Pennsylvania Game Commission
Before settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, elk (Cervus elaphus) lived throughout the state, with concentrations in the northcentral and Pocono Mountains. By 1867, the species had been extirpated. Ultimately it became extinct throughout its range, which included New York and New England. Today, elk inhabit portions of Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Clearfield and Potter counties. The animals are descendants of elk released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission between 1913 and 1926.
The word "elk" comes from the German "elch," the name for the European moose. The elk is also called "wapiti," an Indian word meaning "white deer,'' probably referring to animal's sun-bleached spring coat or its light-colored rump. The elk is the second-largest member of the deer family in North America; only the moose is larger. Many Western states, several Canadian provinces, and a few eastern states – including Pennsylvania – support thriving elk populations, and in those places the elk is a popular big-game animal.
Elk are attracted to forest clearcuts, revegetated strip mines, grassy meadows, open stream bottoms, and agricultural lands. Shy animals, they tend to avoid contact with humans, although they will venture into settled areas to reach favored food sources. The Game Commission and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) manage public lands to make them more attractive to elk. The agencies create and maintain high-quality foraging areas and limit disturbance by humans. Elk habitat enhancement projects also benefit deer, wild turkeys, grouse and other wildlife.