Interest in hunting Pennsylvania wild elk has increased since last year.

Jeremy Banfield, an elk biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the agency received 104,250 applications for the upcoming 178 elk tag lottery.

The agency received about 5,000 fewer applications for 187 licenses in 2021.

“I love it,” Banfield said. “It demonstrates a growing interest in our elk population. Hopefully it’s among younger hunters and younger hunters.”

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Each hunter has the chance to purchase an app for $11.97 for each of the three hunting seasons.

The winners of the 60 bull elk and 118 cow elk tags will be selected and announced August 20 at the Elk Show at the Keystone Elk Country Alliance Welcome Center in Benezette.

“I wish the hunters good luck and look forward to Expo Elk. It’s always a fun time of year,” Banfield said.

Jeremy Banfield, Pennsylvania Game Commission elk biologist

“I really enjoy the energy and excitement that comes from the exhibit,” he said as he listened eagerly to the names drawn.

Revenue from applications, more than $1,247,000 this year, goes to the Game Commission’s general fund and some of that money goes towards home improvements.

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Banfield said the commission has ongoing needs for seeding, fuel, fertilizer, aerial surveys and research.

He estimates that 1,300 to 1,400 elk now roam 10 counties in north-central Pennsylvania.

Hunting is used to control herd size. Agency staff consider what the habitat can support as well as what is safe with respect to human interactions. Elk can cause agricultural damage and become a hazard to motorists.

Hunting licenses also help maintain a balanced male-to-cow ratio. For example, this year four more bull tags are awarded out of the 2021 allocation of 56.

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This year’s seasons are Archery September 10-24, Firearms October 31-November 24. 5 and end of season Dec. 31-Jan. 7. The deadline for applying for the licenses ended on July 31. However, the visitor center has its own special elk tag which is used as a fundraiser which you can always request at experienceelkcountry.com or elkexpo.com. The cost is $25 for one chance or six chances for $100. The price also includes guide service, taxidermy and meat processing.

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be smart

Banfield reminds those who want to see the herd that elk are large wild animals.

The agency has developed a four-part Be Elk Smart program:

1. Give them space. Stay at least 100 yards away from the elk.

2. Don’t feed them. Feeding wild animals creates bad habits for animals and is illegal.

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3. Don’t name the elk. Banfield said naming wild animals degrades them as independent wild creatures.

4. Do your part. You have a responsibility to help keep the elk wild. If you witness a disruptive or negligent person, you are encouraged to report the activity to the commission’s North Central office at (570) 398-4744.

“The reason we are drawn to wild animals is because they are wild. They are independent of us. They don’t need us. They evolved in an environment that doesn’t require human influence,” Banfield said, “So that’s what’s appealing and fascinating about them. When we name an animal, it takes away some of that. … They’re not pets.”

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.