Cow Elk

Cow Elk

NPS: M.Quinn

Elk (Cervus elaphus) are the largest member of the deer family (Cervidae) and the second largest ungulate in Grand Canyon National Park.

Merriam’s elk
(Cervus elaphus merriami), which were historically found in many parts of Arizona and even as far north as the San Francisco Peaks (but never inside what is now Grand Canyon National Park), was extirpated in the 1890s due to overhunting.
Elk Grass

Bull Elk

NPS: M.Quinn

The Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) you see in the park today came from 303 individuals introduced to the state from 1913-1928 from the Yellowstone National Park population.

Because these animals aren't adapted to Arizona's arid climate, they have expanded their range in search of water sources and eventually entered the park where many man-made water sources exist in and around the village.


Make sure you're looking at elk by using these characteristics:

  • Possess lighter coloration on their rump than the rest of their bodies.
  • Males are generally lighter in color than females and will grow antlers beginning in the late spring and keep them until the early spring of the following year.
  • Reaching up to 700 lbs (320 kg), they outweigh their nearest relative in the park, the mule deer (hyperlink to mule deer), by up to 500 lbs (225 kg)

Quick Facts about Elk:

  • The elk in Grand Canyon National Park are non-native and come from introduced populations from Yellowstone
  • Males (bulls) grow a new, larger pair of antlers each year which they shed in the spring
  • Females (cows) generally give birth to calves in the late spring/early summer
  • Elk are one of the most dangerous animals in the park and should never be approached.

Did You Know?