From bear dens to beaver dams, Brian Singer‚??s work environment is anything but boring.
The 28-year-old Abington Heights High School graduate now works for the Pennsylvania Game Commission as a Wildlife Conservation Officer in Westmoreland County.
He said his favorite part of the job is working with bears, but he also enjoys the fact that he never does the same thing on a daily basis.
‚??It‚??s gone from teaching kids in a hunter education class,‚?Ě he said via e-mail, ‚??to chasing an armed wildlife poacher in 20 minutes. You have to expect the unexpected.‚?Ě
After graduating high school in 2003, Singer attended Kutztown University, where he earned a degree in biology. Then in 2009 he was hired by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to attend the Ross Leffler School of Conservation in Harrisburg for training as a Wildlife Conservation Officer. Upon graduation, he was assigned to five townships covering 350 square miles in Westmoreland County.
Wildlife conservation officers are responsible for law enforcement matters, wildlife related issues and various education functions. Singer said he works with just about every animal species in the state at one point or another throughout the year.
The Pennsylvania Game commission manages wildlife populations through hunting and trapping.
‚??In order to determine how long we have the hunting seasons and ultimately how many animals are taken,‚?Ě Singer said, ‚??we need to have a good idea of how many animals of a species we have statewide.‚?Ě
For example, he said, to determine the number of bears in the state, the wildlife conservation officers capture, tag and release about 700 bears statewide every year. This ‚??mark and recapture‚?Ě study method is implemented with many species in different states. Singer said it‚??s carried out on the bears by first sedating the mother bear, or the sow, then going into the den and removing the cubs. The officer then weighs the cubs, tags them and places them back with the sow.
‚??When she wakes up,‚?Ě he said, ‚??she has no recollection of the events and the cubs smell like her again so she has no idea we were there.‚?Ě
He said this same method is also sometimes used to introduce orphaned cubs to a sow who will often accept them into her litter.
When hunting season comes along, bear hunters are required to bring their game to a check station where the Game Commission keeps track of how many bears are brought in with and without tags. That data is compared to the number of tagged bears still out there, and the ratio is used to estimate the statewide population.
Singer said he has always loved being involved in hunting, fishing and wildlife, and studying biology gave him the opportunity to get a degree and work outdoors. He said the biology and anatomy classes he took at Abington Heights gave him the foundation he needed to succeed in the college level biology courses. He said the advice he would give to students considering pursing a similar career is to obtain a degree in wildlife, biology, or even criminal justice. He also said it‚??s important to stay out of trouble, as you need to have a clean criminal record.
‚??If you challenge yourself to take those difficult biology lectures and lab courses, and the study time that goes along with them,‚?Ě he said, ‚??then finding a job working with wildlife will come much easier.‚?Ě
He said the most difficult part of his job is that he is often pulled in what seems like 100 different directions at once, and can get called in at any time of day or night. But, that‚??s also part of what he enjoys about it, as he‚??s never doing the same thing two days in a row. He‚??s also found himself in some humorous situations, and has some funny stories to tell.
‚??I have had to chase an angry mute swan down the middle of a two lane highway with 100 people watching me get beat up by this enormous bird,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I have fallen in beaver dams while trying to stop them from flooding a roadway.‚?Ě
‚??When you start working,‚?Ě he said, ‚??you have no idea where or what you might be doing in the next five minutes when you get a radio call.‚?Ě