Wildlife and Nature in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors

As our name suggests, Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

(Pictured above: Rusty Snyder known as “The Deer Lady” of the Double Diamond Deer Ranch.)


Visitors can see wild elk, bears, deer, eagles, river otters, a large variety of birds, and a world-famous groundhog. Bird lovers and animal enthusiasts of all kinds can find somewhere to enjoy seeing their favorite species.


When you’re looking for elk, you need to pay attention to everything. The Shawnee name for elk, wapiti, means “white rump,” and often that’s the first part of the animal you’ll see as their brown bodies blend in with their surroundings. As a rule, when you see people looking in the same direction with phones, cameras, and binoculars in hand, you can figure elk are nearby.

  1. GIVE ELK SPACE: Keep a safe distance of at least 100 yards.
  2. NEVER FEED ELK: It is illegal and teaches elk to associate people with food.
  3. DON’T NAME ELK: Naming or characterizing elk takes away from their true wild nature.
  4. DO YOUR PART: If you see something, say something.

More than 1,400 elk can be seen roaming the mountains and valleys of Elk and Cameron Counties. The fall breeding season for elk is known as the “rut”. It is the most popular and exciting time to visit Pennsylvania’s Wild Elk Country. Hearing the bugles and belly grunts of bulls as they defend their harem from other intruding bulls is a thrilling experience you’ll never forget.

To maximize your elk viewing, spend some time on the Elk Scenic Drive, a 127-mile route through the region. Elk, deer, and most wildlife are most active right after dawn and just before dusk as they move from bedding areas in sheltered woodlands to more open feeding areas, so time your drive accordingly for the most wildlife sightings. Distinctive signage along the route will guide you to the best places to see elk and other wildlife as well as some of the region’s scenic beauty.


The Keystone Elk Country Alliance manages this stunningly beautiful conservation and education center in Benezette, which features touchscreen exhibits, a 4D sensory-surround theater that puts you in the middle of the elk herd, wildlife displays, wildlife viewing blinds, a panoramic mountain overlook, and walking paths for visitors. The meadows and food plots around the center attract wildlife including elk, whitetail deer, and wild turkey.

Each July, the center hosts the annual Elk Expo which spans two days of family fun featuring live music, artists, crafts, educational seminars, and outdoor industry vendors.

Call 814-787-5167 or visit ElkCountryVisitorCenter.com for more information and hours.



Sinnemahoning State Park is best known for bald eagles soaring overhead and the famous Arch tree.  It is also home to a growing elk herd, as well as coyotes, bobcats, black bear, river otter, whitetail deer, and lots of other wonderful wildlife. Start your visit at the park’s eco-friendly Wildlife Center and learn about wildlife-watching opportunities, photography, conservation history, stewardship practices, and ideas for exploring the region. The center also has interpretive exhibit galleries and an artisan shop.


At the George B. Stevenson Reservoir at Sinnemahoning State Park, bald eagles and osprey are frequent sights over the water. Since 2000, a pair of eagles have set up year-round residence. During the summer, the park offers pontoon boat tours of the lake and bald eagle-watching excursions.

Bald eagles can often be see flying over the Allegheny River at Foxburg, Tionesta, and Brady’s Bend, as well as over Buzzard Swamp near Marienville. They can also be seen along the Clarion River, and if you look along the banks of the Allegheny and Clarion Rivers, you may see some river otters as well.



From warblers twittering in the hedges to ruffed grouse drumming on fallen trees, Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region offers a lot for bird lovers to enjoy. Waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and swans make their homes on the water here, and cliff swallows, indigo buntings, owls, hawks, hummingbirds, vultures, woodpeckers, and wild turkeys can also be found in the trees, on the ground, and in the skies.

The National Audubon Society has designated Cook Forest State Park as an important birding area. Buzzard Swamp near Marienville is another popular bird-watching spot. Check out VisitPAGO.com or call our visitors bureau at (814) 849-5197 for detailed descriptions of the best birding sites throughout our five-county area.


For animal lovers, no visit to the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region would be complete without a trip to Punxsutawney, home of the world-famous Punxsutawney Phil.

Every February 2, Groundhog Day, thousands of people gather to witness Phil’s prediction of more winter or early spring. Any time of the year, you can stop by Phi’s Burrow in downtown Punxsutawney to meet Phil. 

There is also a new Groundhog Visitor Center at Gobblers Knob.

Other popular places to see animals are the Double Diamond Deer RanchFarmers Inn, and Swift Safariland. The Double Diamond Deer Ranch in Cook Forest gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with world-class trophy whitetails. Visitors can bottle-feed fawns during the summer and give the adults treats in the evening.  In Sigel, Farmers Inn has a petting zoo and a wide array of exotic and domestic animal exhibits. Swift Safariland, at Long Shot Ammo & Arms near New Bethlehem, features 100 trophy game mounts from around the world, including many African game animals.

Go to VisitPAGO.com/free-information or call 814-849-5197 for your FREE guides to help plan your own outdoor adventure.

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