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August 22, 2023

Pennsylvania Elk Cam returns to capture 2023 mating season

The livestream is back to give a glimpse into the life of a herd in the northern part of the state

Wildlife Elk
Pennsylvania Elk Cam returns to capture 2023 bugling season Source/HDonTap

The Pennsylvania Elk Cam is back again in 2023 through a partnership between the Game Commission, HDOnTap and the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission. A pair of male elk are shown above during the 2022 livestream.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's popular Elk Cam is up and running again to give viewers a peek into the species' annual mating season.

The camera is located in a field in Benezette, Elk County, which is in the northern part of the state. The livestream is hosted by HDOnTap, the same video platform that carries seasonal feeds of other wildlife, including eagles and black bears.

Elk are among the largest species in the deer family and have a population of about 1,400 in Pennsylvania. Bugling season, when males start to display more aggressive mating competition, runs from late summer into fall; males are known for their deep grunts and whistle-like calls to attract females, known as cows, and to fend off other males.

The elk camera typically remains live until the end of bugling season in mid-October. The best time to catch elk on the livestream is in the late afternoon. HDOnTap also compiles livestream highlights that can be viewed on the Elk Cam site. 

“Elk are magnificent animals and the spectacle of their bugling season draws onlookers to the elk range each year, sometimes from hundreds of miles away,” said the game commission's executive director Bryan Burhans.

Before humans settled in Pennsylvania, elk lived throughout the state with concentrations in the north and the Pocono Mountains. The species became depleted in the northeastern U.S. by 1867, but in 1913, the game commission began repopulating the state by purchasing elk from Yellowstone National Park. Agricultural expansion in the west was depleting the elk's feeding grounds, leading to starvation among herds, and the federal government wanted to repopulate the species throughout the U.S.

Many train shipments of elk came from Wyoming to Pennsylvania in the ensuing years, according to the game commission's historical account of the species' Pennsylvania resettlement. From the 1930s until the '80s, it was illegal to hunt elk in Pennsylvania, though many hunters still targeted them and cut into the species' population growth.

A limited lottery system for hunting elk was later established by the game commission in an effort to protect the animal. Today's elk hunt runs in three time frames between mid-September and early January. 

The Pennsylvania Game Commission published a half-hour documentary on YouTube, below, about the history of elk in the state.