Elk battle

Two bull elk battle for the right to claim cows during mating season, also known as “the elk rut,” in Benezette, Pa.

Elk mating season is currently in full swing, so now is a great time to take a trip to Benezette to do some elk sighting. Also known as “the elk rut,” elk mating season begins in mid-September and runs through October.

According to Carla Wehler, operations manager at the Elk Country Visitor Center, during this time, the bulls will begin to show their dominance.

“The bulls will be gathering cows (their harem) as the breeding season continues,” she explained. “You will hear bugles, grunts and the clash of antlers as they fight for the right to claim cows in estrous.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends the following viewing areas in and around Benezette: Dents Run Elk Viewing Area, Winslow Hill Road; Hicks Run Viewing Area, Route 555, about 12 miles east of Benezette, near Hicks Run Road; and the Elk Country Visitor Center, 134 Homestead Dr.

Those who are up for more of a physical challenge may want to try the Elk Trail. Be aware that you will be in the Allegheny Mountains and may encounter steep terrain, difficult to cross streams and even rattlesnakes along the way. Parking for the trail is at the trailhead along Dents Run Road, about two miles north of its intersection with Route 555, 10 miles east of Benezette.

For equestrians who want to experience the area while riding on horseback, the Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail may be the best option. The 26-mile loop is filled with mountain vistas and encounters with elk and other wildlife.The trailhead and day-use parking for equestrians are along East Hicks Run Road about 3.75 miles from its intersection with Route 555, 12 miles east of Benezette.

For more information about any of the aforementioned viewing areas, call the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at 814-486-3353.

The Elk Country Visitor Center also has a wide variety of outdoor public programs available every Saturday and Sunday, in addition to a 4D story theater ($5 admission, free for children under five years) and weekend wagon rides. To reserve a spot on the wagon ride, call 814-787-5167 a day prior to your visit.

For a full list of activities and educational information, visit www.elkcountryvisitorcenter.com.