Elk

Cervus elaphus

Front Track Size

Hind Track Size
3 - 4 5/8 in. L x 2.75 - 3 15/16 in. W 3 - 4.5 in. L x 2 5/8 - 3.5 in. W

Elk Tracks

       

 

Natural History of Elk

 

The elk is also known as the wapiti, a Shawnee word meaning white deer. When they first saw elk, the early settlers thought the animals were moose, so they called them elk which is a British word for moose.

Both bull and cow elk have a distinctive light-colored rump patch. Bulls can stand as tall as five feet at the shoulders.

Elk tracks are longer and more robust than those of deer. Scat is similar to deer scat, but much larger. It can be ĺ inch long. Elk also leave distinctive wallows where they dig into the ground with their hooves and antlers and wallow in the dirt.

Possibly pregnant elk cow on Boyes Prairie at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California. June 11, 2000. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2000.
Elk cow

During rutting season, elk will tear apart shrubs and saplings with their antlers. They also rub their antlers on small trees to remove the velvet. The antlers branch off from a main beam that can be up to five feet long.

An adult bull can weigh over 1000 pounds. They feed on plants, leaves, bark, grasses, grains, and also eat lichen. In winter, they eat buds, bark, and twigs.

Despite their large size, bulls can run 35 miles per hour. Both bulls and cows are good swimmers.

Elk are active at dusk and dawn and are frequently seen feeding in prairies during the day. Elk can also be nocturnal. They inhabit woods and pastures.

The rutting season occurs from August until November. During this time, the bulls join the cows in a herd. They are the most polygamous member of the deer family in America. A bull can collect a harem of up to 60 cows.

In the fall, rutting bulls bugle or whistle as a challenge to other bulls. The whistle can carry for long distances.

Elk herd at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. March 2000. Photo by Supervising State Park Ranger Ron Jones. Thanks Ron!

Cows will leave the herd for about a week to bear their calves. They can have one or two calves, which weigh up to 40 pounds each. Calves can walk almost immediately after birth. Mountain lions and bears prey on the calves.

At one time, "elk's teeth," the two upper canine teeth, were valued as watch fob charms. An elk will mark territory by stripping the bark from saplings and rubbing the tree with its chin.

 

elk rubbing trees on edge of prairie

Elk rubbing sign on trees at the edge of meadow in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Elk rub their antlers on trees like this regularly. The tree on the left shows evidence of bending caused by repeated use by elk as a rubbing post.

 

elk track and scat
Elk track with scats to the right
 
elk scat
Close-up of elk scats
 
Territorial rub markings on trees. These three trees all show signs of elk rubbing them as territorial marking. The tree in the background had tattered bark hanging in strips. The two in the foreground have less damage. These trees were along a well-used elk trail along the edge of a large, frequently used feeding area.
This elk day bed was also located along the edge of the feeding area. There were several of these in the vicinity. Elk day bed in the grass.
Large elk track. Elk track with penny for scale.
A smaller elk track, possibly from a cow. Small elk track.
Elk track and a millipede A millipede crossing the rounded toes of an elk track.
Elk track in deep mud. Penny for scale. Elk track with penny for size.
Elk scat. Elk scat, possibly from feeding on succulent vegetation. Scat is normally in pellet form.
Elk scat in the typical pellet form. These scats were all from one animal.

Elk scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2001.

   
bull elk
Bull elk showing light rump patch
 
two bull elk
Two bull elk in meadow
 
bull elk with tongue sticking out
Elk bull sticking out his tongue
 
three bull elk
Three bull elk
 
bull elk antlers
Bull elk with uneven antlers
 
bull elk feeding
Bull elk feeding
 
 
 

Personal Notes on Elk

Elk herd at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California. March 2000. Photo by Supervising State Park Ranger Ron Jones. Thanks Ron!

I have seen a herd of elk up close. I donít recommend trying to get close to these animals, however. I happened to accidentally stumble upon the herd feeding in an open field. I came out of the trees and there they were. The bull was aware of my presence. Bulls have been known to charge people, but this one didnít. I didnít want to disturb them, so I retreated back out of sight and took a few pictures of them. They are huge animals. The tracks I found in the area were very deep. Elk live in the region where I live. There is a herd of elk that can be seen in Californiaís Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This herd is frequently seen in Elk Prairie, near the campground. If youíre ever in this area, itís really a fantastic sight to see all those elk out there feeding together. They can be seen right from the road too.

 

 

 

Find elk posters, greeting cards, postage stamps and more in my new store.

Visit Beartracker's Nature Store online store at: www.dirt-time.com  Happy tracking!!

What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's animal tracks coloring book, T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw  prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!

 

Find other tracking products: www.zazzle.com/tracker8459*

 

Also visit these fine stores for more products of interest:

NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.

ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.

Sales from all stores give commissions to Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den, which helps keep this site online as a free service. We are celebrating ten years online this year!

 

 

 

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Copyright © 1997, 2013. Text and drawings by
Kim A. Cabrera. Elk photos by Ron Jones and Kim Cabrera.

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Copyright © 1997, 2013. Kim A. Cabrera - Desert Moon Design

Page updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013.