Earlier this week I was in DuBois, Pennsylvania for the 2011 Eastern Elk Management Workshop. Every year elk scientists and managers of elk in eastern states meet to discuss current elk herd statuses and research. I attended last year when it was held in Knoxville, TN as a first-year grad student. This year I got to return and present my research project. It was such a fantastic trip and I feel so lucky to be in elk research. Talking to elk biologists from around the eastern US gave me an incredible opportunity to get a feeling for how my research fits into the big scheme of things. Along with technical presentations, socializing and discussing elk management, we also got the chance to see some Pennsylvania elk up close. Elk can be easily seen at dawn and dusk hours from the many observation outlooks on Winslow Hill in Benezette, PA.
Elk were completely extirpated from the Eastern US in the late 1800’s. Many states reintroduced elk herds including Arkansas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Today there are approximately 800 elk roaming Penn’s Woods. You can read more about the history of PA elk on the Game Commissionwebsite. Today’s reintroductions and management would not be possible without the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (so if you love to see elk in the wild, consider becoming a member!)
In Pennsylvania, reclaimed coal strip mines make up a lot of the state game land elk habitat. PA Game Commission along with other partners put a HUGE amount of work into transforming carved out mountaintops into habitat that is lush and alive.
It’s quite beautiful but they are still dealing with (and will be for decades) water seeping from the old mines. This water is very high in Iron and the pH is around 2-3 which is too acidic for for anything to live in the streams. Through lime enhancement and settling ponds, the Game Commission has brought life back to some streams and downstream there are successful bass and trout fisheries!
The Game Commission has also helped to create a wetland complex, which was currently being utilized by some mallards and Canada Geese.
Recently opened is the new Pennsylvania Elk Country Visitor’s Center.
It is absolutely the most beautiful elk center in the east. Looks like it belongs in Yellowstone!
With a trail system, panoramic views of elk country, a fireplace, “4D” theater, interactive displays, and a room full of antlers, hides, and other hands-on elk stuff this Visitor’s Center continually took my breath away!
Towards the end of the afternoon we started to see some elk through the haze.
Signs warn observers to keep their distance.
This cow was rather interested in our giant bus!
This tagged and collared beauty was standing just inside the tree line.
On our last stop of the day we got to see a big herd grazing. I had a great time in PA! Everyone was super nice and enthusiastic. And seeing elk is always a great pleasure!