Restoration of elk to Penn's Woods is an environmental and economic development success story.
Restoration of elk to Penn’s Woods is an environmental and economic development success story.

The restoration of elk to Pennsylvania is an environmental as well as an economic development success story.

Wiped out in the 1800s due to loss of habitat, the Pennsylvania Game Commission began in 1913 to reintroduce the species to Penn’s Woods when the agency purchased and imported a herd from the Western United States.

Over the past 100 years, the elk herd has grown to between 700 and 800 animals, according to Rawley Cogan, President and CEO of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, the organization that manages the Elk Country Visitors Center.

“You can travel to other parts of the world and never get to have this experience,” Cogan said. “We are very fortunate to be able to have this in Pennsylvania’s backyard.”

Seeing the herd, especially during the rut during September and October, has driven up the number of tourists making the trek to Elk County to witness firsthand these majestic creatures.

The center has seen approximately 212,000 visitors walk through its doors annually since it first opened in 2010, Cogan explained to a group of Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) officials during a tour of the facility as part of DCED On the Road, an initiative funded by Team Pennsylvania Foundation.

The high volume of visitors has been a driver of economic development for local businesses. During the visit to the center, state officials announced funding for two small business expansion projects to boost tourism in the region.

Cogan said the center offers a comprehensive educational experience with tours, exhibits, the Immersive Theatre, the Discovery Room, hiking trails and covered wagon rides.

Our sister publication, Keystone Edge, recently ran a cover story on the impact the visitors center and the elk herd has made there.

For more on the Elk Country Visitors Center, visit their website.

The following is a video of the elk herd:

Here is a photo gallery of pictures, which includes a fight between two bulls: