In winter it is not uncommon to see elk as you drive down the park road to the visitor center. This was not always the case. Based on findings in archeological sites the native elk species, Merriam's elk, had long inhabited the Jemez Mountains and Bandelier but only in small numbers. By the early 1900's hunting had eliminated these elk from the area. In the 1960's elk were brought in from places such as Rocky Mountain National Park and were reintroduced onto the Pajarito Plateau.
Elk in Bandelier
Although elk may be seen any time of the year in Bandelier, you are far more likely to see them in the lower elevations, such as along the entrance road, in the winter. Elk tend to migrate through the park with the seasons, moving from the higher cooler elevations in the summer to the lower less snowy elevations in the winter. Bugling elk in the fall and young spotted elk calves in the summer are much more likely to be seen at the higher elevations within the park or in the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Last updated: March 2, 2016