Elk once freely roamed all over Pennsylvania but the rapid settlement and exploitation by early immigrants threatened the herds. By 1867 there were no more elk in Pennsylvania. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss were the biggest factors of their demise.
In 1913 the Pennsylvania Game Commission began reintroducing elk in Pennsylvania. The elk herd we know today originated from 177 elk that were trapped and transferred to northern areas of Pennsylvania.
The reintroduction of elk took place from 1913 through 1926. The releases in north-central Pennsylvania were successful and the herd now numbers more than 800.
Visitors can easily see the majestic elk in areas of Elk, Cameron, and Clearfield counties. Considered to be the heart of Pennsylvania elk country, the town of Benezette is located along State Route 555 in Elk County. To reach the public viewing area, start at the Benezette Hotel and travel north along Winslow Hill road 3.5 miles. Follow the signs to the viewing area. Elk can also be seen along the roadways in the free-roaming herd range located in Elk and Cameron counties. The Moore Hill area in Cameron County is a favored viewing spot of local elk enthusiasts.
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Cow elk normally give birth to a single calf in late May or early June. The calves are speckled with spots to complete their natural camouflage. Twins are a rare occurrence and happen less than one percent of the time. Normal gestation period is approximately 8 1/2 months. After a short amount of time, the cows and their new calves rejoin their family units comprised of cows, their calves and immature yearlings. Most yearling bulls will only grow spike antlers.
The mature bull's antlers are fully grown by August and they now spend much of their time thrashing trees and shrubs with their antlers. Normal antler growth is up to 6 tines per side. A "royal" bull is one with a total of 12 points. An "imperial" bull has 14 points. September and October mark the mating season for the elk. While the beginning of the rut may vary somewhat from year to year, the unmistakable invitation of bugle of a bull elk can be heard echoing throughout the range. Bugling can be heard primarily during the rut or mating season. It starts as a low bellow and continues as a squealing or whistle. This is followed by several grunts.
The elk form harems of 15 to 20 cows, which are controlled by a mature bull. The bull has earned his status to lead his harem by fighting off lesser bulls for the opportunity to breed with these cows. Lesser bulls often mate also, the large bull will contain the group and be the prime breeder. These harems remain together for the duration of the breeding season. Cow elk are receptive to breeding for only about an 18-hour period. If they are not bred successfully, they will have two or three breeding cycles at 21-day intervals.
The elk remain in large groups throughout the winter months. They must dig through the snow to find grass, twigs and buds. They will eat the bark off trees and drink from the streams to sustain for the winter. The bulls loose their antlers in the late winter or early spring.
Pennsylvania's elk range covers approximately 835 square miles in parts of Elk, Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton and Potter counties.
Opened in September 2010, the Elk Country Visitor Center sits on 245 acres on Winslow Hill in Benezette. The area is home to the largest elk herd in the northeastern United States. The 8,400 square foot eco-friendly building has a stone fireplace to greet visitors and a panorama of windows looking out on the elk viewing areas. It also features a 4-D theater presenting a multimedia experience that will immerse you in the sights, sounds and smells of a mixed hardwood forest and the natural world of the elk. There is also a gift shop, observation areas and viewing blinds. Experience the elk on a horse-drawn wagon ride!
Seeing an elk for the first time is an extraordinary experience and something you will never forget!
Beaver Run Wildlife Viewing Area(814) 765-0821 | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quehanna_Wild_Area
Quehanna Hwy., Penfield, PA 15849
Beaver Run offers excellent viewing at a shallow water impoundment with a field that provides high-quality forage for elk in the Moshannon State Forest. This site offers wildlife viewing during the... more info
Big Elk Lick Horse Camp(814) 787-4656 | http://www.visitpa.com/big-elk-lick-campground
91 Elk Lick Lane, Benezette, PA 15821
Primitive camping for horse trail riders wishing to experience the wilderness in the heart of the Elk Herd with access to Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail. more info
Bucktail State Park Natural Area(814) 486-3365 | http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/bucktail/
PA Route 120 from Lock Haven to Emporium, Emporium, PA 15834
This 16,433-acre natural area is actually a 75-mile scenic drive. The park provides a beautiful scenic drive along PA 120 from Emporium, through Renovo to Lock Haven. All along the road are... more info
Classic Keystone Guides & Outfitters(814) 787-7970
71 Settlers Crossing Road, Benezette, PA 15821
Experience Benezette's elk country on horseback! Get up close and personal with wildlife and see nature at its finest. Hourly rates and personalized rides available. more info
Dent's Run Elk Viewing Area(877) 877-7674 | visitpa.com/dents-run-elk-viewing-area
Winslow Hill Road, Benezette, PA 15821
The Dent's Run Elk Viewing Area is the most popular site for elk viewing in the state. Many people come in September and October to hear the bulls bugle and watch them compete for dominance. Each... more info
Elk Country Visitor Center(814) 787-5167 | ElkCountryVisitorCenter.com
134 Homestead Drive, Benezette, PA 15821
Premiere elk viewing and conservation education facility with 4D theater, interactive exhibits, live forest cams, horse-drawn wagon rides, gift shop and much more.
The Elk Country Visitor Center... more info
Elk County Elk Farm Bed & Breakfast(814) 772-6810 | elkcountyelkfarm.com
27821 Lake City Rd., Ridgway, PA 15853
Elk County’s only working domestic elk farm. Spring newborn calves & bulls in velvet, hear bugling in fall. Stay in our 1800s remodeled barn. Private baths. more info
Elk Scenic Drivevisitpago.com/fileadmin/Great_Outdoors/Pdfs/ElkScenicDriveMap2004.pdf
just off I-80, Benezette, PA 15821
127-mile route through the region, with distinctive signage. Twenty-three viewing sites along the Elk Scenic Drive are being established to promote safe and easy visitation and distribute travelers... more info
Elk State Forest(814) 486-3353 | http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/elk/
258 Sizerville Rd., Emporium, PA 15834
Located principally in Elk and Cameron counties, Elk State Forest, comprised of 200,000 acres, is open to primitive camping, licensed hunting and fishing, and offers opportunities for hiking,... more info
Gilbert Farm Elk Viewing Area(877) 877-7674 | http://www.visitpa.com/gilbert-farm-elk-viewing-area
Winslow Hill Road, Benezette, PA 15821
The town of Benezette is renowned statewide for its healthy, ecologically sustainable elk population. This viewing area is one of the most reliable elk viewing sites. From here, a panoramic western... more info