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Wildlife Watching at Hickory Run State Park

Fifteen thousand years ago, Hickory Run State Park was a tundra landscape of permafrost soil -- populated by wooly mastodon, bison, and other cold-tolerant animals and plants.

The Laurentide Continental Glacier began moving south out of the arctic, covering all before it in a mile of ice, and changing the climate to near arctic conditions.

After centuries of glacier advance and retreat in the area, the glacier finally melted back, retreating north. Warm-tolerant species of plants and animals slowly migrated north, returning to their former ranges.

Now, Hickory Run State Park has a variety of habitats including hardwood and evergreen forests, fields, and riparian areas which host a variety of wildlife.

The park is home to more than 50 species of mammals; and boasts sightings of more than 150 species of birds.

Hickory Run is designated as an Important Mammal Area, as well as an Important Bird Area.

The habitats of the glaciated side of the park are characterized by sphagnum moss bogs, evergreen trees, and thin, moist soil. Blackburnian warblers, red-breasted nuthatches, and northern waterthrush are common to this habitat.

In the spring, spotted and Jefferson salamanders, and wood frogs migrate to the bogs to breed.

The habitats of the unglaciated side of the park are characterized by beech and chestnut oak trees on predominantly flat land. American redstarts, red-eyed vireos, and scarlet tanagers are common to this habitat.

At the campground, which straddles the two areas, you may be able to hear and see six species of thrush:

  • American robin
  • Wood thrush
  • Hermit thrush
  • Swainson’s thrush
  • Veery
  • Eastern bluebird

Throughout the park, the observant visitor may see deer, black bears, wild turkeys, mink, garter snakes, black snakes, timber rattlesnakes, belted kingfishers, broad-winged hawks; and numerous species of wood warblers, including black-throated blue, Canada, Magnolia, and Blackburnian.

Beautiful serviceberry trees often flower by early May. In mid-June, the plentiful mountain laurel blooms, followed in late June to early July by the rhododendron.

In mid-July, the highbush blueberries bear fruit, providing a feast for black bears, birds, and other animals.

The Bear Truths

Many Pennsylvania state parks are habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly like a teddy bear, black bears are wild animals.

A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food; and those claws also work well to open garbage cans and coolers.

The size and strength of a black bear is astonishing.

Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your personal items can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance.

Bears are attracted to the smell of toothpaste, deodorants, air fresheners, food, and even the clothes worn while cooking.

Store all such items inside a vehicle. At primitive, walk-in campsites, suspend food between two trees -- 10-feet in the air and 3-feet from either tree.

Black bears normally avoid people, but bears dependent on eating human food can become aggressive when people get between them and food.

If you come in contact with a black bear, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn, or banging a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.

Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears and cubs.