Life Lessons from the Physical World

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Look at the Cute Elkses

Mr. X and I traveled to Benezette, Pennsylvania for my birthday. Benezette is in Elk County, north central PA, home of a renewed and thriving free-roaming elk herd. We stayed in a "rustic" cabin in Weedville (not really, jacuzzi and woodstove were included) and drove the country roads all weekend with binoculars in hand.

We saw over 40 elk without trying, some magnificent bulls with gigantic racks. We even heard a bugle from one of these beasts, as it chased a female in the final days of the rut. Peak mating season is in September and early October, so we missed the real heavy breathing. But we did get to see a little half-hearted sparring.

The enormous elk wander at will through the woods, fields and backyards of these tiny towns. You drive along and see vehicles pulled over to the side of the road, or just stopped in the middle, and you look to see what folks have spotted. It really is amazing--you can get so close to them and watch as long as you like. Mostly, the elk don't even notice the silly humans.

The herd now numbers around 300-400, rebounding from a low of 30 or so in the early part of the 20th century. Elk-hunting began again in 2001, but remains limited; only 40 permits a year are granted. Probably as the herd increases in size more hunting will be necessary for management, but the elk apparently are not yet the kind of nuisance white-tail deer have become in other parts of PA.

We also got good looks at jays, bluebirds, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches and chickadees. I got my very first look at a great horned owl in the wild, but unfortunately, it was dead. We guessed it was either shot (illegally), fell out of a tree, or dove for prey and hit the side of a vehicle. It was intact, but flattened on one side, and whatever happened to it probably happened just moments before we drove by. We pulled over, got out, and dragged it out of the roadway. An hour later it was gone.

We also got in a lovely hike through gorgeous changing foliage at Parker Dam State Park. Thanks Mr. X, it was the perfect way to celebrate my 25th (ahem) birthday.


Anonymous ELK COUNTY PATH said...

Hello ,
Thanks for coming to our neck of the woods If you do come back be sure to stop by our store and say hi we love to meet new people. Dave and Ziegler ELK COUNTY PATH

3:29 PM, December 24, 2005  

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