Elk

Elk in pine forest
Bull elk in the ponderosa pine forests of the South Rim.

NPS

 

Scientific Name

Cervus elaphus

Identification

  • 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 (up to 40 lbs or 18 kg) 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).
Habitat
  • Elk live in the ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forests of the park.
  • Diet includes grasses, shrubs, and forbs.
  • Because elk are not native to northern Arizona, they are not well adapted to the dry climate. As a result, they are often dependent on human sources of water, and will drink from puddles underneath bottle-filling stations and graze on watered vegetation around homes and buildings.
  • Main predators in Grand Canyon National Park include mountains lions, bobcats and coyotes.

Behavior
  • Social Organization
    • For most of the year, cows, calves, and yearlings are in loose herds or groups while bulls are in bachelor groups or alone.
    • During Rut Season, cows and calves form smaller groups, called "harems" with one or two mature bulls.
  • When alarmed, elk raise their heads high, open their eyes wide, move stiffly and rotate their earts to listen.
  • During Elk Mating Season or Rut Season: Elk can be seen bellowing and rubbing trees, shrubs and the ground with their antlers in order to attract cows and intimidate other bulls
  • During Calving Season: Cow elk with a calf tend exhibit more erratic, aggressive, and dangerous behavior.
  • Because they spend so much time looking for water near people, the elk in the park have lost their natural fear of humans- leading to interactions that hurt both elk and people.
 
 
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Elk are one of the most dangerous animals in Grand Canyon National Park. They are not usually aggressive, but will defend themselves if people get too close. Please do not approach elk, and view them from at least 100 feet (30 m).

Last updated: September 23, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

928-638-7888

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