• Steam rises off of the colorful Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Yellowstone Elk


Yellowstone provides summer range for an estimated 10,000–20,000 elk (Cervus elaphus) from 6–7 herds, most of which winter at lower elevations outside the park. These herds provide visitor enjoyment as well as revenue to local economies through hunting outside the park. As Yellowstone's most abundant ungulate, elk comprise approximately 90 percent of winter wolf kills and are an important food for bears, mountain lions, and at least 12 scavenger species, including bald eagles and coyotes. Competition with elk can influence the diet, habitat selection, and demography of bighorn sheep, bison, moose, mule deer, and pronghorn. Elk browsing and nitrogen deposition can affect vegetative production, soil fertility, and plant diversity. Thus, changes in elk abundance over space and time can alter plant and animal communities in Yellowstone. Learn More…


Quick Facts About Elk in Yellowstone

  • In the summer there are about 10,000-20,000 elk distributed between 6-7 different herds. In the winter there are around 5,000.
  • In the winter, elk migrate north to the northern range and around Gardiner, Montana and south to the Jackson Hole Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming.
  • Male (bull) weighs about 700 pounds and is about 5 feet high at the shoulder; female (cow) weighs about 500 pounds and is slightly shorter; calf is about 30 pounds at birth.
  • Bulls have antlers, which begin growing in the spring and usually drop in March or April.

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