BENEZETTE – The mild winter weather in the moose country has made it much easier for Benezette’s moose population to find food.
Keystone Elk Country Alliance Conservation Education Coordinator Ben Porkolab said at this time of year that cows, calves and young bulls can be found in large herds, “sometimes up to 100 animals.”
“Meanwhile, the mature bulls are in bachelor groups. I have seen as many as 25 of them together, ”he said.
Because of the warmer weather, moose and other wildlife are not “as stressed” as they normally would be in a winter with cold temperatures, Porkolab said.
“With the lack of snow, food sources are more readily available, such as grasses, rapids, acorns and other foods found on the ground,” he noted. “For this reason, when significant snow covers the ground in the moose field for an extended period of time, the moose concentrates in areas where there is less snow.”
Popular feeding areas include south-facing slopes and valleys, Porkolab said, which could lead to problems such as moose visiting agricultural areas looking for food, and multiple vehicle collisions.
“This past winter, with the heavy snowfall, there were more moose kills than usual because of these conditions,” he said.
Troutville photographer Paul Staniszewski often travels to Benezette to photograph the moose herd, especially with the warmer temperatures of this winter.
“I really enjoy photographing moose at this time out of season,” he said. “There are fewer tourists, less traffic, and the moose are much calmer.”
Staniszewski said he has also noticed that the bull, the elk, gather in bachelor groups, and the cows gather in all female herds.
“But in this warmer weather, more solo moose can be observed,” he added. “The annual mating rituals like sparring, bugling and shepherding are usually long gone at this time of year, but due to the warmer weather the rut continues. This certainly provides more interesting opportunities for photographing moose.”
As for elk country visitors at this time of year, it has remained the same, Porkolab said.
“There are far fewer people than the fall months, and weekends are busier than weekdays,” he said.
In its traditional way, the Elk Country Visitor Center hosts its educational programs every Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. 14.00, which is free for the public to attend. Most programs are held in the center, but some are outdoors.