Wildlife Abounds Throughout Wyoming County
|Wyoming County is a great place for anyone who
enjoys wildlife and the outdoors. With almost 400 square miles of rural country and
39 miles of scenic river meandering through our county, wildlife enthusiasts would be hard
pressed to find a better place to behold.
Many farmers within the county cooperate with the Pennsylvania Game Commission by permitting hunting and trapping on their land. All one needs to do is ask these generous, hard-working people, and chances are pretty good that they will allow you to hunt or trap. There are almost l00 cooperating farms in the county, with close to 20,000 acres available to the sportsman. Most of these farms are stocked with pheasants each fall by the Game Commission.
Wyoming County also has one of several Forest-Game Projects within the State. The Pennsylvania Electric Co. and the Game Commission have a mutual agreement to keep approximately l,350 acres of land open to sportsmen in Windham and Mehoopany townships. This is a beautiful area containing forest, farmland, beaver ponds and some Susquehanna River watershed.
Most of State Game Lands No. 57 is in Wyoming County. It is the second largest tract of the State Game Lands in Pennsylvania. This large Game Lands comprises over 40,000 acres and is located in Forkston, Noxen and North Branch Townships in Wyoming County and Lake, Fairmont and Ross Townships in Luzerne County. This adjoins State No. l3, located in Sullivan County with 49,528 acres (largest in the entire state) and State Game Lands No. 66 in Sullivan County with 7,909 acres to comprise more than 97,000 acres of contiguous State Game Lands, by far the largest in the entire state.
Practically all upland game species, both large and small, are to be found within the borders of this Game Lands. The deer herd is large and well-balanced. Many fine buck are taken each year. Bear also find the habitat in this area to their liking. Large numbers of blueberry bushes, beech and oak trees and other natural foods make the area attractive to wildlife.
The Game Commission is conducting a variety of management practices on this Game Lands to improve the habitat, providing better food and cover for wildlife. All types of improvement practices are utilized. Among them are woodland border cutting, winter feeding for turkeys in the event of an emergency and a host of others. Habitat is also improved for waterfowl by drawing down and planting the exposed areas of various lakes which have been created by the Game Commission.
Some of the best fishing in the Commonwealth is to be found in Wyoming County. The Susquehanna River is noted for its smallmouth bass, and many sportsmen can be seen fishing for the elusive muskellunge, as well. With 78 miles of riverbank to explore, this magnificent watershed is a major stronghold for all kinds of wildlife. The sheer beauty of the Susquehanna River can provide healing for one's heart and soul. It sure works for me, anyway. I just can't seem to get enough of it.
We have many great trout streams here, as well. The waterways are well-stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission and provide thousands with countless hours of pleasure. Bowman's Creek, I must confess, is my personal favorite. It's not that the fishing is better here than at some of the other streams, either. In fact, fishing has nothing to do with why I favor Bowman's Creek. It's the very presence of the stream that I enjoy. It has the look. It sparkles with beauty as it wanders through shadowy forests and lush meadows on its way to engage the Susquehanna River. Mehoopany Creek is a dandy, too. It's larger and wider than Bowman's Creek and meanders through some of Wyoming County's finest natural resources.
Wyoming County is also blessed with several fine lakes, and has two streams designated by the Fish Commission as Wilderness Trout Streams. These are special watersheds accessible on foot only, and offer the avid angler solitude, good fishing and often, unique wildlife to observe. "The most important criteria in designating Wilderness Trout Streams is that they produce sufficient populations of wild trout to provide a recreational fishery and that they be remote", according to the Pennsylvania Fish Commission. The two Wilderness Trout Streams in Wyoming County are Sorber Run (also in Luzerne County) and Cider Run. Cider Run is in State Game Lands No. 57.
Wyoming County also has a Class A Wild Trout Stream. Sugar Hollow Creek in Eatonville, which runs 4.5 miles through the County, has been designated Class A by the Fish Commission. "The Fish Commission does not stock hatchery-reared trout in Class A waters, in order to avoid any interference with natural strains of wild trout. This policy was adopted several years ago under the Commission's Operation FUTURE Program. It is applied to waters where natural populations are sufficient to provide a quality trout fishing experience. Fishery management techniques allow these streams to sustain themselves through natural reproduction. In addition, protection of the habitat is a major objective," said the Fish Commission.
Those who enjoy observing wildlife, hunting, trapping or photographing wild animals, will find both common, and unique, species in Wyoming County. Many animals that seem somewhat common in our area to those of us who have lived here all our lives cannot be found in other parts of the state. One such animal is the porcupine. These quilled creatures of our forest lands are not to be found in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our state bird, the ruffed grouse, is common here and offers the sportsman quite a challenge in his speed and accuracy with a shotgun. We also have a strong population of wild turkey. These wary birds have made a fool out of more than a few nimrods who may have merely shifted their cramped body an inch or two at the wrong moment. Recently, a flock of wild turkeys of more than 80 birds were counted on Harding's Flats.
Bald eagles are seen passing through the County occasionally, so don't forget to keep your eyes to the skies. We also have a number of ospreys that frequent our area. These birds are rare in Pennsylvania and are one of my favorites. They are fish-eating hawks and can be seen soaring above some of our waterways. The Susquehanna River is a likely place to see an osprey, as well as many of our ponds and lakes. I often see one flying above Bowman's Creek near Coppermine Hill in the spring. People often mistake the osprey for the bald eagle because both are fish-eating birds with heads that are white. Both birds also have a wing-spread in the six-foot range, but the bald eagle can attain a wing-spread of as much as eight feet. You can easily identify the osprey due to the fact that it flies with a distinct crook in its wings, showing black carpal patches on whitish undersides. It often hovers on beating wings and plunges feet-first for fish.
The wood duck is one of the most beautiful birds in the world and can be found along many of our beaver ponds and other waterways. I have found this duck to be fairly common here, and I am glad for it. They afford the sportsman many hours of hunting pleasure and, at the same time, are a delight to the many birdwatchers in our County.
Another of my favorites is the great blue heron. These giant, fish-eating birds stand four-feet tall and have a six-foot wing-spread. They are gray-blue in color, and I can remember seeing one for the first time when I was setting traps many years ago, as a boy. I was with my brother, John, and we were trapping muskrats along a wide stream. It was just daybreak, and there was a foggy mist along the stream. Suddenly, two of these giant birds spread their enormous wings and rose from the smokey shadows of the Neshaminy Creek. We froze in our tracks at the sight of them. John and I were both certain we had seen a pair of prehistoric, reptilian birds known as pterosaurs. Today, I often watch these birds and laugh to myself when I think back on that exciting day when I was young, and every day was an adventure on my trapline. I have seen as many as four great blue herons in a group while looking down from the bridge on Rt. 29 where it crosses the Susquehanna River. They would be there most every evening in search of a meal and didn't seem to be bothered by several fishermen in nearby boats.
We have a strong population of rattlesnakes in Wyoming County, and hikers should take the standard precautions to avoid these reptiles. You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting bitten by a rattlesnake, so there is no need for alarm. In fact, the rattlesnake is a very beneficial creature, feeding primarily on small rodents. They are also protected by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, so if you happen to see one, please leave it alone. Rattlesnakes will never attack a human unless they feel threatened, and if given a chance, will flee. There are several famous organized rattlesnake hunts each year in the County.
I must confess that my hands-down favorite animal in Wyoming County is the bobcat. These symbols of true wilderness areas are not to be found in large numbers anywhere in Pennsylvania. They have been completely protected by the Game Commission for over 20 years, and are slowly increasing in numbers. I don't know how many bobcats are in Wyoming County, but would take a guess at between 30 and 60 animals. I found some bobcat tracks in Beaumont last winter that surprised me. I am always interested in bobcat sightings, and dead or living animals seen by anyone would be of significance to me. Please take the time to contact the Game Commission if you are lucky enough to see a bobcat.
Another of my favorites is the eastern coyote. These large canines are definitely making their presence known in Wyoming County. The eastern coyote is larger than coyotes found in the Western United States, and average 30 pounds for females and 40-45 pounds for males. I recently learned of a male coyote near Wellsboro that weighed 72 pounds. Although they will eat almost anything, they feed mainly on rodents and other small mammals they can catch. They will eat insects and various wild fruits and berries, too. If a coyote finds a road-killed or injured deer, he will be sure to make use of the carcass for many meals, but usually will not attack and kill a healthy adult animal.
The eastern coyote has been known to kill livestock, such as sheep and calves, but this not common. There are no reports of coyotes attacking humans in Pennsylvania. I can remember when coyotes were only a rumor in Pennsylvania, and I used to hope the rumor would come true. That was back in the l960's, and today we estimate over 4,000 coyotes in Pennsylvania. The coyote is an intelligent animal that is difficult to hunt or trap. With fur prices at an all-time low, coyote populations will rise quickly. With higher coyote populations, we are bound to experience more complaints in years to come. Because coyotes will kill livestock and pet dogs and cats, they will come into occasional conflicts with humans. Livestock owners in the west have been trying to exterminate the coyote for more than l00 years, and have only managed to keep their populations at a steady level. The coyote is here to stay, and those who enjoy hunting and trapping, will always have a challenge with this crafty creature.
The river otter is another unique animal found in Wyoming County. Otters have been protected in Pennsylvania since l952, and are starting to make a comeback. I have had several otter sightings reported to me this year, and have found fresh signs of otters on the Meshoppen Creek and near Lake Carey. I think that the otter population in Wyoming County is stable and growing. In fact, there are probably more otters in Wyoming County than most people think. Like many animals, they are primarily nocturnal and are rarely seen by humans. We don't have an abundance of otters anywhere in Pennsylvania, but those that are here are primarily found in the northeast.
Otters like clean water, supporting fish and other aquatic life. They also prefer wilder territory to inhabit. Wyoming County has plenty to offer the river otter, and I hope to see them more often.
A mature otter weighs l5 to 30 pounds and averages 50-60 inches from top of nose to top of tail. Otter fur is always a value due to its density and rich, dark brown color. It is unlawful to kill otters in Pennsylvania, but many other states with higher populations of this furbearer allow trapping.
Otters obtain most of their food from water. Fish, frogs, turtles, snails, crayfish and mussels are their main diet. Otters are actually more at home in water than on land. They have webbed feet and are graceful swimmers. They are fast enough to catch a trout and can stay submerged up to four minutes.
The beaver is common in Wyoming County and can be found in many of our streams. Their unique ability to change their environment makes them special. A beaver dam is an interesting place for nature-lovers to visit. Many various species of wildlife benefit from these dams, and you are liable to see almost every kind of wild animal here. The river otter and his cousin, the mink, frequent these dams, as do many ducks and shore birds. Even if you don't see anything other than the dam itself, you are in for a treat. Look closely at the intricate way in which the dam was structured. It will have several places where small amounts of water will filter through so that it doesn't overflow. It may also have several back-up dams downstream to help in flood conditions. Try to pull a stick of the dam, and you will see that you can't. Every stick has been placed to lock with another. The beaver is truly an amazing animal.
Wyoming County has something for everyone when it comes to the outdoors. Whether it be bear, deer, turkey, waterfowl, raptors, beaver, otter, bobcat, coyote, mink, birdlife, fishing, hunting or trapping, it's all here in the Endless Mountains in Wyoming County.