Aspen is our 12 year old male elk. Four more females joined our herd in the fall of 2017. Aspen’s antlers fall off every year at the end of winter, and grow back at a rate of two inches per day! His antlers require enormous amounts of calcium to grow because they are solid bone.
The American Elk is classified as “Least Concern” and are expected to be stable in population.
Before Europeans arrived in the Americas, over ten million elk were thought to have inhabited the continent.
Fur trappers and settlers reported seeing and abundance of elk within lowlands and river valleys during the early 1800’s. In the late 1800’s, their population began a sharp decline as human demands increased in association with the gold rush.
Today, we can find fewer than 100,000 in the wild. Their population took a sharp decline in the early 1900’s due to unregulated hunting, the harvesting of tree, urbanization, and human expansion into the west. Their natural flexibility for habitats and their ability to adapt to changing environments is what has allowed the American Elk to sustain a wild population in both the United States and Canada.
The American Elk roamed wild from what is now Canada, to across the entire United States; the largest range of any deer species in North America.
Today, they are mostly found in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. These massive creatures require large open areas of up to 10,000 acres to roam and patches of cover to escape from human disturbances and predators. They prefer to stay at least half a mile away from human disturbances.
The native diet consists of green and dried grasses, forbs, and woody plants. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of plants when available.
The elk is among the largest of the deer family. They are large, buff animals characterized by a light tan colored rump and a small tail. Males have distinctive antlers that resemble those of a large whitetail deer. The antlers grow in the spring and fall off each winter. Made of dense bone, elk antlers can grow to be almost 4 feet long and weigh as much as 40 pounds. Antlers are typically covered in a soft layer of vascularized skin called “velvet”. Velvet falls off in the summer months once the antlers are fully developed.