Friday, May 15, 2009

Elk County Trip: Part I

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 Grazing By Winslow Hill Road

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.

Reclamation 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

A Shy Cow

Elk were feeding heavily on the fresh vegetation that was planted on the part that was seeded last. This cow was somewhat shy and ran when I came into sight, as I walked by on an access road. When she realized I was no threat, she re-joined the rest of the herd, which was feeding nearby.

But the question remains, did I see any bulls?


Tom said...

Hi Willard..
I have been looking forward to you showing more from this area.. I was transfixed by your posts from here last year and know that I will be again this year.

All the best to you and yours.

SaraG said...

Hi Willard,
Thanks for commenting on my blog!
My hubby has been a Ford man for years and years and when I told him I wanted a Toyota he about had a fit. But I loved the look of the FJ Cruiser and it is so much fun. I just love it. We have a lot of friends and customer of our business who are loyal Toyota people and they swear by them. So far with good!!
Just love your pictures today. I would love to see an Elk in the wild.
Take care and keep in touch!!

MicheleRF said...

Aside from your blog and a nice gentleman I met this week at Presque Isle, I wouldn't have realized there were any elk herds remaining in PA. Thanks for sharing this information and your great photos.
P.S. The gentleman I met goes by the name "Buckwheat" and he lives near Punxy. He told me he mostly photographs elk. Do you know of him?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the visit to my blog, Willard.

I really enjoyed reading about the reclamation project and its success. So many projects are never reclaimed and they are just there. I suppose it depends on what the land value is to the state and to wildlife as well as people and tourist dollars.

I also enjoyed your story about the money pit blazer.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Willard. It looks more than "decidedly average" to me. The elk herd looks pretty good sized and the shy cow sot is excellent. I take them any day.