PGC cadets gain hands-on experience with bears

Photo by Becky Polaski – PGC Northcentral Region Law Enforcement Supervisor Richard Macklem, standing, observes as one of the agency’s game wardens instructs a cadet in proper bear processing techniques.
By: 
Becky Polaski
Staff Writer

Last week the 30 cadets making up the 31st class of the Ross Leffler School of Conservation visited various sites across the state to gain hands-on experience in areas where they could potentially end up assigned when they officially become game wardens with the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).
On Thursday, they were all at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. While elk were the focus later in the day, early in the afternoon it was all about bears. 
A total of 14 bears were trapped throughout the Northcentral Region and brought to the visitor center so that the cadets could gain hands-on experience processing the animals, and learn from the experienced game wardens who were there to instruct them.
According to PGC Northcentral Region Law Enforcement Supervisor Richard Macklem, learning how to process bears is an important skill for the cadets because most will have to do so, either for nuisance or research purposes, when they are eventually assigned to districts after graduation.
“That’s part of their training because most of the districts that they’re gong to go to, they’re going to have bears, and they’re going to have to deal with either nuisance or research issues,” Macklem said.
Among the skills the cadets were learning were how the agency’s various bear traps function, how to properly set them to lure in a bear and how to properly process a bear once one is caught. This included being able to estimate the animal’s weight and administer a tranquilizing drug.
The game commission had hoped to trap 15 bears for the event so that they could pair up two cadets per bear. In the end, they caught 14 overnight throughout the 10-county region.
“Fifteen was a goal and that was shooting high because you never know if a bear is going to come because these (traps) were set last night,” Macklem said.
He explained that the traps could not be set any earlier because they do not like to keep bears in the traps any longer than necessary, especially during extreme hot weather.

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