Famous Benezette town bull dead
One of the most famous residents in Pennsylvania’s northcentral
region died Jan. 7, but you may not have seen an obituary. That’s
because he was an elk.
Nicknamed “Freddy” by local residents and wearing Game
Commission research collar #36, the big bull has hung out in and
around the Elk County village of Benezette for 18 years… You read
that right — almost two decades. Elk just don’t live that long,
according to the experts. Most bulls never see year 12.
Because of his frequent appearances around town, and because of
the hundred thousand or so eco-tourists who visit the state’s elk
range each year, it has been said that Freddy was the most
frequently photographed free-ranging elk in the world, and I bet
that’s accurate. His regal image has often graced the pages of
books, magazine, newspapers and calendars.
He was a dominant herd bull for most of his life, that had his
way each fall with the ladies during the rut up on Winslow Hill,
fighting off lesser bulls and controlling large harems of cows in
his prime. He once had huge 9 x 11 antlers; he was just a 5 x 5
when he died. During the past few years diminishing health and age
took its toll — he was arthritic and blind in one eye.
Those trips up Winslow Hill were among his rare trips out of
town. That reluctance to leave the friendly confines of the no-hunt
zone around Benezette kept him away from hunters. That’s why he
lived so long — that and the food he found around town,
thoughtfully (and illegally) provided by local residents who seemed
to welcome the tolerant giant. Freddy was pretty tame and docile,
especially in his later years.
He came to an ignominious end, slipping on the ice and breaking
a leg and perhaps his pelvis when he fell. Local residents found
him near Trout Run, prostrate and unable to get up. Game Commission
Wildlife Conservation Officer Dody McDowell euthanized him.
Giving a wild animal a nickname and treating him like a pet
makes me nervous — I am extremely uncomfortable with
anthropomorphism when it comes to game animals. But I relate this
tale for one reason: There is no doubt that Freddy’s genes are
spread throughout the state’s elk herd — he fathered many, many
So the next time you see an immense bull with huge antlers taken
by a hunter here, be aware. There’s a good chance he was Freddy’s