Elk, Elk Everywhere!

One thing we saw in Rocky Mountain National Park was elk.

Lots of elk.

Lots and lots of elk (click to view full size).

In fact, while at one point there were almost no elk left in this area – in 1913 and 1914 about fifty were transplanted from Yellowstone to repopulate them – today there seems to be a herd grazing in every meadow you pass. Because their natural predators, such as wolves and grizzly bears, have been extirpated from the park and its surroundings, their numbers have exploded dramatically. In order to protect sensitive riparian areas from overgrazing, the park has erected fences to create elk “exclosures” around some of the streams. They’ve also culled individuals periodically.

The park’s elk population is closely studied and monitored, and we spotted a couple with radio collars while we were there. One thing they keep close tabs on is the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease, a relative of “mad cow” disease that affects species in the deer family.

These weren’t the only large mammals we saw on our trip – we also spotted several moose, and from a distance a herd of mountain big-horned sheep. No black bears, but I should have plenty of chances to see those once I arrive in Wisconsin!

4 thoughts on “Elk, Elk Everywhere!”

  1. Hi Rebecca- Yep, I visited RMNP park the last week of June- I think your elk write-up captures what I saw and learned too- there are ALOT of elk in the park and the surrounding areas. It reminds me of the white-tailed deer here in Ohio- once rare, now common.


  2. There has been a lot of concern about elk over population. In many areas there is little or no understory in the forests, the grass lands are over grazed, and disease, such as CWD, is easily spread. Where predators have been reintroduced there has been a tremendous rebound in plant community dynamics and associated wildlife, but met with great resistance from ranchers and those who fear predators will impact their livelihood. It is a conundrum for sure.

    Great post! Thank you.

  3. Ooh, Bullwinkles! I saw some when I visited Yosemite. Wait, is a moose the same as an elk? They are in Europe, but not so sure about the US. Would hate to insult a cartoon character :)

    I wanted to see bears, but I was assured by friends I *didn’t* want to see them up close in the wild. I never did, so perhaps that was for the best.

    1. Moose and elk are NOT the same thing in North America. Moose here refers to Alces alces, which is the same animal that’s called an elk in Europe. American elk are Cervus canadensis, very similar to what are called “red deer” in Europe. We saw both on this particular trip, although I didn’t really get any great photos of moose. (I had to look them up on Wikipedia to be sure of this before I answered you – it’s rather confusing!)

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