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Elk Have Antlers; Now Antenna Too
Information Radio Service for Elk Enthusiasts "Herd" on AM 1620 in Pennsylvania
Traffic tangles on Winslow Hill Road as thousands of visitors stake out spots to view elk.  Photo Courtesy of PA Game Commission Male Bull Elk at Winslow Hill Viewing Area, Benezette PA
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BENEZETTE, PA:  Elk don’t listen to the radio, as far as we know. But elk enthusiasts? That might be a different story. At least that’s the hope of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, whose Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area in Northcentral Pennsylvania has become uber-popular.

“We’re in a very remote area with little to no cell coverage,” states spokesperson Mandy Marconi. “We have a lot of important information that we want to get out to visitors, 24 hours, round-the-clock.” That is especially the case during the fall "rutting" season, when thousands of elk fans from all over the world clamor to the two-lane roads just north of tiny Benezette, Pennsylvania, to experience elk up close.

The medium of radio provides a convenient means of reaching them effectively. “A lot of people pull into our viewing areas and want to view the animals right from their cars,” which is especially the case on cold days or if they have difficulty with mobility. The broadcast also allows them to listen as they drive the local roads in search of viewing opportunities. She says if visitors do get out of their cars, it often is toposition themselves to get a beetter view of wildlife. Consequently, they are likely to walk right by kiosks and signs. “But, almost everyone has a radio in their car, though; so that's a natural way to reach them.”

Elk SoundingWhen the elk become active, Marconi comments that some people will do things they wouldn’t normally do – such as approach animals or try to feed them or even rescue them. Some will stop their vehicles in the middle of the road to take pictures or enter private property. The radio system repeats advisories intended to keep visitors and wildlife safe. But in between safety reminders, it does a lot more. “We want to enhance people’s experience by telling them the best places and times to view elk and the other wildlife they may see. We give them a little history of our elk herd and let them know how we manage them.” The program is changed seasonally so it’s relevant to what people will see when they arrive. “This allows us to keep visitors current with what is happening, but also, if we have some kind of emergency, we could get that information out to everyone immediately.”

The fifteen minute , multi-voice broadcast message is broadcast on an Information Station Specialists’ “Information Station IP” system that was installed in the fall of 2018 at the Winslow Hill viewing area (hear sample). The signal range on AM frequency 1620 is sufficient to blanket the three viewing areas, the connecting roads and the Elk County Visitor Center which is operated by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KICA).

According to Mandy Marconi, the Elk Viewing Area learned about the technology after the success of a similar system installed in 2017 at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management area near Harrisburg, which is also managed by the Commission.
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