BENEZETTE — Mid-September kicks off rut season in Pennsylvania's elk country and Benezette's busiest time of year. While an exciting time, elk viewers are reminded to "be elk smart."
According to Elk Country Visitor Center Operations Manager Carla Wehler, the area typically sees about 225,000 people during the fall season.
Among the sight of the leaves changing, this time of year in elk country is just something special to experience, Wehler said.
“The opportunity to hear a herd of elk vocalizing is amazing,” she said. “If you take the time to stop, be quiet and just listen, you will hear sounds that are wonderful to hear — bull elk bugling, huffing, clicking, antlers clashing, cows and calves mewing, cows making barks to alert the herd.
“These are sounds you won’t soon forget, and once you hear them, you will be hooked and coming back time and time again.”
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, elk mating season lasts from mid-September through the end of October.
During the rut, a bull's testosterone levels will increase up to 100 times the normal level, the PGC says. Bulls focus on fighting, mating and defending harems, and can also be more aggressive at this time.
People are required to stay on trails and behind the ECVC's viewing walls, Wehler said.
“Staff and volunteers are also conscious of the space kept between elk and humans, with any warning signs elk may display,” she said. “The need to respect private property has always been a concern in the area. While residents enjoy wildlife, they do ask that people do not enter their property without permission, enabling them to continue to enjoy this beautiful area.”
"ELK SMART" - an initiative launched by the PGC, Keystone Elk Country Alliance, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Pennsylvania WILDS in 2020 - provides elk country visitors with four ways they "can help to ensure the wild essence of the herd remains for generations to come," according to a news release.
Elk viewers should give the elk space, never feed them or name the elk, and do their part if they should witness any disruptive or careless behavior, according to the initiative.
Visit bit.ly/PGC-ELKSMART for more information, and follow the PGC on social media.