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



Scientific Name

Cervus elaphus


  • 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).
  • Elk live in the ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forests of the park.
  • 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.
  • August to early winter is a period known as rut, when male elk compete for the attention of female elk. Bulls can be seen bellowing at each other, and sometimes antler wrestling.
  • Cow elk give birth in late spring/early summer. Offspring will stay with their mother for almost a year, at which point they are slightly smaller than an adult elk.
  • Cow elk are very protective of their calves. Do not come between a cow and its calf.
  • 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: August 1, 2017

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PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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