Ron Shrieves Photo
Adult male elk are known as "bulls" and weigh an average of 600-700 pounds. Female elk are called "cows" and average 500 pounds.
Adults are 7-10 feet long from nose to tail and stand 4.5-5 feet tall at the shoulder. Adult males have antlers that may reach a width of five feet. Elk can live as long as 15 years.
Elk have an acute sense of smell and excellent eyesight to protect them from predators. Coyotes, bobcats, and black bears may kill young, sick, or injured elk, but adult elk are generally safe from predators in the park. Gray wolves and mountain lions, both of which have been extirpated from the Great Smoky Mountains, are successful predators of elk elsewhere.
Elk are vegetarian and eat grasses, forbs, and acorns, as well as the bark, leaves, and buds from shrubs and trees.
Cows usually give birth to only one calf per year. Newborns weigh about 35 pounds and can stand within minutes of birth and calf. Calves nurse for 1-7 months. Females are ready to breed in the second autumn of their lives.
Did You Know?
More than 240 species of birds have been found in the park. Sixty species are year-round residents. Nearly 120 species breed in the park, including 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many other species use the park as an important stopover and foraging area during their semiannual migration.