Pa Elk Herd
Even though elk are native to Pennsylvania the ones we currently enjoy are not. Due to over hunting the native elk herd was devastated and by 1877 it is widely accepted that no more than a handful of elk survived in the state with many experts believing the number was actually closer to 0. The elk that roam around now are actually descendants of Rocky Mountain elk that the PA Game Commission brought in between 1913 - 1926. Some even coming from Yellowstone National Park.
PA Elk At A Glance
- Can weigh up to 1,000 lbs
- Stand 50 - 60 inches high at the shoulder.
- Shed antlers in Mar/Apr/May each year.
- Antlers can grow at a rate of around 1 inch per day.
- Weigh 500 - 600 lbs.
- Breeding season Sept - November.
- 240 - 260 day gestation period.
- Birth typically 1 calf per season starting at around age 2.
- Weigh around 33 lbs at birth.
- Born with a spotted coat similar to that of a whitetail.
- Join the herd at around 2 weeks and are weaned at roughly 2 months.
- Stay with mother roughly 1 year.
Locating The Elk Herd
Catching up to the herd is as simple as knowing where their range is and then figuring out where their food sources are at that time of the year. Elk, like Whitetail, live by their stomachs and thus travel according to where the can most readily have fresh browse in relation to safe bedding areas. Prime areas to look for elk around Elk Country are in fields, clear cuts, reclamation areas and even yards.
The elk herd's range is currently believed to extend into parts of Elk, Cameron, McKean, Potter, Clinton, Centre & Clearfield counties with the central point of the herd being located in Elk and more specifically Benezette. For the purposes of elk viewing it is wise to plan your trip around visiting the greater Benezette area as that will give you the greatest likelihood of success and then branch out from there towards the less densely populated areas.
Pa Elk Locations
Be Safe, Be Smart & Be Ethical
As a 13 year veteran elk chaser and part time resident of Benezette Pa, I've enjoyed both the satisfactions and frustrations involved with trying to find and photograph Pa's elk herd. I also freely admit that there is also a certain excitement involved with getting close enough to these majestic animals to get quality photos. With that excitement however comes a genuine risk to our personal safety should we get too close. Elk in Pa, although by reputation quite docile, are still wild and completely unpredictable. Who knows, except them, how close is too close or what will trigger a negative response. Their massive size and surprising burst of speed make them an immediate risk to our safety should they decide to become aggressive.
We recommend that you never get closer than 30 yards from any elk, whether bull, cow, or calf and never try to get close enough to pet them. We can't stress enough that there is simply no way for anyone to know what will trigger an attack and discretion is always the best answer. It is also wise to try to keep some type of barrier, whether it be a tree, rock or vehicle, between you and the elk you are near. Should you be charged this barrier could be the only thing standing between you and a 700+ pound attacker.
On top of maintaining a safe distance from elk it is also imperative that everyone respect both property rights and traffic laws. Just because an elk is standing on private property does not eliminate a landowner's right to peacefully enjoy their property or grant license to anyone to enter their property without their prior consent. Also, disregarding traffic laws for the sake of getting a photo can easily lead to a citation or much worse, an accident.
Stopping in non designated parking areas is a constant issue in Elk Country and has created numerous close calls and accidents. I can speak from personal experience that on many occasions I have rounded blind turns on 55mph highways only to find an entire family of onlookers standing in the middle of the road. Why risk your life or injury to others just to get a few feet closer to an elk?
Our biggest request to anyone visiting elk country is to be safe, be smart, and be ethical while interacting with the elk. Please follow all applicable state and game laws and when in doubt if you are not sure about if what you are doing is a good idea, then please just don't do it. A photo of an elk is not worth injury to you, the elk, or to the property of others.