Saturday, August 21, 2010

Elk Country Visitor Center To Open September 9th?

Elk Country Visitor Center Under Construction June 16, 2010-photo by W.Hill

Rumors abounded in Pennsylvania elk country during the late 1990's and early 2000's about the future construction of a visitors center for elk tourism on Winslow Hill. At that time the favored spot was in the area known as “The Saddle". This is the area on Winslow Hill, near the Gilbert Farm, which has been the site of a reclamation project for most of this decade. Most assumed that a visitors center would be built and operated by The Pennsylvania Game Commission, but subsequent events proved this to not be the case.

Perhaps the initial happening in a string of events that was to change the situation entirely began in 2002 when Pennsylvania Game Commission Elk Biologist Rawland, “Rawley” Cogan resigned his position as elk biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and went to work for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as Northeast Lands Program Manager. The next important step was when the RMEF purchased the 245 ace Betta Tree Farm on the lower reaches of Winslow Hill, which became known as Elk Mountain Homestead. It is unclear as to whether the property was purchased with the goal of building a visitor center, but within a short time of the acquisition the possibility was openly discussed and the RMEF Newsletter “Wapiti” featured an article by Julie Cowan in the winter 2007 edition, “Elk foundation, Pennsylvania DCNR Announce Partnership for Visitor Center” , which verified that this was to be the official course of action.

The official groundbreaking for the construction of the center was on September 25, 2008, but actual construction did not begin until late May of 2009 (Source-May 20, 2009 issue DCNR Newsletter “Resource”)

According to the 2007 article by Ms. Cowan, the center was to be open by the fall of 2009, but this was not to be and the project met a major set-back instead when the RMEF abruptly withdrew from the project in September 2009, and transferred ownership of the property to DCNR. It was soon back on track; however, with the founding of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which stepped in to fill the void left by the departure of the RMEF and named Cogan as project Manager for the Visitor Center.

"Rawley Cogan" Project Manager For Visitor Center Addresses "Wild About Elk Workshop" June 16, 2010-photo by W.Hill

 The actual opening date has been difficult to pin down, as The Keystone Elk Country Alliance Website has not given a firm opening date until very recently. It now appears that the center should open no later than September 9, 2009 according to Paul Staniszewski, a Juried PA Wilds Artist, who specializes in macro-photography and the production of Floral Note Cards. Mr Staniszewski has been engaged to provide products for the Visitor Center gift shop, and recently received official notification that the “for sure” opening date is September 9th, while Visitor Center Officials are still hoping for sooner if possible. This is further confirmed by the recent updating of the The Keystone Elk Country Alliance Website's Visitor Center Page which now says, “anticipated to open September 9, 2010.

"Wild About Elk" Workshop Participants Observe Elk Near Visitor Center Parking Area-June 16, 2010- photo by W.Hill

I hope to take a closer look at the impact the Visitor Center may have on the Benezette area in the next installment, which should be posted within the next few days.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill

Pennsylvania Elk-The Velvet Is Shed: 2010

In last week's Camera Critters, I posted photos from years past of Pennsylvania Bull Elk in various stages of the velvet shedding process.  This was in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country this past week.

Two of the bulls that I photographed this week served to illustrate the point that there are no hard and fast rules in nature.  In last week's post I stated , "once the process begins, it is usually completed in a day or so", but the most commonly seen bulls this week were clear exceptions to the rule.

This first animal featured today had a small strip of loose velvet dangling from one antler and small blood spots throughout the velvet, when I sighted him on Tuesday morning. The small strip of loose velvet was gone by that evening, but little else was changed.  I saw him several times during the trip and when I photographed him for the final time on Friday morning he looked much the same as he did at the time of my first encounter with him..

6x6 Bull In Early Stages Of Shedding Velvet

In most cases, once the velvet cracks and dangles in strips, the bulls rub trees, saplings, and the ground in an effort to dislodge it, but the largest bull I photographed seemed to have an aversion to doing this as he had long strips of dried velvet dangling from his antlers throughout the week.  I was around him for extensive periods of time on several occasions, but not once did he rub his antlers against anything.

Dried Velvet Hanging In Strips
While the long range forecast for the trip, called for hot and humid weather with a lot of clouds and showers, it actually turned out to be clear and beautiful much of the time, with only fluffy white cumulus clouds in the sky, which resulted in some spectacular sunsets and I can think of few better ways to end a day afield than by photographing the fiery show that nature provides as the sun drops below the horizon.

Elk Country Sunset

For more Camera Critters photographs, Click Here!

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill