Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pennsylvania Elk

If you have ever heard a big elk bull bugle, you understand the awe that they inspire.  Elk are native to Pennsylvania, but market hunting in late 1800's wiped them out.  Reintroduced to Elk County in 1913, they have slowly rebounded to a healthy status.  I recently went to Benezette near St. Mary's and was successful in seeing them up close.  Here are a few of my favorite images.

For every dominate bull, there are slightly smaller bulls that engage in pushing matches.


On a foggy morning, I located a big bull. He was reported to intimidate any smaller bull that came near.  I called him Big Nasty.  He moved through the woods with not a sound, never catching the rack on any obstructions.  (He clearly knew I was there, looking directly at me.)

Big Nasty- a Dominate Bull Elk

The elk would approach very closely at times. This cow wandered in behind me and joined the bull's harem. She is a stately looking animal.  (She had no calf with  her.)

Maybe a yearling?
Such a bull has a harem of cows plus their calves.  Big Nasty kept watch over them with an eye for any intruding bull. 

Alert while the ladies feed.

Within his harem was the first piebald elk ever recorded in Pennsylvania.  Piebald is a genetic variation in which the face is white.  She looked a bit scruffy to me.

Piebald Cow and Calf

The cows would sometimes wander into the trees, and the bull would follow possibly concerned about another bull sneaking in.  He'd return with the cow and often begin bugling so strongly one could see his breath.

Big Nasty in full voice.

On another day, I saw a group of cows and calves cross a creek on their way to some woods to rest in the midday.

After they had disappeared into the woods on the far bank, the bull appeared and lowered his nose to track their path across the creek within feet of the cows' track.

We just don't easily comprehend their acute sense of smell that is so critical to their survival.

I don't think I will ever tire of hearing an elk bugle.  It is worth the trip just to hear it, and getting close just builds my appreciation for this majestic wild animal.