Native Village
Youth and Education news

 December 1, 2010, Volume 3

Call of elk soars with majestic authority
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Condensed by Native Village

New York: The high-pitched mating squeal from a 1,000-pound bull elk is known as nature's bugle call.

"There's nothing like hearing an elk in the wild, this eerie sound," says Pete Castronovo. "It's wonderful. It makes you feel a part of nature.''

Castronovo is chairman of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). RMEF helps improve elk habitat and restore them in eastern states where they were indigenous.

Elk disappeared from the state 150 years due to human encroachment.  They have, however, been re-established in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ontario, Canada. Some have migrated into Virginia and West Virginia. Missouri has OK'd an elk restoration plan.

In the early 2000s, a RMEF study showed that New York's Allegany, Adirondack and Catskills regions were very suitable for elk. But the plan came to a halt in 2005 when chronic wasting disease was confirmed in several cases of whitetails in Oneida County. CWD has been intensely monitored since, and no new cases have been found.

"We really thought we'd help leave a legacy and everything was headed in that direction," Castronovo says. "I think we were on our way to getting DEC approval until CWD popped up. People in the Catskills wanted them. But we'll just keep plugging away."

Benezette, Pa is the epicenter of the Pennsylvania elk herd and only 187 miles from Rochester, NY.  Benezette's human population is 227. The elk population is double that.

"They're free ranging, wild and all over the place," reports John Adamski, a wildlife photographer and executive director of the Finger Lakes Museum project.

Tourists migrate from all over to watch or hunt the Benezette elk, many with world-class antlers. Adamski took some stunning images of them.

"It's really something to see," Adamski says of the elk's turf wars during the September/October rut.

The PA elk are descended from a herd of 50 shipped by train from Wyoming in 1913.  Another 95 arrived two years later and were chased right off boxcars and into the woods.

Soon, however, tensions grew among farmers, hunters, nature lovers, citizens and government. Poaching became rampant. At one point the herd may have been as small as 25.

Eventually, elk came to be viewed as a valuable resource instead of a nuisance. A management plan was created, and in the 1980s and '90s, Pennsylvania's elk population thrived.  More than 800 elk now roam the state's north central region near the NY border.

Happy Holidays!!


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