On a day in late September I went to Pennsylvania’s elk range in the aptly named Elk County to view and photograph some of the state’s elk herd. There are a number of folks who do the same, several with truly spectacular results. I’ve been spending time seeking and photographing this herd of elk since the mid-1970s when there were less than 70 animals, the few remaining descendants of elk that were released in the area in the 1920s. Now there are about 900 elk in the region, which draw hordes of tourists to the established viewing areas.
On this morning I got a late start and most of the elk were already in the dense forest where they spend mid-day, so I only saw a few animals. Elk are grazing animals and for most of the year these elk feed in the extensive plots of legumes and grasses that the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Bureau of Forestry have created in the area. The best viewing and photography opportunities are at some of the food plots far from the established viewing areas, so that’s where I headed late in the afternoon.
By sundown this evening there were over 750 photographs on the camera’s memory card and several videos. Interesting on this day was the bull I call “The Moose” whose left antler is decidedly palmate, but only bears a minimally superficial resemblance to a moose's antlers. He had rounded up a substantial band of cows accompanied by several younger bulls and subsequently lost most of them to another bull
Later, one of the most impressive bulls in the area, also with somewhat atypical antlers, seemed to be exhausted and had apparently broken an antler tine the previous night –
Both of these animals are thoroughly habituated to humans, show no fear, and allow a relatively close approach. Unfortunately, because they show no fear of humans, they may not survive the annual elk hunt.