Squirrels abound in state’s forests and woodlots, PGC says

Harrisburg — If there’s one game animal that could use some
additional attention in Pennsylvania, it’s squirrels. Pennsylvania
Game Commission field officers report squirrel populations are
strong in most areas of the state.

Gray squirrels continue to be found across Pennsylvania in
sizeable numbers, and the black-phase gray squirrel isn’t hard to
find north of Interstate-80 and east of the Ohio line all the way
into the state’s northcentral counties. Fox squirrels also are
becoming increasingly available as they continue to push east of
the Allegheny Front and north through Pennsylvania’s ridges and
valleys. Fox squirrels can be found as far east as the Susquehanna
River.

Squirrel populations have been enjoying the benefits of
declining hunting pressure and the maturation of habitat in the
state for some time. These factors have spurred fox squirrel range
expansion and recovery. Game Commission field officers believe
squirrel hunting will be good to excellent in many of the state’s
forests and woodlots.

For county-specific details on game populations, habitat
conditions and where-to-go hunting information, visit the Game
Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Reports filed by
Wildlife Conservation Officers, Land Managers and foresters are
available from every county. To access them, just click on the
“Field Officer Game Forecasts” link found on the homepage.

“Gray squirrels are our most abundant game species and are found
throughout Pennsylvania,” said Tom Hardisky, Pennsylvania Game
Commission biologist. “Look for mast-producing trees such as
walnut, butternut, oak and hickory when searching for the best
hunting areas. In agricultural areas, woodlots in the vicinity of
standing cornfields often support large numbers of squirrels. They
can be found throughout deep woods areas. The black squirrel is
actually a color phase of the gray squirrel. In general, black
squirrels can be found in the northern half of Pennsylvania.
Squirrels with this black color variation often occur in local
concentrations scattered about their northern Pennsylvania
range.

“Fox squirrels are up to 50 percent larger than gray squirrels
and weigh about two pounds,” Hardisky explained. “Fox squirrels
have been expanding their range eastward in recent years and now
inhabit much of the western half of Pennsylvania. They prefer more
open areas than gray squirrels and are not found in the deep woods.
Fox squirrels favor open fields and pastures with large trees
nearby. Small woodlots and forest edges are typical fox squirrel
haunts. Although some gray squirrels may possess orange coloration
along their sides and tails, fox and gray squirrels do not
interbreed, nor do gray and red squirrels. Each squirrel species
has some color variation, even within local populations. However,
this color variation largely results from genetic differences.
Local diet, habitat, and climate differences also may contribute to
color variation.”

When hunting squirrels, look for large-trunked trees near a food
source. Larger trees offer better protection from predators and are
favorite den sites. Gray squirrels are most active during the early
morning and evening, while fox squirrels often travel during
mid-day.

Squirrel season opens on Oct. 16, and runs through Nov. 27. The
season reopens on Dec. 13-23, and Dec. 27-Feb. 5. The daily limit
is six.

Pennsylvania’s youth squirrel hunt will be held Oct. 9-15, and
is open to youths 12 to 16 years of age who have successfully
completed a hunter-trapper education course and are properly
accompanied by an adult. A hunting license is not required to
participate.

Hunters also are reminded that squirrels are listed as a game
animal that can be pursued by youngsters participating in the
Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which permits those under the age
of 12 to hunt under the guidance of a mentor. For more information
about this new program, visit the Game Commission’s website and
click on Mentored Youth FAQs in the “Quick Clicks” box in the upper
right-hand corner of the homepage.

Information on both of these youth hunting programs also can be
found on page 15 of the 2010-11 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and
Trapping Regulations, which is provided to each license buyer.

Squirrel hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches
of fluorescent orange clothing, visible 360 degrees, at all
times.

 

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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