Elk Danger

a large, agitated bull elk with antlers, charging forward.
While they can appear calm, elk are wild animals that can be dangerous.

Rocky Mountain Elk

Elk (Cervus canadensis) are the largest member of the deer family (Cervidae) in Grand Canyon National Park. The Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis) in the park come from 303 individals introducted to the state from 1913-1928 from Yellowstone National Park. While they can appear calm, elk are wild animals that can be dangerous.



  • They have brown bodies with lighter coloration on their rump. Dark, shaggy hair covers 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).
a mother elk with her calf are crossing a road
Cow elk can becoming dangerous during calving season. NPS/photo

Elk Calving Season

  • Elk Calving Season: Late spring/early summer.
  • Calves are usually 30lbs and spotted and generally birthed in grassy areas or brush.
  • Cow elk with a calf tend exhibit more erratic, aggressive, and dangerous behavior.
  • Stay alert. Look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots: cow elk may bed their calves near buildings and cars.

an angry bull elk is bugling by a stone wall. in the background people walking along a path
An elk may try to kick you or chase you off if they feel threatened. NPS/photo

Elk Mating Season

  • Rutting Season: August to early winter is when male elk compete for the attention of female elk.
  • Bulls can be seen bellowing and rubing trees, shrubs and the ground with their antlers in order to attract cows and intimidate other bulls
  • Bulls aggressively guard their harems and will sometimes antler wrestle with other bulls.
  • When alarmed, elk raise their heads high, open their eyes wide, move stiffly and rotate their earts to listen.

How to Stay Safe

  • An elk may try to kick you or chase you off if they feel threatened.
  • Grand Canyon National Park asks that people stay at least 100 feet or about two bus lengths (30 meters) from all elk.
  • Elk can show anxiety through grinding their teeth or sending their ears back. If you come into an area with an aggressive elk that is following you or approaching you back away slowly.
  • If you see an elk calf, leave it alone. The mother is nearby; female elk rarely abandon their calf.
  • It's illegal to apporach or feed wildlife in Grand Canyon National Park. Approaching wildlife may cause stress to them and interfere with their ability to survive in the wild.
  • Watching wildlife from a distance not only protects them—it also protects you and helps "keep wildlife wild".
  • Learn more: Grand Canyon Elk (Only found on the South Rim)
  • Learn more: Wildlife Viewing and Safety at Grand Canyon.
  • Learn more: How to View and Photograph Wildlife

Last updated: March 14, 2024

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PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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