Bull #36, AKA Fred or Fred Jr. resting during the recent breeding season
Many wanted to hang his head on their wall when he was in his prime even though he had absolutely no fear of humans and was the main tourist attraction at the time.
Not hunted for over seventy years the elk hunt began anew in 2001. In the late 1990’s the then executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission pulled out all of the stops in his attempt to establish the modern day elk hunt. I recall a statement he once made that if we didn’t establish a season soon that it may become impossible to ever have a hunt. This was done at a time when elk tourism was building rapidly and I concluded from the statement that if the commission did not act quickly that those who consider the elk a state treasure to be preserved and viewed would prevail.
In regards to my previous post one commenter mentioned “follow the money” so bear with me for a moment while we do just that.
Information gleaned from the current elk management plan sites two studies relating to elk tourism, Page 20 under the subtitle Viewing the plan states;
"Pennsylvania’s elk herd is the eastern most free-ranging herd in the United States. The herd attracts thousands of wildlife watchers each year. During 1987 an estimated 7,200 recreational visitor days (RVD) and $11.85 per day per viewer were spent by the public viewing elk in Pennsylvania (Shafer and Wang 1989). The economic value of the viewing experience; i.e. the amount the public was willing to pay, was estimated at $147,096 (Shafer and Wang 1989). The number of visitors traveling to Pennsylvania’s elk range has increased dramatically since 1987. It is not uncommon to see 1000 vehicles per weekend day on Winslow Hill, during the fall rutting season. Winslow Hill is the PGC elk viewing area because of the increased likelihood of seeing elk compared with the rest of the Elk Management Area. In 1997, Penn State University reported 76,000 visitor days with approximately $17.11 spent per day ($1.3 million total) (Strauss 1999). This figure has likely increased since the study was conducted. The influx of tourists within the Elk Management Area has benefited the local economy through lodging and meal expenditures, and the purchase of fuel, groceries, and sporting goods. "
Their can be no doubt that the number of tourist visiting the elk range has increased since the latest study over a decade ago and that the economic impact is much greater now. Speaking from personal experience it is difficult to get by today on less than $100 per day when one considers meals, fuel, and minimal lodging.
Now let us consider the hunt. The elk licenses are awarded by drawing to applicants who have paid a $10 non- refundable application fee. Currently the number of applicants average around 20,000 ($200,000) annually. Successful applicants then must purchase a license which cost $25 for residents and $250 for non-residents. This year 59 licenses were awarded by drawing. I do not know the breakdown between resident and non-resident.
Some hunters retain a local guide which ups their cost considerable. Hunters also require meals and lodging for the duration of the hunt which can last up to six days.
Lets do the number and error on the high side.
Expenditures per hunter
$3825 Total per hunter X 59 = $225,675 + $200,000 application fees = $425,675
Compare that rosy hunt economic total to the tourist generated value from 12 years ago of $1.3 million.
There is no doubt that the elk management is not a choice between ecotourism and hunting but rather a reasonable balance between the two. Pennsylvania is currently attempting to have its cake and eat it to by killing the same mature bulls that are being promoted to draw tourist dollars to the area.
Increasing the size of the no-hunt zone and surrounding the no-hunt zone with a very sizable population control zone (cow hunt only) would do much to allay many of the current concerns.
For those of you who may not know where I stand on hunting, allow me to state my position. I have hunted since I was old enough to tag along behind my grandfather. That has been over four decades now and I continue to participate in consumptive hunting although to a much lesser degree since my interest has turned to hunting with the camera.