These folks overlook a few facts in arriving at these conclusions.
Historically there was little regulation of hunting in Pennsylvania, and most importantly there was no agency charged with the management and protection of wildlife! Whatever laws that did exist, had little possibility of being enforced.. This eventually resulted in the decimation of many wildlife species. In time it became obvious that something must be done or much of our wildlife heritage would be lost forever.
It is generally accepted that elk were completely extirpated from the state, although it is possible but not likely that a very few animals did survive in the more remote regions.
Whitetail deer were not extirpated but their numbers were extremely low.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission was founded in 1895 to address this situation. Of course the agency dealt with numerous species, but we will restrict the discussion to deer and elk.
There seemed to be little hope for a speedy recovery of deer numbers by protecting only the remaining native deer, so the agency stocked deer for several years. The first animals were from Michigan while others were obtained from a variety of eastern states, many of them farm raised deer.
Elk were re-introduced by stocking animals from Yellowstone National Park, so we actually have western elk in Pennsylvania, but are these in fact non-native animals or some would say an invasive species? I think not!
In my humble opinion, to remain logically consistent they must either concede that both elk and whitetail deer are native to the state, but were eliminated or nearly so by improper management.
Most if not all of the elk are western elk and most of the deer are descended from animals that were from states other than Pennsylvania, therefore if deer are “native” animals and have a right to be here, then so does the elk!
Do they actually compete for food resources?
The accepted view is that deer are primarily browsing animals, while elk mostly feed by pasturing. Personally I have seen both animals engaged in both types of feeding, but it doesn’t seem likely that the elk significantly impact deer numbers as complaints about low deer numbers in the northcentral region of the state are not confined to the elk range. Unless a crop is destroyed by severe drought, I have not seen elk eliminate all the forage in a meadow, but I have seen food plots with lush forage that are not being utilized by significant numbers of deer. A shortage of deer must be blamed on other factors than the presence of elk! In fact the elk habitat management program has the side effect of producing better habitat for whitetails also!
I think we should be pleased that this magnificent animal is once again roaming the mountains and meadows of Pennsylvania!