August 12, 2021
Elk are among Pennsylvania's most treasured wildlife populations, and are especially exciting to spot toward the end of summer and into fall during the peak of bugling season.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced Thursday that its annual Elk Cam is live again for 2021, with a live stream camera over a field on State Game Lands 311 in Benezette, Elk County, in the north central part of the state.
The camera is part of a wider collaboration with HDOnTap, the same video platform that hosts live streams for Pennsylvania eagles and bears, as well as other wildlife across the United States. The Elk Cam is supported by a partnership with the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission.
"Nature is full of surprises, and that’s some of the reason the Game Commission’s wildlife livestreams have proven so popular," Game Commission executive director Bryan Burhans said. "The Elk Cam gives viewers a chance to experience the wonder of Pennsylvania’s elk rutting season, without ever leaving home. Sit back and enjoy the show."
The field shown on the Elk Cam is usually a hub of elk activity, but viewers also will likely see turkeys, deer and other wildlife. Nearly one million viewers tuned in to the livestream during last year's bugling season, according to HDOnTap.
Bugling season picks up in September during the peak of Pennsylvania's elk rut and runs until about mid-October. The best time to view elk on the live stream will typically be late in the afternoon.
The distinctive sound of bugling is a display of dominance over other male elk in an effort to attract females. The pitch-shifting vocalizations sometimes start with a low grunt and rise into a sharp whistle or flute-like sound, even somewhat resembling the feedback of distortion from an electric guitar amplifier. The scream then drops into a grunt or series of grunts, another display of dominance.
In Pennsylvania, elk inhabit portions of Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Clearfield and Potter counties. Today's population descends from elk released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission between 1913 and 1926. Prior to human settlement in Pennsylvania, elk lived throughout the state with concentrations in the north central area and Pocono Mountains. The species had become extirpated by 1867 and went extinct throughout its range in New York and New England, according to the Game Commission.
The elk seen in Pennsylvania are of the species Cervus elaphus, also known as European red deer. In some parts of the world where they have been introduced for hunting, including in Australia and South America, red deer are considered invasive.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a half-hour documentary on YouTube about the history of elk in the state.
People often flock to Pennsylvania elk country in September to observe bugling season in person.
The Game Commission reminds visitors to the elk range to always be "Elk Smart." Give elk space, never feed elk, don’t name elk and do your part to ensure the welfare of the herd.