HARRISBURG – This week the Pennsylvania Game Commission reached out to an experienced source to fill the position of deputy executive director by promoting former Bureau of Wildlife Protection director Rich Palmer to the position.

This week's quarterly meeting of the PGC board of game commissioners was the first in which Palmer served in his new position of deputy executive director, which has been vacant since January when Matt Hough was promoted to executive directory.

Palmer has worked for the PGC since 1991, joining the agency as an undercover officer in its special investigations unit and then served as a wildlife conservation officer in Huntingdon and Perry counties.

He subsequently held positions as law-enforcement training supervisor, chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Protection's research and development division and training director, prior to becoming director of the Bureau of Wildlife Protection in 2007.

"Rich's knowledge of the Game Commission's field operations is second to none," Hough said. "His years of hands-on experience and his strong work ethic make him a perfect fit for this position, and I very much look forward to working alongside him in the executive office."

Among other duties, the deputy executive director for field operations coordinates the resources of the PGC's six regions and monitors regional budget requests to ensure the maximum use of approved expenditures.

He also supervises the Ross Leffler School of Conservation, which provides essential training to the wildlife conservation officers and deputies who protect Pennsylvania's wildlife.

Palmer's educational background includes an associate degree in criminal justice and certificate in training and development, as well as numerous instructor certifications in various law enforcement and wildlife subjects.

Prior to joining the Game Commission, he served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a military police officer and canine handler from 1984 to 1991 in stateside and overseas assignments.

A member of National Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs association, Palmer has served as the vice-president of the Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, the Isaac Walton League of America Red Rose Chapter, The Ruffed Grouse Society, Woodcock Limited of PA, The Mid Atlantic hunting spaniel club, and is a former committee chairman of Ducks Unlimited. He said he looks forward to his new position.

"I am humbled and honored to be entrusted with the opportunity to serve the Commonwealth's citizens and wildlife in this capacity," Palmer said.

"This agency has a 119-year history of amazing wildlife success stories, and our employees continue that tradition today through their dedicated work and I am proud to be part of that team."

In other action taken by the board, the first step was taken to make the requirement for a hunting-camp roster is about to become a thing of the past.

Preliminary approval was given to remove the requirement for groups of five or more hunters who are members of a permanent camp to fill out paper rosters in duplicate and post one copy at the camp for at least 30 days following the close of any deer, bear or elk season.

This change is expected to receive final adoption in September. Hunting parties for deer, bear and elk would remain unchanged at a maximum of 25 hunters.

In a move to simply dove hunting, Eurasian collared doves are now classified as a game bird, allowing hunters to include these non-native species toward mourning dove bag limits. Eurasian collared doves are turning up in the state in larger and larger numbers, and, especially while in flight, the bird has few characteristics that distinguish it from the mourning dove.

While the Eurasian collared dove is an introduced invasive species, it must be classified as a game bird in order to establish a hunting season for its take. PGC staff recommended the collared dove be classified as a game bird to better protect the mourning dove.

If the collared dove was classified as an exotic species and subjected to taking year-round, it could lead to mistake kills of mourning doves, staff said.

As a game bird, the Eurasian collared dove can be hunted with a general hunting license and migratory bird license, and collared doves taken can be counted as part of the bag limit for mourning doves.