Elk are part of the deer family.


What does an elk look like?
Elk can be pale gray, tan, or brown. They have thin legs and a thick neck. Their lower fur is usually dark brown. Their rear end is light tan. Adult elk are about 5 feet high and 9 feet long.
Male elk are called bulls. They can weight more than 1000 pounds. Their huge antlers can weigh 25 pounds. Bulls lose their antlers in the spring. They grow new ones that are covered with soft velvet. Female elk are called cows. They are much smaller than bulls. Elk cows usually have two calves that are born in early summer.
An elk baby is called a calf. A calf has light brown fur and white spots. After a year, the spots are gone.
What do elk eat?

Elk eat all kinds of plants. They usually eat grass, but they also eat twigs.

Where can I find an elk?
A long time ago elk were found all over North America. Hunters killed many elk. For a while there were only a few left in the Rocky Mountains. Elk are now mainly found in western North America.
Elk move in herds. In the spring and summer they are in the high mountains. In the fall they move down the mountains. The males and female are usually separate. They travel together in the winter. Bull elk can move silently through forests at speeds up to 35 mph. Both bulls and cows are strong swimmers.
Who are the friends and enemies of an elk?
Natural enemies of elk include wolves and cougars. Bears and coyotes kill some calves and sick adults.
Many of the larger elk herds in the U.S. and Canada are overpopulated. Sometimes there's not enough food to the big herds. Some elk get sick and die.


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Note: All photographs taken with a digital camera in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (May-June 1999) and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (July 1999).

Developed by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 6/99. Updated 4/02.