Pennsylvania Elk History
Before settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, elk lived throughout the state, with concentrations in the northcentral and Pocono Mountains. By 1867, the species had been extirpated. Ultimately elk vanished from its former range which included New York and New England.
From 1913 to 1926 the Game Commission released a total of 177 elk in Blair, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Monroe and Potter counties. From 1923 to 1931, hunting seasons on antlered bulls were held, and hunters took 98 of them.
However, a decline in elk numbers, due in part to habitat loss and illegal poaching, closed the 1932 hunting season. And by 1936, only 14 elk remained statewide – all of them in Elk and Cameron counties, which, interestingly, is the area where the last native elk was killed.
Following a reintroduction effort, the herd slowly rebounded. In the first elk survey conducted by the Game Commission and DCNR in 1971, 65 were counted by ground and aerial spotters. By 1980, the number rose to 114. In 1992, the ground spotters were eliminated from the survey and the herd was estimated to number 183.
A three-year trap-and-transfer program launched by the Game Commission in 1998 expanded the elk’s range from 350 to 800 square miles.
Watch the film: Pennsylvania Elk: Celebrating 100 years.
Elk Hunting Season Reopened
In 2001, survey work indicated the herd contained more than 700 elk. That same year, the Game Commission once again had an open, but highly regulated elk hunt.
Today, Pennsylvania’s elk herd continues to thrive and provide hunting opportunities for a limited number of hunters each year. The elk herd has continued to grow since the Pennsylvania elk hunting season re-opened in 2001. One-hundred years after restoration efforts began, the herd numbers about 950 animals.
How to Apply for an Elk License
The application for the elk drawing goes on sale at all of our issuing agents and online at www.pgc.state.pa.us in June when the new license year licenses go on sale in June. Elk license applications are due July 31 and applicants will be randomly selected for licenses in a drawing held on the third weekend of August. The number of elk allocations varies by year. In 2014, 26,480 hunter applied for 108 licenses.
Since the 2003-04 license year, unsuccessful applicants have been granted preference points in future drawings. For each unsuccessful application, one point is added to their record. First time applicants have won in the past. You can read more about the elk application process in the Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Elk Management Area
The Elk Management Area is bounded to the west by US-219, to the North by US-6, to the East by PA-287 and the South by US-220 and I-80 (it includes all of 2H and most of 2G). All together the area is greater than 3500 square miles and over 70% public land.
Elk Viewing Locations
Pennsylvania elk provide wonderful wildlife watching opportunities. The Game Commission has highlighted viewing areas on the website.
Those who subscribe to a Game Commission e-mail lists, Facebook page or Twitter page receive reminders of license application dates and season openers