White Mountains Online

ELK. . . (Cervus elaphus)


One of the most magnificent mammals of North America, elk, or "wapiti," roam in herds through the pine forests of northern Arizona mountains. The mating call, or bugling, of bull elk in the early fall is a sound, once heard, is never forgotten.

Photo courtesy Phil Galbreath, Timberline TaxidermyDescription: One of the largest Arizona mammals (second only to bison), elk have a tawny brown body with a cream-colored rump patch and dark brown neck and head. Bull elk can reach approximately 4-5 feet in height at the shoulder and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Female elk (cows) are generally smaller, do not grow antlers, and as adults, weigh approximately 500 pounds.

Habitat: Elk prefer pine and mixed conifer forests with interspersed meadows in the summer, and open foothills and pinyon-juniper areas in winter.

Food Preferences: A grazing animal, elk feed on grasses, sedges, and new tree growth (particularly aspens and willows) as well as shrubs and weeds.

Breeding notes: Normal breeding period is September-October, with bugling starting in late August. Calves are born in May or June. The average cow elk gives birth to one calf. Bull elk guard their "harem" of cows during the breeding season, often showing displays of aggression to other bulls who attempt to attract a cow from its harem.

Predators or Enemies: Mountain Lion and Coyote

Size Individual Range: 20-30 square miles

Distribution: 6,000-10,000 in Northern Arizona

Hunting hints: It's best to scout prior to hunting season. Scouting is most successful in the early morning and late evening. Look for signs of tracks and scat. A U.S. Forest Service Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests map is essential. Use binoculars to glass a large area from a high point.

Information courtesy Arizona Game & Fish Department, Region 1-Pinetop,AZ