evening sunset over pennsylvania forest

Pennsylvania has many scenic byways. There is a website dedicated to these with a listing in nearly every county. But let’s face it. Unless you are on the Turnpike or I-80, you almost have to take the scenic route in Pennsylvania. Those ridges and valleys don’t make for easy or direct travel. 

Route 6 across the northern tier is perhaps the most lovely. It has its own following with an entire website all its own aptly titled “Do 6.” The site is a wealth of information listing heritage communities and landmarks. There is an Artisan Trail with multiple itineraries. And the ultimate guide to #BIKEPA6.

Of course, Route 6 in Potter County runs right next to our northen study areas in the Susquehannock State Forest. Crews have caught many deer in the area over the last 10 years – 681 to be exact. And we have written many stories about these deer. It’s the backbone of the blog. 

Thankfully, they keep giving us stuff to write about. 

Today’s post is brought to you by Deer 20256. Deer 20256 was captured on March 23, 2022, east of Sweden Valley in Potter County. He along with 2 adult does were captured under a rocket net less than half a mile from Route 6. When crews use a rocket net, they lightly sedate the deer. This is for the safety of the crew and the deer as they are untangled from the net. The does were processed and recovered within minutes of the reversal drug being administered. 20256, on the other hand, took his time snoozing for 20 minutes after the reversal was given. And only after being prodded by the crew with some claps and lights did he decide to be on his way. 

Field crew member sitting on deer to restrain under drop net
20256 being processed after capture.

Well, it seems he was resting up for an epic journey!

It is no secret that yearling males have happy feet. About 75% of yearling bucks disperse from their natal range either in the spring or the fall. For the 340 road trips observed in PA, the average dispersal distance is about 5 miles with a high of 25 miles. 

We aren’t sure when 20256 embarked on this epic journey, but we know where it ended. A couple of weeks ago the research hotline got a call. Someone found 20256 (or what was left of him) just off Flower Valley Rd…in Elk County. 

Carcass of buck in field with ribs showing

Follow Route 6 west, turn left in Smethport; left on 146 round State Game Lands 25; then south until you get to Elk State Park. From his capture location, it’s just over 60 road miles. 

Cherry Springs State Park is just south of his capture location. Did he swing by for some stargazing? Smethport is number 5 of a list of 10 Best Small Towns and it has a Mansion District! Was it on his short list of places to settle down?

If past experience tells us anything, probably not. And unlike females who like to take the scenic route and would have definitely not missed all the fun along Route 6, males are no-nonsense travelers going in a straight line from Point A to Point B, usually in less than 24 hours. In that case, it’s about 41 miles from where 20256 was captured to his final resting place on Flower Valley Rd. 

Exactly how 20256 met his end we will never know. There wasn’t much left of him. Given his location, a close encounter with a motorized vehicle is possible. Regardless, he made a new home in Elk County for a year, enjoyed at least one breeding season, died in a place where he could be found, and was reported by a nice person.  

Let it be a reminder to us all to get out and explore. Just don’t end up as a carcass on the side of the road.

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PA Game Commission

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