NRA online Hunter-Ed course expands to Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG - Prospective hunters who need to become certified before getting their first Pennsylvania license now have yet another option.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced that completion of the National Rifle Association's free hunter-education online course will satisfy the prerequisite for obtaining a hunter or furtaker license in the Commonwealth.

The NRA course will be offered free of charge in addition to the in-person and online courses currently offered by the Game Commission. In-person courses are back up and running after a year of being available on a limited basis during the pandemic.

Those looking to schedule an online or in-person course can check availability and make reservations from the hunter-education page at www.pgc.pa.gov.

The Game Commission first made available an online course in 2016, in partnership with Kalkomey Enterprises.

While the majority of new hunters, particularly those who are younger, no doubt will continue to prefer the in-person courses taught by a dedicated team of over 1,800 instructors across the state, becoming certified online is a convenient option that better fits the schedules of some prospective hunters, Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said.

"Maintaining Pennsylvania's strong hunting tradition depends greatly upon the continual recruitment of new hunters, and the more options they have to complete the training they need to get a license, the better all are accommodated," Burhans said. "For decades on end, hunter education has provided the foundation for new hunters to make sound and safe decisions as they begin hunting and trapping the Great Outdoors, and we are glad to welcome the NRA into the fold in helping to meet our recruitment needs."

Pennsylvania joins Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia as states that accept NRA Hunter Education as a prerequisite for obtaining a hunting license.

SONGBIRD DEATHS INVESTIGATED

Wildlife health experts from the Wildlife Futures Program (WFP) at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) and officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission are investigating more than 70 general public reports of songbirds that are sick or dying due to an emerging health condition that is presently unknown.

As of July 1, 2021, reports from the public chronicle both adult and young birds exhibiting signs of the condition. The most common clinical symptoms include discharge and/or crusting around the eyes, eye lesions, and/or neurologic signs such as falling over or head tremors.

Affected birds are being tested for several toxins, parasites, bacterial diseases, and viral infections. To date, test results have been inconclusive.

Twelve species have been reported: Blue Jay, European Starling, Common Grackle, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Carolina Wren

In Pennsylvania, the reports have been received from 27 counties, including:

Philadelphia, and Bucks, Montgomery, Chester counties: 15 reports

Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, Schuylkill, York counties: 19 reports

Numerous reports have also been received across the United States including the Mid-Atlantic region, extending into the Southeast and eastern upper Midwest. Affected birds were first reported in and around Washington, D.C.

This is an emerging wildlife health event. Penn Vet will provide additional, timely information as it becomes available at https://http://www.vet.upenn.edu/about/news-room

The public is encouraged to report any sightings of birds that have died and/or birds that have been seen with swollen and crusty eyes, as well as neurological signs such as stumbling and head tremors. Report the incident online at: http://http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-laboratories/research-initiatives/wildlife-futures-program.

Experts are also encouraging the public to follow these five precautionary measures until more is known:

l Cease feeding birds and providing water in bird baths until this wildlife mortality event has concluded to prevent potential spread between birds and to other wildlife.

l Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10-percent bleach solution.

l Avoid handling dead or injured wild birds. Wear disposable gloves if it's necessary to handle a bird.

l Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.

l To dispose of dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and discard with household trash. This will prevent disease transmission to other birds and wildlife.