Elk in pine forest

Bull elk in the ponderosa pine forests of the South Rim.



Scientific Name

Cervus elaphus


  • Brown bodies with lighter coloration on their rump. Dark, shaggy hair covering the neck.
  • Males (bulls) are generally lighter in color than females (cows) and will grow antlers beginning in the late spring and keep them until the early spring of the following year.
  • Bull elk reach up to 700 lbs (320 kg), outweighing their nearest relative in the park, the mule deer, by up to 500 lbs (225 kg).
  • Elk live in the ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forests of the park.
  • Because elk are not native to northern Arizona, they are not well adapted to the dry climate. As a result, they are often dependent on human sources of water, and will drink from puddles underneath bottle-filling stations and graze on watered vegetation around homes and buildings.
  • August to early winter is a period known as rut, when male elk compete for the attention of female elk. Bulls can be seen bellowing at each other, and sometimes antler wrestling.
  • Cow elk give birth in late spring/early summer. Offspring will stay with their mother for almost a year, at which point they are slightly smaller than an adult elk.
  • Cow elk are very protective of their calves. Do not come between a cow and its calf.
  • Because they spend so much time looking for water near people, the elk in park have lost their natural fear of humans- leading to interactions that hurt both elk and people.

More Information

Did You Know?