Penn State Extension’s 'wild side' featured on Wildlife Outreach Center website

Does the snakeskin I found in my basement mean there’s still a snake hiding down there?

How can I attract more birds to my bird feeder?

What should I do about the injured baby rabbit I found?

How is shale gas drilling affecting wildlife in Pennsylvania forests?

What is that creature digging holes in the backyard — a mole, a vole or a shrew?

Pennsylvanians can find research-based answers to these questions and many others on their computer, tablet, or smartphone, thanks to the Penn State Extension Wildlife Outreach Center website. The website is a comprehensive resource that provides valuable information about a range of wildlife issues.

While extension has a rich history of personal, face-to-face interactions with the citizens of Pennsylvania, it is also ensuring that the most up-to-date, reliable information is delivered efficiently online. “The website is a great way to get information out there,” said Margaret Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “All of our extension material is in one place, and it covers a broad range of issues.”

Information ranges from practical, how-to answers to issues and problems — such as how to keep birds from hitting windows — to educational presentations and publications about the impact of shale gas drilling on landscapes and communities.

One popular new feature on the site, “An Illustrated Guide to Shale Gas Drilling Equipment and Practices in Pennsylvania,” is a slide show that gives an overview of the equipment commonly seen and the practices used in the Commonwealth’s shale gas drilling regions.

“This presentation is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about shale gas drilling,” Brittingham said. “People are driving around and they see well pads, compressor stations, and seismic testing equipment, and they want to know what’s going on. This presentation is a detailed description of the entire process, including how well pads are reclaimed, or returned to a more natural state, once well development is complete.”         

Another often-used resource on the site, “The Marcellus Shale Illustrated Field Guide,” provides options for land management assistance at all stages of infrastructure development. The comprehensive field guide covers everything from pre-development issues to restoring and reclaiming land after gas development ends.

“It’s a valuable source of information for property owners who have gas exploration and drilling on their land,” Brittingham said, “because it includes all kinds of issues they may not even have considered.”

One advantage of an online resource is that the information available is not static but continually updated. Some updates are based on current events, Brittingham explained, such as last year’s outbreak of chronic wasting disease among Pennsylvania's deer population. The most up-to-date information about this fatal disease was available on the website, including suggested precautions for hunters.

Other updates are based on feedback that Brittingham receives. “For example, we have a page on the site about gardening for butterflies. I recently received an email from a Master Gardener who said we should remove a particular plant from the list of recommended plants because it could cause problems. It’s always helpful to get feedback so we can continue to offer the latest and best information we have.”

The website offers a variety of fact sheets, ideal for getting information at a glance. Fact sheets cover a range of topics, including winter bird feeding, landscaping for wildlife, attracting hummingbirds, converting lawns to meadows and prairies, and gardening for butterflies. Other features of the site include frequently asked questions, webinars on various wildlife issues and youth programs.

From birds to bats, forests to farmlands, Penn State Extension’s wildlife outreach website has a wealth of information that can help Pennsylvanians make decisions about wildlife-related problems as well as learn more about wildlife issues that affect their communities.

Visit the wildlife outreach website at http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/wildlife

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Last Updated October 22, 2015