Double your elk-watching: Murrysville company sets up live webcam in Benezette | TribLIVE.com
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Mary Ann Thomas

The Murrysville man who set up the Pittsburgh eagle webcam now has a live webcam with two cameras in Benezette capturing all of the excitement of the bull elk in rut.

Elk in Pennsylvania were wiped out by the late 1870s. But the Pennsylvania Game Commission re-introduced elk from the Rocky Mountains between 1913 and 1926. Today, elk are found in portions of Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Clearfield and Potter counties, according to the commission.

Bill Powers of Murrysville, whose company PixController (later bought by CSE Corp. of Murrysville, where he works as director of environmental and surveillance systems) started a lived video webcam of the bald eagles in Pittsburgh in 2014. In the last year, he has been in the process of establishing a nonprofit, PixCams, focusing on wildlife webcams for educational purposes.

PixCams’ first big project is the elk cam, currently streaming live and viewable at www.pixcams.com as well as the Keystone Elk Country Alliance website.

PixCams also incorporates some of Power’s older wildlife webcams, including ones dedicated to the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagles, white-tailed deer, the wetlands in Murrysville Community Park and elsewhere. Powers also is working on a live webcam on the endangered Ground Hornbills in South Africa.

“We have a large, healthy elk herd in Pennsylvania, and a lot of people don’t get to see them, let alone know that they live here,” said Powers.

PixCams was approached by the Elk Country Visitor Center and donated the equipment and streaming services for the webcam, according to Powers.

“If it’s an educational opportunity like this, we will provide the streaming for free,” he said.

PixCams webcam is one of two documenting the Benezette elk with the second one sponsored by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and HDonTAP.

The Elk Country Visitor Center picked out the sites for the PixCams cameras. The center is located on 245 acres in Benezette, surrounded by rich forage plots for great opportunities to view elk.

“Our new Elk Cams allow folks at home the opportunity to watch our fields for a chance to see these amazing creatures,” said Carla A. Wehler, operations manager, for the Keystone Elk Country Alliance and Elk Country Visitor Center.

The best times to look for the elk are in the early morning hours after day break and in the evening hours before dark, she said.

The “rut” or mating season peaks in mid-September when dramatic fights can break out between bull elks.

“Huge bull elks will clash antlers as they spar, trying to retain their dominance over the herds of cows waiting to breed,” Wehler said of the drama that attracts crowds.

“The end of the rut often coincides with the fall leaves turning, providing amazing landscapes for visitors to Pennsylvania’s Elk Country,” she added.

Most visitors come in September and October — in growing numbers each year, according to Wehler. When the visitors’ center was built in 2010, an estimated 70,000 people came to see the elk. Now about 450,000 people visit Elk County each year, with the most coming to see the elk in the fall, she said.

The PixCams’ webcam has a rewind feature to go back four hours to view earlier footage.

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