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Collared cow elk to record information through camera

BENEZETTE - Recently, biologists and other employees of the Pennsylvania Game Commission invited some guests to accompany them on an elk hunt.

This hunt, however, was not designed to put antlers on the wall or steaks in the freezer, as those doing the shooting on this hunt did so with cameras. It was all part of a project to learn more about Pennsylvania's elk herd through information that will be compiled from footage captured by a tiny video camera placed on an elk.This research initiative is a product of a partnership between the PGC and the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization headquartered at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. It is the role of the PGC to actively manage wildlife habitat throughout Pennsylvania, and within the state's 3,500-square-mile elk-management area habitat quality directly influences elk pregnancy rates, survival, calf recruitment and the distribution of elk.Projects to improve or create high-quality habitat also are used to mitigate elk-human conflicts and hunter-related elk mortality. By making lands more inviting to elk, elk aren't as likely to turn up in less ideal areas.Traditional studies on the types of habitat elk prefer have provided both biologists and land managers with information needed to create high-quality elk habitat, however, a complete understanding of the elk's habitat selection requires an examination at the finest scale. Previously, the PGC was unable to collect that information, but now researchers placed a collar on an adult cow elk that will record her locations through GPS technology and will record video shot by a camera housed within the collar.This camera is programmed to collect video and audio during specific times of the day and will fall off the elk in about 75 days. At that time the PGC will send the collar back to the manufacturer so the recordings can be retrieved.By providing never-before-collected information at the micro-scale, the recordings and readings from the collar will assist biologists and land managers, and will help in the planning and development of habitat-management programs. In addition, the KECA, which purchased the collar, will use the information collected for educational programming, as well as habitat management."High-quality habitat is vitally important to elk, to the Game Commission and to KECA," KECA president and CEO Rawley Cogan said. "We are pleased to fund this pilot habitat study and we look forward to cooperating with the biologists to refine the habitat-management plan for Pennsylvania's elk range."

This adult cow elk was recently fitted with a collar that contains GPS tracking capability and a small camera to record video and audio before falling off the elk in about 75 days, at which time the recordings and readings will be retrieved by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.