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November 21, 2015

Pennsylvania launches 'Mammal Atlas' project to track state wildlife

Initiative will created updated population distribution maps for 64 mammal species

The state of Pennsylvania is home to a diverse range of wildlife that fortunately has plenty of habitats to accommodate the needs of different species.

In order to better track wildlife population trends, the Pennsylvania Game Commission recently launched a 10-year project called the Mammal Atlas, an intiative that will survey the entire Commonwealth to catalog the distribution of 64 species and gain a greater understanding of the more elusive among them.

Biologists with the project will rely on a variety of survey techniques to capture data, including trail cameras, cage traps, Sherman traps, and snap traps. Researchers currently studying mammals will also provide data to the Mammal Atlas team, who will document observations at the Pennsylvania Mammal Atlas website.

The state is also calling on "citizen scientists" to get involved by submitting photographs and locations of animals observed around the state. Animals designated for the study include dogs and foxes, beavers, rats, deer, opossums, porcupines, weasels and otters, and bears, among others.

Pennsylvania residents have been warned, meanwhile to watch out for a possible "Deernado" this weekend after hunting season officially opened up Saturday. According to PennLive, more than 175,000 hunters will hit the woods and mountains this weekend, primarily in search of bears, but the activity is expected to push deer into flight and raise the risk of road hazards.

The other factor driving deer into roadways is the annual rut, when bucks head out fantically in search of a doe ready to be bred. Though past its median on November 14, the rut and its associated dangers will remain in effect for the next several weeks.

The Pennsylvania Mammal Atlas harkens back to earlier wildlife studies and conservation efforts around the United States. Recently released footage of Idaho's "Great Beaver Drop of 1948" offers a mesmerizing reference point for how attitudes and methods in these studies have been adapted over the years to ensure that wildlife receive more ethical treatment.