Pennsylvania’s hardwood forests are as beautiful as they are iconic, yet their dense nature does not translate into ideal year-round habitat for elk.
So the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other partners joined forces with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry to improve habitat within the Susquehannock State Forest.
Located in the central part of the state, the 265,000-acre forest is actively managed as a “working” forest because of its productive timber stands, recreational values and scenic beauty.
It is also prime elk habitat making up the northeast portion of Pennsylvania’s 3,750-square mile Elk Management Area.
About 100 elk actively seek out forest openings to graze for nutritious grasses and forbs.
Crews utilized various methods to maintain the existing herbaceous openings, convert open canopy areas into vegetation-rich habitat and regenerate mature aspen stands into early successional habitat.
The result is a landscape with nearly 40 percent more managed openings since 2018 and one preferred and used by many species ranging from elk, whitetail deer, wild turkeys and black bears to small mammals like cottontail rabbits and even the ruffed grouse – Pennsylvania’s state bird.
With additional habitat improvements to come, the goal of the project is to help support the natural eastward expansion and growth of the herd from Benezette into the Susquehannock State Forest.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,600 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 7.9 million acres of wildlife habitat.