"We expect that we will see fewer conflicts with humans if the elk are on public land," Cogan noted. Researchers do not know exactly why the elk herd increased from 38 to 135 animals from 1973 to 1981. By the late 1840s, they were gone in the southwestern Pennsylvania and from the Pocono Plateau. Located 1 mile from “downtown” Benezette, the Elk Country Visitor Center is an immersive introduction into all things PA elk! Cows, calves and some spike bulls are taken in a corral trap; antlered bulls, especially those hanging out on the fringes of communities, are anesthetized. Only bulls with four or more points to at least one antler were legal game. Even people who are familiar with their haunts find it difficult sometimes to even sight some of these animals. Elk beset by the stringy worm became incapacitated and very approachable. The state's elk population slowly increased in most areas they were released in, despite illegal harvests by poachers and farmers who refused to ignore the elk ravaging their fields. You’ll see it at a pull-off along Route 555. The creation of the Game Commission in 1895 paved the way for an ambitious effort to replenish and provide additional protection to many of the states dangerously low wildlife populations. Conditions have to be right (rainy) for this waterfall to be flowing well, but if you catch it at its peak, it’s a splendid little waterfall! Within a week, some had traveled as far as 40 miles away from the release sites. The last 4 elk viewing areas I’m going to talk about span multiple counties in PA Elk Country. The need for a hunt was gone; what was considered surplus or expendable had been removed from the herd. The county-level tracker makes it easy to follow COVID-19 cases on a granular level, as does the ability to break down infections per 100,000 people. Efforts to restore elk to Pennsylvania started in about 1913 with the release of western elk. Over the coming years, the elk population would decline to a low of less than 50. The Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. So they took matters into their owns hands. Elk affected people that way. This reversal of deteriorating range conditions had a very positive effect on the elk. Another change that occurred in 2003 was a discontinuation on the limit of nonresident licenses that may be awarded. In the mid 1860s, Pennsylvania's last few native elk were still roaming in Elk and Cameron counties. Typically the elk you’ll see here are further away than many other viewing areas, so a pair of binoculars is a good idea if you’re going to spend time at Dents Run Elk Viewing Area. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss were the biggest factors of their demise. Captive elk live longer than wild elk. Consequently, the "hard release" approach used at that time by the Game Commission fell considerably short of providing the desired results. Great article and very interesting information on Elk viewing areas. Inside the lodge-like Visitor Center, you’ll find LOTS of educational displays and information about all facets of elk life and elk herd management in Pennsylvania. © 2020 Rusty Glessner / PA Bucket List. came to a head at an October 1970 meeting in Emporium. Herbaceous openings and food plots were created and timber regeneration cuts made. Within a few years, though, they would be gone. More than 50,000 individuals submitted applications to be part of Pennsylvanias first elk hunt in more than 70 years; 30 were selected for licenses; 27 shot elk. "Each year, several calves are produced which is far below the reproductive potential of this size herd in a natural environment. It's also important to note that census refinements during this period without question increased the proficiency of counters to find elk and no doubt led to the discovery of previously uncounted elk. You’ll find the bunkers (there are 2 of them) just off the Quehanna Highway, and you can read a complete write-up on them HERE. Pennsylvanias elk hunt has continued every year since 2001, annually drawing about 20,000 applicants for the elk licenses made available. Pennsylvania is home to the largest free roaming elk herd in the northeast United States (currently estimated at a herd of approximately 1,400), and visiting Pennsylvania Elk Country to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures has become an annual tradition for many people. Special Requests to Use State Game Lands Information, Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). Your “Bucket List” articles and destinations are so helpful to so many. Citing farmers for killing elk causing crop damage was something Game Commission officials wanted to avoid. The annual hunts were expected to reduce the herd of 135 elk to between 65 and 75 animals over a period of several years. Records indicate that by 1930 elk were once again restricted to that area of Cameron and Elk counties where the state's last native elk had made their final stand. Dents Run Elk Viewing Area features a small picnic area, a pavillion, and some benches, all overlooking a large food plot. Today the elk herd in the north-central part of the state numbers about 900, and the Elk Country Visitor Center is a popular attraction. Since it can never be possible to have an open season on elk, it seems foolish to me to try to provide habitat that would tend to increase the population.". Hoover Farm Wildlife Viewing Area is located along the Quehanna Highway at its intersection with Wykoff Run Road in Cameron County, near the Clearfield county line. Even if the elk aren’t out, the scenery surrounding the Hicks Run Wildlife Viewing Area is outstanding! After the animals damaged crops, a hunt was authorized, and today there are no elk in the state, except on game farms. The view from near the parking area is of a large field on the opposite side of Sinnemahoning Creek. Navigate with the map or view the chart below. In 1981, an elk was fitted with a marking collar for the first time to track movement. The plan, which established the state's first elk management objectives, sought to improve habitat for elk on public lands and render technical assistance to landowners who were frequently troubled by elk. Overall, it appears the increase was the product of several activities and changes. You may be trying to access this site from a secured browser on the server. It appeared some sort of management initiative was going to be needed to satisfy growing public concern for elk. Elk bugling in Benezette. Approximately 0.8 miles east of Woodring Farm, you’ll find Dents Run Viewing Area along Winslow Hill Road. Succulent legumes -- alfalfa and clovers -- were also planted on food plots to attract and hold elk on public lands. By strategically locating these areas, many elk were persuaded to stay off farmlands, where they'd likely have been killed if they caused crop damage. It appeared to be in response to either an increase in herd size or change in habitat. Elk were exterminated in southeastern Pennsylvania and rare west of the Allegheny River and in the Blue Ridge and Cumberland mountains by the opening of the nineteenth century. The elk in all the other release areas were gone. "The more we do for the elk, the more they seem to respond to it," surmised former agency biologist William Drake, who had worked with the states elk for some time. And that means there are PLENTY of places to locate elk year-round. Elk once freely roamed all over Pennsylvania but the rapid settlement and exploitation by early immigrants threatened the herds. They seemed to like the silk.". Half of the Wyoming wapiti shipment went to Clinton County, the other half to Clearfield County. Thanks Linda – I sincerely appreciate the feedback! We usually go every other year. A year later, the population dipped to 38, marking a 50 percent drop in size over a two-year period. Something we’ve noticed at Winslow Hill has been the lack of seeing any elk on the last two visits. Tempers cooled in agricultural areas when the first bull elk season was held in 1923, two years later than it originally was scheduled for. "Some people feel they are sacred. The best way to accomplish that was under a new cooperative elk management plan developed by the Game Commission and Department of Environmental Resources' Bureau of Forestry and implemented in early 1982. Shortly after they were released, the elk began to wander in search of food and cover, to distance themselves from the trains that delivered them, to seek out areas where human activity was limited. The first elk census, conducted in 1971 under the Penn State study, showed there were about 65 animals. An interesting side note – on several occasions while hiking along the Woodring Farm Trail, I’ve encountered black squirrels. PA Bucket List | PA's Best AD-FREE Adventure Guide! "The chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations told me personally that he could not support this bill for the above reasons, and in addition said, If this is done a precedent will have been established that will cost the state untold money.". "It's time we generated a realistic feeling toward these elk," he said. Raymond H. Morningstar, the agencys northcentral division supervisor, wrote in a 1970 memo to Bowers, "Public opinion would be greatly against shooting the elk, except for a few farmers, but if this herd gets much larger perhaps a limited number of permits to kill bulls could be issued. You may spot the elk herd if you are traveling along SR 879 toward the Quehanna Wild Area and/or the … Elk County Courthouse • 250 Main Street • P.O. The traditional elk range was comprised of one-third publicly-owned land and two-thirds privately-owned land. Another spot you’ll be glad you checked out, even if you don’t cross paths with any elk. Yost Run Falls is a great hiking destination in its own right. Prior to the arrival of European immigrants, elk were found from northern New York to central Georgia. This theory probably is not too far-fetched, in view of the fact that the forebears of our present herd came from the Yellowstone area. This year, there were five archery bull elk tags allocated. An additional 22 elk were bought from a Monroe County preserve that year. The idea stemmed from a federal government effort to reduce the mushrooming elk herds at Yellowstone National Park and the Jackson Hole Refuge Area, preserves that were protecting the remnants of America's once-mighty elk population. If you’d like to see more than 50 of my favorite PA elk photos, be sure to check out my gallery HERE! In 1913 the Pennsylvania Game Commission began reintroducing elk in Pennsylvania. Kalbfus wrote in his 1912 annual report, "It now appears that the herds of elk found upon the public domain of the far West are annually subjected to severe suffering and death by starvation because of the limitation and taking for agricultural purposes of their winter feeding grounds, and that ... the national government is anxious to reduce the western herds by placing numbers of these animals elsewhere to their benefit, the cost to those receiving such animals being only the expense incurred in their capture and transportation...", "I believe it would be well to locate the elk that may be received upon those of our preserves located upon the largest tracts of our state forest lands as far as possible from cultivated lands, and as near the center of the state as may be, in this way giving the animals as great range as possible, and at the same time reduce to the minimum the danger of injury to growing crops by these animals and the possibility of their wandering out of our jurisdiction.". As the Pennsylvania herd continues to thrive and grow the game commission is developing a statewide analysis of … While the Elk Township area has a strong Swedish history, they were by no means the first people here. In 1930, the bull elk harvest dropped to five, sparking concern among sportsmen. An unmarked trail off the lower-back edge of the parking lot leads downhill, across an old railroad bed, to the banks of the creek itself. While in Clearfield County, the section of SGL100 near Keewaydin is another frequently-productive elk viewing area. The grounds are maintained beautifully and the staff has always been friendly and … Please enable scripts and reload this page. "Bulls used home ranges that were more than three times larger and over twice as far across as those used by cows. Thanks – I have not heard that about Winslow Hill, but then again I’ve been staying in Clearfield and Cameron counties for my elk viewing. That’s not to say there aren’t other great elk viewing areas in PA elk country, because there are MANY! 1 mile further up Winslow Hill Road, you’ll find the second-most popular elk viewing destination in Benezette – Winslow Hill. Game Commission elk research, mildly pursued in the late '70s, attracted more and more attention and funding as the '80s progressed. One of the most popular locations in the entire PA Wilds, the Elk Country Visitor Center is a 245-acre site near the village of Benezette and a premier elk … During most of the year, the best time to see elk is at dusk and dawn. Winslow Hill - The most visited elk-viewing site in Pennsylvania, with two established viewing areas, off-road parking, and portable restrooms. After the agency alliance was formed, however, a more significant amount of habitat improvement occurred on state lands within the range. The oldest known cow in Pennsylvania was 32, and the oldest bull was 15. The last two reports of elk being hunted include one supposedly taken not far from St. Marys by an Indian named Jim Jacobs. The welfare of the elk herd is a shared responsibility. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Biological Survey and Department of Forestry, unwilling to sanction a hunt for the overabundant animals, opted to translocate some and winter feed the rest. I can only hazard the guess that the habitat is sub-marginal and, as a result, somehow depresses reproductive capacity. They were something special to observe in the forest; a sight that widened eyes and quickened blood. Even when no elk are present, the views from Winslow Hill are outstanding. Historical accounts suggest the elk was pursued for several days before it made its last stand in Flag Swamp, near the Clarion River. "Still hunting," or stalking, was the only legal way bull elk could be hunted. The trap-and-transfer project was funded by and in cooperation with the PGC, DCNR, Pennsylvania State University, Frostburg State University, Purdue University and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. By Joe Kosack, Wildlife Education Specialist- Eastern elk once ranged statewide, but colonization and exploitation by European settlers eventually led to the species demise. And speaking of views you’ll be glad you checked out, the parking lot of Saint James Church in Driftwood offers another stellar view of the Sinnemahoning Creek valley, from below rather than above as at Bucktail Overlook. Over this 25-year period, the leading causes of death in the herd were elk taken illegally and those shot for crop damage. "When the farmers complained," former Game Commissioner John M. Phillips reflected, "we went into Centre County and found where a band of elk had been raiding a cornfield at night and had destroyed every ear in the field by biting about two inches off the end. The following year one bull was taken in what would become Pennsylvania's last elk hunting season. Farmers cursed as they surveyed their latest losses. The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmens Clubs joined the discussion. There are 470,034 positive COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. The large food plots which dominate the mountaintop here are often surrounded in the mornings by dense valley fog that forms over the various branches of Sinnemahoning Creek. Hikers can explore the Quehanna Wild Area and a swinging bridge on the Clarion/Little Toby Trail. Over the next three years, 25 more were taken. Fantastic collection of Elk viewing destinations Rusty. It increased by an annual average of 20 percent until it hit 135 in 1981. It functioned more as a sounding board than a regulatory body, but the committee's periodic meetings kept everyone abreast of what was going on. Keystone State. Elk County is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 31,946. In short, we're pretty much in the dark concerning these animals. Located 0.45 miles east of Winslow Hill, Woodring Farm offers the chance to see elk at two roadside food plots, as well as a nature trail and a scenic overlook. About 50 elk are harvested annually. Though native to the Keystone state, elk disappeared more than 140 years ago. Many of the viewing areas I have included on my list of 15 are next to “food plots” planted especially for elk and other wildlife. Another favorite hike of mine in this area is the hike to the abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers, the remnants of a secretive Cold War-era base that once operated here. By 1867 there were no more elk in Pennsylvania. You have entered an incorrect email address! "It is my personal belief that the elk herd is as large or perhaps larger than it need be and, so far, they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. During the next several weeks, thousands of visitors armed with binoculars, spotting scopes or cameras will travel to the north-central Pennsylvania to view the wild elk living there. In 1976, the Game Commission expanded its meager elk management efforts. An interesting roadside attraction between Miller Run Viewing Area and Driftwood is this Tom Mix plaque, dedicated to the locally-born film star of the early 1900s, Tom Mix. So what I’ve done here is provide you with maps and directions to 15 spots in those 6 counties where I have personally encountered and photographed elk over the past half-dozen years or so. The best time to see these moose/deer mashups is at dusk and dawn. You’re liable to see elk at any point along Fields Ridge Road, so stay alert! It was a proactive management approach to limiting elk conflicts and the potential for habitat deterioration. Census figures show the herd started to decline in 1973. In addition, strip-mined areas were reclaimed in the herd's primary stomping grounds. Tom Ridge enacted Act 111, which created an elk hunting license, and fees and procedures for applying for the special permit. Pennsylvanias largest elk concentrations are believed to have been in the Allegheny Mountains. However, did you know that prime elk viewing season in Pennsylvania also occurs in the fall? Others suggested fences. The high-water mark for elk harvest was 1927. In 1912, the Game Commissioners and agency Executive Secretary Joseph Kalbfus began talking about re-introducing elk in Pennsylvania. It also became more actively involved in an elk study being headed by Dr. John L. George, the professor of wildlife management at Pennsylvania State University. During the season, hunters could not conduct organized drives for elk, which was the most common way hunters pursued big game such as deer and bear. Want to grab a great meal and an adult beverage in an elk-themed hotel/restaurant? Elk faded out of the spotlight in the 40s. They were chased with dogs, jack-lighted, tracked whenever snow provided a trail, and shot on sight. Wherever you decide to venture in PA elk country, be sure to heed the rules and suggestions I discussed at the beginning of the write-up, so that you’ll have a safe and enjoyable PA elk viewing experience! Later that year, an elk committee, comprising Game Commission and Bureau of Forestry officials and local farmers and sportsmen, was formed to address elk-related problems and serve as a conduit between managers and residents. "We think it's time the Top Brass of the Game Commission takes an interest in solving this problem," wrote John Wegemer, Secretary, Elk County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs in a 1970 letter to Game Commission Executive Director Glenn Bowers. In the western part of the Sproul State Forest, the area around Round Island Run Falls is fertile ground for encountering elk while hiking to a picturesque 3-tiered waterfall. Each passing year, efforts were intensified and expanded. They were chased with dogs, jack-lighted, tracked whenever snow provided a trail, and shot on sight. The tall red pines along the Woodring Farm Nature Trail are a great place to be at sunrise! Had some of our original eastern elk survived as breeding stock, the current status might be entirely different. Elk were prospering everywhere. In Pennsylvania wild cow elk live and average of 10 years, while bulls live an average of 8 years. Many agency officials considered the hunt an alternative to the use of spotlights and rifles to resolve elk crop damage, a tool that could be used for selective harvest and customized management. Pennsylvania is home to the largest free roaming elk herd in the northeast United States (currently estimated at a herd of approximately 1,400), and visiting Pennsylvania Elk Country to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures has become an annual tradition for many people. This is one of my favorite roadside elk viewing areas in Cameron County. Proudly founded in 1681 as a place of tolerance and freedom. First, it developed an elk policy directing the agency, in cooperation with the then Department of Environmental Resources' Bureau of Forestry to improve the elk range on state lands in Elk and Cameron counties. World War II was a tough act to top. COVID-19 in Pennsylvania COVID is tough, but Pennsylvanians are tougher. "Our effort to secure an appropriation through which to pay for [crop] damages done by ... protected wild creatures resulted in failure, many of the members of the Legislature refusing to support this position because, as they said, of the disposition of many farmers and fruit growers to present exaggerated claims, and the almost utter impossibility upon the part of the Game Commission to refute the claim as made," wrote Kalbfus in 1917. During the next several weeks, thousands of visitors armed with binoculars, spotting scopes or cameras will travel to the north-central Pennsylvania to view the wild elk living there. It was a move seemingly destined to take the gun -- and unregulated harvest -- out of the farmer's hands and place it firmly in the grip of wildlife managers. The adjacent Russel P. Letterman and Burns Run Wild Areas in Clinton County offer a truly “wild” elk viewing experience similar to the Square Timber Wild Area in Cameron County. With the mid-September peak of bull bugling season upon us, travelers from across the state are venturing into the Pennsylvania Elk Range in Northcentral Pennsylvania. Although there are roadside (along Route 144) vistas in both wild areas, you’re more likely to see elk by blazing your own way through the forest. All wild elk on the landscape today are descendants of two restoration efforts since then, arriving from Yellowstone Park and a preserve in Montour County. To be honest, its amazing the Yellowstone elk survived to serve as the nucleus of Pennsylvanias resurrected elk herd. A large viewing blind looks out over a massive food plot that is almost always a good bet to see elk near dusk or dawn. By the 1870s, there were no elk left in Pennsylvania. Elk County certainly lives up to its name. In 1927, hunters harvested 26 bulls marking the state's best harvest since the reintroduction. In 2006, the Game Commission scheduled and held the states first-ever September elk hunt, a special seasons designed to assist farmers who sustain substantial elk crop damage in the early fall, before crops are harvested. Keep an eye out for elk anywhere along this stretch of mountain forest road. The webcam is stationed in Elk … Its county seat is Ridgway. They were a unique resource. They believed the farmers were entitled to compensation for their losses and petitioned legislators to address the issue. I’ll start out with 6 locations in Benezette and Elk County, the unofficial “Elk Capitol of Pennsylvania“, and then move outward to the neighboring counties. The Pennsylvania elk cam has started a new season of live-streaming from the state's elk range. Throughout the '80s, the elk herd's size changed little; it comprised 120 to 150 animals. The problem continued, which meant something other than a controversial lottery hunt would have to be tried. For a more detailed map and directions to Table Falls, click HERE. In addition, biologists developed and implemented in 1992 a new census technique -- a total aerial survey -- that provided more reliable population estimates. The views from the blind are excellent, and not only do you have the chance to see elk in the area, but it’s a great spot for bird watching as well. Elk, or wapitis as they were called by native Americans, were doggedly pursued wherever they could be found in colonial Penns Woods. Persons who failed to comply were subject to a $100 fine. The next 5 elk viewing locations I’m going to talk about are all located in Cameron County. Hauled across America by trains to locations principally selected through political deliberations, the elk were chased off the boxcars into the wild without any acclimation period. Outside the Visitor Center, 3 separate food plots and viewing areas offer visitors an excellent chance to observe real live elk doing real elk things! The effects of disease and parasites are totally unknown. The Pennsylvania Wilds is home to the largest elk herd in the northeast US. The proposed lottery hunt, expected to be an annual event for two to three years, was a response to the increasing crop damage being caused by the growing elk herd, which had doubled in size from 1971 to 1981. The first 6 elk viewing destinations I’m going to talk about are all located in Elk County, which is where most first-time visitors PA Elk Country start out. Getting the chance to take a Pennsylvania elk, which hadn't been hunted in more than half a century, was big news to hunters. The photo above was posted recently to the Facebook page of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Elk are one of the largest species within the deer family and range in forest and forest-edge habitat. Twelve were released on state lands in Monroe County and the remainder on a Centre County preserve. Hunters relished the idea of hunting them. 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