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
Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.