Be Elk SMART in the Pennsylvania Wilds
I can’t believe how quickly the summer has come and gone! It’s already mid-August with cooler mornings and evenings on the horizon. Even though summer is quickly fading, that just means that we are approaching my favorite time to be in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
I am a hunter so it’s obvious that the fall is a favorite time of the year for me with archery season opening on October 3rd. With that being said, there are so many other things that I appreciate about Northern Pennsylvania in the fall, one of them being the ability to experience the Pennsylvania elk rut which starts in September and goes into October. This is a very popular time of year for people from everywhere to visit and see the elk during the mating season. The bulls are very vocal and more active during the daylight hours, making it an incredible time to watch from afar. While you’re here, it’s your responsibility to do your part to preserve the wild nature of the elk herd.
(Photo credit: Dan Hruska)
The PA Wilds, PA Game Commission, Keystone Elk Country Alliance, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) bring you the Elk SMART campaign to help keep Pennsylvania’s elk wild.
How to Be Elk SMART:
- Give Elk Space. Keep a distance of at least 100 yards between you and the elk. Never approach them. Elk are wild animals that are unpredictable, and sometimes aggressive, especially during the fall breeding season. Cows are also known to defend their young when they feel threatened.
- Never Feed Elk. Not only is it illegal to feed elk in Pennsylvania, but it teaches them to associate people, cars or homes with food. This could cause them to approach people looking for more. Feeding also promotes the spread of infectious diseases by having them unnaturally congregate into small areas.
- Don’t Name Elk. Characterizing elk, or any wildlife, by naming them degrades their wild essence. The very reason people are drawn to the elk is their unaltered independence from humans. Personifying elk as humans takes away from their truly wild nature.
- Do Your Part. The welfare of the elk herd is a shared responsibility. If you see someone being disruptive or careless, whether intentional or not, ask them to stop or report it. We all have a duty to ensure the safety of people and the long-term welfare of the elk.
“Pennsylvania’s elk herd has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors in recent years, with a large number of people coming to the Benezette area during the popular fall rut season,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Elk Biologist Jeremy Banfield in a press release about the new initiative. “ELK SMART is a call to action that educates visitors about the shared responsibility we have to protect the welfare of our elk population and encourages them to act in a way that preserves their wild nature for generations to come.”
Recently, I interviewed Banfield on the East Meets West Hunt podcast, Episode 143. I talked with him about the Elk SMART campaign, but also discussed the history of Pennsylvania elk, the habitat they live in, current management plans, hunting opportunities and understanding the hunting application system.
Here are the management goals for the elk herd in PA:
- Manage elk for health and sustainability
- Apply our understanding of elk habitat relationships to influence elk populations and distribution, using habitat monitoring, manipulation, and conservation within the elk management area
- Manage elk to provide recreational opportunities
- Manage elk-human conflicts at acceptable levels
- Improve public knowledge and understanding of elk and the elk management program
Within these goals, there are detailed plans in place to manage the health and population, habitat, elk harvests through hunting, cultural value of elk, and elk-human conflicts. The Elk Management Plan is available to the public for anyone to view with updated objectives and actions.
From talking with Banfield, it’s very clear that we all have a crucial role in the future of the elk herd in Pennsylvania. Whether you are a tourist, a hiker, biker, runner, hunter or anything else, we ALL play an active role in the conservation of elk in the PA Wilds now and in the future. We are incredibly lucky to have the elk here living and thriving on our public and private lands, and I look forward to it continually getting better.
Traveling to Elk Country?
The Elk Viewing Area Information Radio Station is available on 1620 AM in Benezette, which includes an ELK SMART message, along with plenty of other helpful elk viewing pointers. This radio channel is provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Keystone Elk Country Alliance and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
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