Recently, an officer from the Pennsylvania Game Commission made a guest appearance at our library’s summer reading program. The theme for the 2022 program is Oceans of Possibility. We don’t have ocean front beaches in PA, but we have lots of wetlands. Officer Bowman gave a presentation about the importance of PA’s wetlands and all the wildlife that inhabit them. The kids had a blast interacting with Officer Bowman, and he answered all of their questions.
The Game Commission serves a valuable purpose. Thinking about this and some new things I learned that day, I wondered what animals in PA are endangered.
History of Wildlife Protection
Protecting wildlife in America has a long history. It became necessary from lack of stewardship of wildlife and over harvesting in the early days of the colonies and republic.
The first major law pertaining to wildlife protection was the Lacey Act of 1900. It prohibited interstate and international trafficking of wildlife. This mainly protected birds whose feathers were highly sought after for adorning hats. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 added to those protections making it illegal to harvest migratory birds, their eggs, and nests.
The U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is considered the first legislation targeting an endangered species. The resurgence of the bald eagle population is one of the great success stories of wildlife preservation. One of the highlights of our summer walks last year was spotting one on the Rail Trail.
PA Endangered Species Program
In 1978, the Game Commission in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched the Pennsylvania Endangered Species Program. Our official threatened and endangered species at that time were the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, Indiana bat, Belmarva fox squirrel, and Kirtland’s warbler.
Pennsylvania has seen a fair amount of success with preservation. We even reintroduced river otters into the PA ecosystem. The bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon are recovered species in the state.
The Current List
As it stands currently, there are six species on the threatened list and twenty-three on the endangered list for Pennsylvania. Most of them are birds along with a few bats and mammals. Unfortunately, the Indiana bat is still struggling from way back in the 70s.
While loss of one species likely does not constitute ecological collapse, every species that dies off is like losing one brick in a wall. Lose enough of them, or the wrong ones, and it could have much broader effects. Ever play Jenga?
Like many hunters and fishermen, trail enthusiasts care deeply about conservation. We want to enjoy our natural environment when we are hiking and biking. The Game Commission has tons of suggestions for getting involved with protecting threatened and endangered species in PA. Most of them are aimed at people who own large tracts of land. But there are a few suggestions for everyone.
Get involved in birdwatching. Many of the species we are looking out for are birds. Helping with bird surveys and joining the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology are ways that anyone can help the conservation effort.
- Practice good etiquette when you are out in nature. Don’t disturb wildlife, especially bird’s eggs and nests.
- Report illegal activity to Operation Game Thief.
- Don’t litter. Pack out any wrappers, bottles, and spent fishing line.
I love the slogan “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.” We truly live in one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. All of us who love our trails, waterways, and parks can help maintain our lovely natural spaces and species.