I traveled to Elk County this week, leaving in late morning on Monday and returning home late Thursday morning. The weather was very cool with periods of clouds and sun. There was frost on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
Elk sightings were decidedly average. There were times it was nearly impossible to see an elk, but at other times they could be found with relative ease.
My main purpose for visiting, other than just to spend time in the elk range, was to attempt to photograph bulls in velvet and thus document this particular stage of antler development and to check on the progress of the reclamation project at the Gilbert Viewing Area.
The far hillside was a partially reclaimed strip mine, which was excellent wildlife habitat. There was leakage of polluted water from it and other mines in the area, which emptied into the Dents Run watershed. A project was planned and implemented to strip mine the top of the hill, removing a coal deposit that was there while accessing an area of limestone. The limestone was mined and deposited in other areas to create filtration devices to help purify the water. This is designed to drastically reduce acid mine runoff. The project began in 2002 and now appears to be nearing completion-at least at this spot. The final reclamation began at the bottom of the hill in 2006, while mining in the central portion continued. Last year substantial progress was made and vegetation was planted much further up the hill. It appears that the mining is now confined to an extremely small central portion of the hill while restoration of the land to a natural appearing contour is proceeding rapidly. I didn't speak to officials about this, but based on appearances, it is entirely possible that this will be completed before the major fall tourist season
But the question remains, did I see any bulls?