Between 30 and 40 elk will be relocated sometime this month as the PA Game Commission begins the second phase of its three-year elk trap and transfer program. The elk will again be taken to a holding pen on the Sproul State Forest in western Clinton County. It is hoped this program will expand the elk range 800 square miles. The trap and transfer of elk helps limit elk conflicts with landowners as well as prevents the deterioration of habitat.
Last year, ten of the 11 cows relocated at Sproul State Forest produced young. One cow was killed by a train and another lost her calf.
Pennsylvania’s elk are showing remarkable growth. In fact, by the year 2000 there should be 500 elk within the state’s borders. At the turn of last century, there were none. This year’s aerial survey revealed an estimated 480 elk. The elk population has been growing steadily since the late ‘80s. More deterrent fencing in farming areas combined with habitat improvement projects on public lands have caused the herd to increase. The largest increase has been with cows, though calves have also showed a substantial increase.
Along with increased numbers of elk are elk mortality, which totaled 27 this past year; up from 21 in 1997. These include four elk killed in highway collisions, two killed accidentally, two dead from brain worm infestation, two shot for crop damage, three killed illegally, three struck by trains, one dead for unknown reasons, and seven of unknown status.
All the elk found today in Pennsylvania are descendants of 24 released in Cameron County in 1915, and ten released in Elk County from 1924-1926. Plus, a total of 177 elk were purchased from Yellowstone National Park and released in seven counties from 1913-1926.
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