Pennsylvania Elk: Conservation Success Story

Today’s blog post comes from Shane Mahoney of Boone and Crockett Country.

The recovery of our great game species from the brink of disaster is a well-documented conservation success story sportsmen should be proud off.

This recovery took many forms. Some were as straight forward as setting aside sanctuaries for depleted populations to recover, such as national forests, and wildlife refuges. Naturally the commercial harvest of some species had to be stopped and sportsmen too had to step up and do their part by regulating their take. In most cases this was enough to bring species back, but not in all cases.

In this episode of Boone and Crockett Country we are going to explore the story of elk in the great hunting state of Pennsylvania, and join one lucky hunter as he fulfills a dream to hunt the great stags of Pennsylvania.

These big deer were literally wiped out by over-harvesting. The sanctuary approach to recovery did not work in Pennsylvania because there were no elk left to naturally repopulate. The story of how we brought elk back in this state is also a tale of how sportsmen and wildlife agencies have worked together to re-gift that, which was completely lost.

The relocation of game species to their historic ranges has been yet another tool used by game managers to right the wrongs of the past, and bring balance back to entire ecosystems. The motivation of sportsmen to restore huntable populations may seem selfish to outsiders, but the truth is much more complex. Sure, sportsmen enjoy the opportunity to hunt managed game species, but the benefit is not all theirs alone.

Elk have been restored to the hills of PA thanks to conservation efforts through hunting.

We will learn that other wildlife and the ecosystems that support them also benefit from keystone species that have been relocated and re-introduced. Those who do not hunt certainly enjoy seeing these species in the wild as opposed to only zoos and preserves.

Through cooperative conservation, the bugle of the Rocky Mountain elk once again breaks the morning’s silence east of the Mississippi. Pennsylvania is elk country again, a testament to the dedication of sportsmen, conservation organizations, and wildlife managers charged with recouping losses from the shortsighted conduct of past generations. Least we never forget hunting and conservation are synonymous. In this case conservation meant recovery.

A population is considered successfully recovered when it reaches a saturation point within the given habitat where management through hunting becomes beneficial to both the land and the wildlife it supports. In the case of Pennsylvania, not only are their now elk, but Boone and Crockett Club and Pope & Young Club records reveal that PA is now one of the top destination for record-class bulls.

If the reestablishment of an iconic big game species is reward enough, the icing on the cake is the opportunity for sportsmen to participate in the future management and health of this recovered population.

The future is certainly bright for the elk in the Keystone State, thanks to sportsmen like you.

Shane Mahoney