I had the good fortune to be at a mountain cabin in northern Arizona recently. This particular neighborhood is on the small side with just a handful of houses and cabins lining the creek on either side. But the property had elk visitors frequently during my stay and I was able to observe them both along the street in front of the cabin as well as on the opposite side of the creek feeding on the neighbor’s lawn and apparently loving it. They munched happily for hours.

I’d never seen elk up close before and two things struck me. First, elk are massive. The bulls are eight feet from nose to tail. With antlers that can reach a height of four feet, elk stand nine feet from front hooves to the tip of the longest antler tine. Secondly, each elk has a distinctive rump patch, which is lighter in color than the rest of the rust-beige-brown coat. You can’t miss the patch and you’ll recognize it often in the photos below. Elk are majestic.

This first 2-minute video starts with a bull elk bugle call and continues with several elk foraging. Bugling is part of the mating ritual.

This 7-minute video is a wonderful introduction to elk including a lot of bugling and other mating rituals like antler battling. Here’s a 7-minute video of a bull elk head-butting with a photographer who had hunkered down to wait it out. Don’t worry, it ends well. The photographer remained amazingly calm throughout. 

FunFacts about Elk: (Source) (Source)  

  • Basic Information, quote: The elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, in the world, and one of the largest land mammals in North America and Eastern Asia. This animal should not be confused with the still larger moose (Alces alces) to which the name “elk” applies in British English and in reference to populations in Eurasia. Elk are more than twice as heavy as mule deer and have a more reddish hue to their hair coloring, as well as large, buff-colored rump patches and smaller tails. Moose are larger and darker than elk; bulls have distinctively different antlers. Elk gather in herds, while moose are solitary. (Source)
  • The deer family includes deer, elk, mouse, reindeer, caribou and roe deer, among others.
  • Elk prefer forest and forest edge habitats.
  • Elk feed on grasses, leaves, bark and plants.
  • Male elk have large antlers they grow and shed each year. Most members of the deer family do the same.
  • During the rut, or mating season, male elk engage in the following to establish dominance: Antler wrestling, posturing and bugling. The latter is a loud series of vocalizations.
    • During the rut, male elk will, quote: rub their antlers or horns on trees or shrubs, fight with each other, wallow in mud or dust, self-anoint and herd estrus females together. These displays make the male conspicuous and aids in mate selection. (Source)
  • Self-anointing is the process of covering the body with different types of matter to acquire an odor.
  • The elk rut is during the fall. A bull elk that has established dominance over other males will acquire a harem of up to 20 females or more. Bull males are at their reproductive peak at 8 years. A bull rarely has a harem after 11 years.
  • Females have a short estrus of only a day or two. Many couplings occur to achieve pregnancy. Gestation is 240-260 days. Calves are born spotted but lose these spots by the end of summer. The female gives birth away from the herd to avoid predators, but the calf is usually ready to join the herd at 2 weeks. The mothers nurse for about 2 months at which time the calves are weaned.
  • Elk antlers and their ‘velvet’ are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. It is also used as a dietary supplement around the world. Other deer family antlers and their velvet are used as well.
  • Velvet is described here, quote: The antler is covered in a hairy, velvet-like “skin” known as velvet and its tines are rounded, because the antler has not calcified or finished developing. (Source)
    • ‘In velvet’ is the term used to describe antlers when they haven’t yet calcified.
  • Elk have light-colored rump patches and small tails.
  • Elk migrate to reach the best elevations for the season, avoiding extreme cold or extreme heat.
  • Elk live 10-13 years in the wild, but can live up to 20 or more in captivity.
  • The formation of antlers is testosterone driven. Antlers are usually shed in the winter, after the rutting season, but begin to grow again soon after.

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For a chance to win this paranormal romance bracelet, scroll to the bottom of the page and read the details for entering. You will be leaving a comment as the entry requirement. Giveaway ends midnight, Arizona time, October 4, 2018.

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Disclaimer: As with any food, herbal remedy, beverage or concept on this blog, be sure to contact your physician before eating, imbibing or using for medical purposes any substance discussed on this blog. Always err on the side of caution and keep yourself well-informed. ~ Caris Roane

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September Winners: Caroline R.M., Shonda S., Kathy H., HLP!!!

August Winners: Linda O., Jodi M., Karina H., Sheryl P. and Marie S. from Tennessee!

To be in the running for this handcrafted paranormal romance bracelet, made by yours truly, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Also, feel free to post comments on every Caris Roane blog, Monday thru Thursday this week, to increase your chances of winning this week’s prize drawing. Only one win per month allowed!

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To be entered into the giveaway drawing, please leave a comment about  Elk. Have you ever seen them in the wild? Which photo did you like best?

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45 thoughts on “Elk

  1. They are beautiful we were on a jeep trail pretty late. One time and the moon was full when they ran by about 30 of them! Soon all you saw was the white of their tails going bye!

  2. Love the pictures and enjoyed the videos. I have never seen a elk up close just in pictures. I knew their antlers got big but never knew they got that big. Those big antlers must be heavy to the elks that have them.

  3. I haven’t seen any elk in the wild, only in nature shows. It’d be interesting to see just how big they are in real life, though!

  4. Elk are amazing beautiful animals. Loved the video with the photographer getting head butted – I bed he had a headache.

    • Sheryl,
      I was mesmerized when I watched this video. It was a lesson, I think, to stay calm around wild animals. The photographer’s calm, almost matter-of-fact attitude served him extremely well. What I began to wonder, however, was whether he’d packed food in that small bag since it seemed the elk was after it specifically. Um, never take food out in the wild, if you can help it! Or if you do, leave it in the car!

      Buckeye, Arizona USA

  5. The bulls are quite majestic looking. The “racks” are quite impressive. It takes large neck muscles to hold up those antlers. Just exquisite.

  6. The videos were great and informative. When I see a big elk in the snow with a rack in velvet it reminds me so much of Christmas. The photographer was very calm because those antlers if they had gone thru the skin would be very painful. Did you notice that the elk was alert but wasn’t vicious or in an attack mode. He seemed a little curious. I’ve been up in the Smokey Mountains, I ride up there every couple of years or so if not more often, and I have yet to see an elk. If I do see one I hope to be in a car, I don’t want the headbutting experience.

    I love this bracelet, I think it is one of my favorites. Congrats to the winner!

  7. So neat, I love being able to see animals in their habitat. I had little visitors where I used to live. I’m in the country now but I hardly see any critters.

  8. I went to the Smokies last year and was driving up to Pigeon Forge. As we came back it was twilight and right on the side of the road was a huge elk. It was eating grass. Thank God I didn’t hit him. He was huge. They are a lot bigger in person. He was beautiful.

  9. Never seen Elk up close. Love the pictures of them, especially the one with the newborn. I too live in the country, but our dogs keep most critters away.

  10. Enjoyed all the pictures especially with the mothers and babies. Also loved #2-gorgeous! Haven’t seen one up and close but thanks for all the pictures. AZ

  11. One of my favorite things to do when I visit my aunt in Colorado is nature watch. Elk are frequent visitors and often take strolls through the backyards. Last spring when I there one took a break in my aunt’s back yard. It was made even better when the stray neighborhood cat came to investigate. She really loved rubbing on his antlers and he tolerated it and even lowered his head down so she could reach better.

    • Tamara,
      Isn’t that just crazy? I can’t imagine why either animal tolerated the situation. Why was the cat so comfortable approaching an elk and why did the elk allow the intrusion? Just amazing…

      Buckeye, Arizona USA

  12. I’ve not seen an elk in its natural habitat but surely would love to. I do know that barbecued elk is some of the best eating.

  13. I love all of the photos. I’ve never seen Elk in the wild but I have eaten Elk and it is very lean and tastes great.

  14. I really liked the article on the Elk. It was very informative. I live in a town called Elk Grove Village and we have a forest preserve with a herd of elk. They are fenced in and have a lot of forest area to roam. They draw a lot of visitors and you can get an up close look at these magnificent animals. People are surprised when they learn that there really Elk in Elk Grove Village.

  15. Really enjoyed your article on the Elk Deer . Had no idea they had a Harem.
    I lived in Arizona for awhile and visited Flaggstaff, absolutely beautiful .

  16. Growing up in Colorado I enjoyed regular elk sightings. In Estes Park they are treated much like town pets. The residents have named them and everything. Pretty cool. Thank you for the information.

  17. I lived in NH and VT for a bit.

    Moose are very similar.

    The reason why so many cars are in wrecks is because the moose are so freaking tall the car headlights shine through between their legs.

    You don’t see them until it’s too late.

  18. I haven’t seen them in the wild. Not sure if I’ve seen them in a zoo. The closest I know I’ve seen is caribou. There’s a farmer nearby who had some on his Christmas tree farm.

    denise from maryland

  19. Than you for all the stunning pictures. I really liked pic # 15. The only time that I’ve ever seen an Elk has been in a movie. I’m from southern Florida.

  20. I live in a two room log cabin in the American Ozarks…near the Buffalo River National Park and they have a small Elk here…although I have yet to see any personally ..they have been sighted on the mountain where I live …along with every other manner of forest creatures. Sadly 2 years ago …our Elk herd tested positive for CWD ( Chronic Wasting Disease). Breaks my heart. The local white-tail deer have it also. Sooo sad. On a brighter note…I love the Elk pictures …my fav is the one of the doe with calf.

  21. Love the pictures! They brought back many happy memories of my Dad. He was an avid, lover of the Elk. My mom even painted him a picture of a bull elk, that now hangs in my home

  22. Gorgeous and majestic!! I’ve never seen one in person, but hopefully I’ll get to yellowstone next year and be able to!!

  23. Pingback: Moose - Caris RoaneCaris Roane

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