The Elk

The elk is a member of the deer family. Adult males weigh up to 1,000 pounds. James Reed, who saw one for the first time in 1846, reported: "My first appearance on the wilds of the Nebraska as a hunter, was on the 12th (June) when I returned to camp with a splendid two year old elk, the first only only one killed by the caravan as yet. I picked the elk I killed, out of eight of the largest I ever beheld, and I do really believe there was one in the gang as large as the horse I rode." Native Americans hunted the elk for meat. Another pioneer, Edwin Bryant, commented: "The flesh of the elk is coarse, but this was tender, fat, and of good flavor."

Stephen Powers argues in his book, Tribes of California (1876) that Elk were used for making moccasins: "Most California Indians go now, and always have gone, barefoot; but some few were industrious enough to make for themselves moccasins of a very rude sort, more properly sandals. Their method of tanning was by means of brain-water. They dried the brains of deer and other animals, reduced it to powder, put the powder into water, and soaked the skins therein - a process which answered tolerably well. The graining was done with flints. Elk-hide, being very thick, made the best sandals."

Thick elk hides were also turned into robes by members of tribes such as the Cree and Pawnee. Tribes along the coasts used elk bones and antlers in their harpoons and other fishing equipment. Other tribes used the skin to make tipi covers and its teeth for ornaments. Over hunted, by the end of the 19th century they were only found in large numbers in the Rocky Mountains.

My first appearance on the wilds of the Nebraska as a hunter, was on the 12th (June) when I returned to camp with a splendid two year old elk, the first only only one killed by the caravan as yet. I picked the elk I killed, out of eight of the largest I ever beheld, and I do really believe there was one in the gang as large as the horse I rode.

Mr. Reed shot a large elk to-day, and brought the carcass into camp. The flesh of the elk is coarse, but this was tender, fat, and of good flavor.

On board the Steamer Twilight - 450 miles below Fort Benton... I believe I have seen 50,000 Buffaloes within the last two weeks. They are continually swimming across the River in droves and very often they get caught in the current and carried right down by the boat so close that they are often struck by the wheels. The deck hands can take a lasso and catch them in the water any day... You would laugh to see the old mountain men cut the stones and tongue out of a Bull as soon as he is down. They are considered the choicest parts. Deer, Antelope, wolves. Bears and Elk are also very abundant on the shores. Indeed all kinds of game is so abundant that it has ceased to have any interest.

The air is so bracing that we all feel equal to anything. Mr. Struble has already killed a fine "spike" elk for camp eating. We camped in a bunch, and we have camp stoves so that in case of rain or snow we can stay indoors. Just now we have a huge camp fire around which we sit in the evening, telling stories, singing, and eating nuts of the pinon pine. Then too the whole country is filled with those tiny little strawberries. We have to gather all day to get as much as we can eat, but they are delicious. Yesterday we had pie made of wild currants; there are a powerful lot of them here. There is also a little blueberry that the men say is the Rocky Mountain huckleberry. The grouse are feeding on them. Altogether this is one of the most delightful places imaginable. The men are not very anxious to begin hunting. A little delay means cooler weather for the meat. It is cool up here, but going back across the desert it will be warm for a while yet. Still, when they see elk every day it is a great temptation to try a shot.

Black Elk

As a young member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribe in 1876, Black Elk witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn, in which Sioux forces led by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse dealt a crushing defeat to a battalion of U.S. soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer. In the 1880s, Black Elk toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show before returning to the Pine Ridge Reservation established for the Oglala in South Dakota. After the massacre of more than 200 Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek in late 1890 effectively put an end to Native American military resistance in the West, Black Elk remained at Pine Ridge, where he later converted to Christianity. In 1930, he began telling his story to the writer John Neihardt the result was 𠇋lack Elk Speaks” (1932), a vivid and affecting chronicle of Lakota history and spiritual traditions.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

It All Began With the Jolly Corks. Starting as as a group of actors and entertainers bent on having fun AND avoiding a New York Excise tax in 1867 (Sundays were the ‘dry’ day), this convivial group called themselves the Jolly Corks (for a clever trick with corks they performed on the uninitiated to win rounds of drinks). That same year as membership grew, some members saw the vision to become more helpful in the community. Alas, two feuding factions split the group over different philosophies. Fortunately, the latter faction moved forward with their new ideals and in February of 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was chartered–and with a great new spirit and direction, began to help Veterans, Scouting, Scholarships and more–wherever Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love were needed!

The Social Side of the Grand Lodge Convention (1936)

An article from the Elks Magazine describing the 1936 Grand Lodge Convention in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lodge #99 Newsletter, April, 1929

Newsletter of the Los Angeles Elks - April, 1929. (PDF format)

My Membership Card in the Elks, by Robert Barrett

An inspiring article titled "My Membership Card in the Elks," by Robert Barrett, chairman of the Good of the Order Committee, from the January, 1932 Elks Magazine.

An Authentic History of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (1910)

The first Elks History book by Charles Ellis, published in 1910. (PDF format, 63MB)

Charles Vivian Biography

A Charles Vivian biography, written by his widow.

Does Anyone Listen?

The ideals of the Elks by Brother Tom Williams of Raleigh Elks Lodge.

A Brief History of the Origins of the Order of Elks

The object of this brief History is to set forth the real facts of the Origin of the Order of ELKS.

The History of the Order of Elks

A reprinted story from the Massachusetts State Newspaper in the fall of 2003.

The Elks Uncorked

December 1980 | Volume 32, Issue 1

Past GERs

Photo gallery of every former GER going back to 1871.

Elks 11 O'clock Toasts

Where did the 11 O'clock toast come from? Here's the history of the toast as well as an archive of other Elks toasts.

Traditions and History of BPOE

The youth-oriented, charitable, and community service programs of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks are all-encompassing.

The Elk - History

This website will hopefully serve as a visual journey through the rich history of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks from inception in 1868 until the late 1940's.

  • For the the Original Jolly corks toast click here for a text file.
  • Click here for more toasts on the website.
  • Click here for view of cover of 1908 toast book.
  • Click here for Elks Magazine 1931 page showing radio stations around the country who featured the Toast at 11 p.m. on Monday nights.
  • Also, there are a number of 11 o'clock toast postcards, some humorous that are saved here.

  • Major General Frederick Funston. Medal of Honor winner, Commanding General of Pershing, Eisenhower, Patton and MacArthur. Some say savior of San Francisco from fire after 1906 earthquake. Click here for the remarkable adventures of this courageous brother Elk. He was presented with a gold life membership card in 1902 by his home lodge Iola KS 569.
  • General John Pershing. Click here for more on this great Elk who In return for his subsequent WWI victories, President Wilson granted him the right to choose the specific time for the Armistice, and as loyal and upright Elk, Pershing chose the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 an Elk imprint on the U.S.
  • For an extensive list of famous politicians click here. Also, check out who's who at NY's 66th anniversary meeting. Click here for more on that.
  • Hollywood and the Elks! Check out the official program for the 1936 Movie pageant. Anybody who was anybody in the motion picture business participated. Click here for the official 16 page program. File is an 8 meg Adobe pdf file. Just in

Some great old Grand Lodge convention pictures. Click here for 100+ great old pictures! The Philadelphia 1907 convention alone has 33!

  • Alabama(9), Arizona(11), Alaska(6), Arkansas(6)
  • California(70), Colorado(34), Connecticut(18)
  • Delaware (1)
  • Florida(31)
  • Georgia(13)
  • Hawaii(5)
  • Indiana(53), Illinois(43), Iowa(39), Idaho(7)
  • Kansas(21), Kentucky(7)
  • Louisiana(11)
  • Maine(10),Maryland(5),Mass(19), Michigan(35), Minnesota(14), Missouri(22), Mississippi(10), Montana(15)
  • New Hampshire(6), New York(72), North Carolina(30),Nebraska(11), New Jersey(47), North Dakota(12), New Mexico(7), Nevada (5)
  • Ohio(47), Oklahoma(19), Oregon(24)
  • Pennsylvania(89)
  • Rhode Island(5)
  • South Dakota(12), South Carolina(4)
  • Tennessee(6), Texas(21)
  • Utah(4)
  • Vermont (2)
  • Virginia(22)
  • Washington(23), Washington D.C.Wisconsin(24),West Virginia(18) Wyoming(7)

Elks Magazine first issue was June 1922. To see select pages of this wonderful magazines first edition click here. Old Elks Magazines for sale. My goal is to have every Elks Magazine from June 1922 through Dec 1945. So far I am short 35 magazines but in the process of buying through Ebay, I also have 40+ extra magazines. I'm looking to s ell the extras or trade for what I'm missing . For that list, please click here. It's in adobe file format and was last update 1/18/14. To contact me email [email protected]

Elk Music. Most will be surprised to know that early Elks Lodges had marching bands. At grand Lodge conventions, new music was written. You can click here to see the few covers of music scores I have as well as download some of the sheet music. Also, some record covers are pictured too. Several downloadable old songs are available as well including Leo Wheet's Grand March which should be playing in the background if you are using internet explorer to view this page.

Also, if anyone has an old Edison player (the music is on a medium blue roll that looks a lot like a big hair curler) I have an old "Elk's March" and "Elks Funeral Odes" recordings and would love to have that recorded and transferred into an mpg.

Elks Home in Bedford Virginia. Click Elks Home In Virginia for a few pictures(87) and here for pictures on this site. Sadly, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has sold the elks Home for $4.5 million. Over 80 elderly and frail Elks will be now under the care of a for-profit corporation and this 200 acre beautiful property that took a 100 years to cobble together will more then likely be split into tracts for housing developments. That was effective September 1, 2014. The new name will be "English Meadows Elks Home campus."

For the National Historic Home 2008 application which lists a wealth of information of this century long crown jewel of Elkdom go to this link.

Elks pictures that are large enough to reprint. Include Elks Creed, Best People on Earth, the Charlotte Elks lodge degree team that installed numerous lodges back in the 1900's. Two very neat WWII advertisements encouraging Elks to help the cause and a gorgeous postcard of an elk and a mermaid giving the 11 o'clock toast. Click here to review and download.

The Elks Veteran Memorial is a crown jewel of the Order. For more on this most impressive building the main Elks site has an extensive portion of its website dedicated to it. Click here to go to that site.

Flag Day. Click here to see a picture of a large Flag Day resolution. Appears to be an original color poster from the Grand Lodge 1919 convention. Bought by PDDGER Ray Paradowski while antiquing in Montana and donated to the Salisbury Elks Lodge. Large file at 300k.

List of Elks Lodges including defunct lodges can be found by clicking here for a word document. (updated 1/11/11) Thanks to Brother Norm Donovan of Los Banos, Ca Elks #2510 for this update. However, there is quite a bit of information that he is missing on installation and merger dates. Brother Norm asks you to email him at [email protected] and let him know if you see something amiss in his list.

State association beginnings- Click here for Mike Kelly's list. (also at Virginia elks website)

  • The May 1926 Elks Magazine reported that a book entitled "The Legends of the Roving Brothers" was written and received there. It describes the adventures of the Secretary to the Grand Exalted Ruler, John Kaufman of Columbus, OH and 5 other Elks who traveled from Cleveland to Portland OR for the 1925 convention. This is a most interesting 100 page travelog complete with many great pictures. This adventure lasted 16 weeks! Excerpts from this book can be viewed Here
    Check this last page out. Major cool
  • Also, "from Gardens of Friendship" written perhaps by the GER is described in March 1935 Elks Magazine. Apparently, it was an attempt to illustrate all the good works of the local lodges.
  • Another extremely rare book is Tour Through the West With the Jersey City Elks, No. 211 by Van Loan, Ida A. This was published in 1910 and combined several weeks of travel by train around the country. The main purpose was to attend the convention in Los Angeles in July of 1909. Reproductions can be bought at . Downloaded at google books or by clicking here.
  • Another travel book was published and was a duplicate of the 1909 trip except there were THREE trains this time. Again, the convention was in Los Angeles and this book is a lot more concise, has more pictures in it and a lot less of a tedious read. It's titled "Seeing America with the Elks"and written by Abraham Lincoln Weinstock. probably has a reproduction you can buy. A couple of stats from the railroad boys " Largest organized long distant movement ever made" "8773 miles traveled", "22,583 meals were served". simply amazing.
  • The Heart of Elkdomby Walter F Meier of the Seattle Lodge. A combination of 52 articles that this great Elk assembled sometime in the early 20's. I could only find 3 copies on a search of the Library of congress.
  • In Colorado, the The Rocky Mountain Herald included Elks news in it's 1907 weekly newspaper. I have several but they are too big to scan.
  • Another was "The American Elk" published in Detroit MI by Brother Williams. Also, the Iowa Elk was published in the early 1900's. Others still being published in 1928 were the Pennsylvania Elk, The Pacific Coast Elk, The Eastern Elk, The Jolly Elk, The Traveling Elk and the National Elks' Horn.
  • The California Elk weekly newspaper. Click here for August 3rd, 1901 Issue. Great articles about the Milwaukee convention, the Honolulu Elks Lodge and other Lodges. In Adobe pdf.
  • The Southwestern Elk, a monthly journal was authorized by Grand Lodge 1909. 9 x 12" @ $1.50 per year. Published in Dallas TX. Hugh S Fy to be editor.
  • The Elks-Antler was published initially to help two groups of Elks reconcile their differences growing out of the schism that threatened to tear the growing Order apart back in 1895. This publication was founded in June of that year. It was published from then until Jan 1927 upon the retiring of the publisher's wife, Mrs Arthur Moreland. He was a Grand Secretary for 8 yerms. I don't know where it was published but I suspect it was in NY. (info found in Elks mag, April 1927)
  • Click on the link to the April 1929 Newsletter for the Los Angeles Elks #99. At 3.6 meg this pdf file copy is a wonderful look at #99 in its hay day. Before the Depression, they had 7300 members, an amazing assortment of activities for elks and their families to do and were preparing to host the 1929 Grand Lodge convention. To see a short video from an architect's view of this magnificent
  • Lodge building click the below.

Elks Membership Campaigns-some really special membership recruitment efforts that apparently were very successful. Like Atlanta's 5000 campaign where in one setting, 1200 candidates were initiated. Total crowd of Elks- 7000! Click here.

Amusing, intriguing and some incredulous odds and end things you should really know!. click here

Links to an archive of major books and important or interesting articles of events on this site can be found here.


By the 17th century, Alces alces (called "elk" in Europe) had long been extirpated from the British Isles, and the meaning of the word "elk" to English-speakers became rather vague, acquiring a meaning similar to "large deer". [3] English-speaking people arriving in North America during the European colonization of the Americas lacked familiarity with Alces alces on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, but familiar with the smaller red deer (Cervus elaphus) of the British Isles, thought that the larger North American C. canadensis resembled the even larger Alces alces, and thus gave to it the name "elk".

The name wapiti is from the Shawnee and Cree word waapiti, meaning "white rump". [4] There is a subspecies of wapiti in Mongolia called the Altai wapiti (Cervus canadensis sibiricus), also known as the Altai maral. [5] The Asian subspecies are sometimes referred to as the maral, but this name applies primarily to the Caspian red deer (Cervus elaphus maral), a subspecies of red deer.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology of the word "elk" is "of obscure history". [6] In Classical Antiquity, the European Alces alces was known as Ancient Greek: ἄλκη , romanized: álkē and Latin: alces, words probably borrowed from a Germanic language or another language of northern Europe. [6] By the 8th century, during the Early Middle Ages, the moose was known as Old English: elch, elh, eolh, derived from the Proto-Germanic: *elho-, *elhon- and possibly connected with the Old Norse: elgr. [6] Later, the species became known in Middle English as elk, elcke, or elke, appearing in the Latinized form alke, with the spelling alce borrowed directly from Latin: alces. [6] [7] Noting that elk "is not the normal phonetic representative" of the Old English elch, the Oxford English Dictionary derives elk from Middle High German: elch, itself from Old High German: elaho. [6] [3]

The American Cervus canadensis was recognized as a relative of the red deer (Cervus elaphus), of Europe, and so Cervus canadensis was referred to as "red deer". [8] Richard Hakluyt, in his 1584 Discourse Concerning Western Planting, mentioned the continent's plentiful red deer (Early Modern English: greate store of . redd dere ). [8] Similarly, John Smith's 1616 A Description of New England referred to red deer. [8] Sir William Talbot's 1672 English translation of John Lederer's Latin Discoveries likewise called the species "Red Deer", but noted in parentheses that they were "for their unusual largeness improperly termed Elks by ignorant people". [8] Both Thomas Jefferson's 1785 Notes on the State of Virginia and David Bailie Warden's 1816 Statistical, Political, and Historical Account of the United States used "red deer" to refer to Cervus canadensis. [8]

Members of the genus Cervus (and hence early relatives or possible ancestors of the elk) first appear in the fossil record 25 million years ago, during the Oligocene in Eurasia, but do not appear in the North American fossil record until the early Miocene. [9] The extinct Irish elk (Megaloceros) was not a member of the genus Cervus but rather the largest member of the wider deer family (Cervidae) known from the fossil record. [10]

Until recently, red deer and elk were considered to be one species, Cervus elaphus, [5] [11] with over a dozen subspecies. But mitochondrial DNA studies conducted in 2004 on hundreds of samples from red deer and elk subspecies and other species of the Cervus deer family, strongly indicate that elk, or wapiti, should be a distinct species, namely Cervus canadensis. [12] DNA evidence validates that elk are more closely related to Thorold's deer and even sika deer than they are to the red deer. [12]

Elk and red deer produce fertile offspring in captivity, and the two species have freely inter-bred in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. The cross-bred animals have resulted in the disappearance of virtually all pure elk blood from the area. [13] Key morphological differences that distinguish C. canadensis from C. elaphus are the former's wider rump patch and paler-hued antlers. [14]

Subspecies Edit

There are numerous subspecies of elk described, with six from North America and four from Asia, although some taxonomists consider them different ecotypes or races of the same species (adapted to local environments through minor changes in appearance and behavior). Populations vary in antler shape and size, body size, coloration and mating behavior. DNA investigations of the Eurasian subspecies revealed that phenotypic variation in antlers, mane and rump patch development are based on "climatic-related lifestyle factors". [15] Of the six subspecies of elk known to have inhabited North America in historical times, four remain, including the Roosevelt's (C. canadensis roosevelti), tule (C. canadensis nannodes), Manitoban (C. canadensis manitobensis) and Rocky Mountain elk (C. canadensis nelsoni). [16] The eastern elk (C. canadensis canadensis) and Merriam's elk (C. canadensis merriami) subspecies have been extinct for at least a century. [17] [18]

Four subspecies described in Asia include the Altai wapiti (C. canadensis sibiricus) and the Tianshan wapiti (C. canadensis songaricus). Two distinct subspecies found in China, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula [19] and Siberia are the Manchurian wapiti (C. canadensis xanthopygus) and the Alashan wapitis (C. canadensis alashanicus). The Manchurian wapiti is darker and more reddish in coloration than the other populations. The Alashan wapiti of north central China is the smallest of all subspecies, has the lightest coloration and is the least studied. [13]

Recent DNA studies suggest that there are no more than three or four subspecies of elk. All American forms, aside from possibly the tule and Roosevelt's elk, seem to belong to one subspecies (Cervus canadensis canadensis). Even the Siberian elk (Cervus canadensis sibiricus) are more or less identical to the American forms and therefore may belong to this subspecies, too. However, the Manchurian wapiti (Cervus canadensis xanthopygus) is clearly distinct from the Siberian forms, but not distinguishable from the Alashan wapiti. The Chinese forms the Sichuan deer, Kansu red deer, and Tibetan red deer belong also to the wapitis and were not distinguishable from each other by mitochondrial DNA studies. [12] These Chinese subspecies are sometimes treated as a distinct species, namely the Central Asian red deer (Cervus wallichi), which also includes the Kashmir stag. [20]

    North American group
      (C. c. roosevelti) (C. c. nannodes) (C. c. manitobensis) (C. c. nelsoni) (C. c. canadensis extinct) (C. c. merriami extinct)
      (C. c. sibiricus) (C. c. songaricus) (C. c. xanthopygus) (C. c. alashanicus)
      (C. c. macneilli) (C. c. kansuensis) (C. c. wallichii) (C. c. hanglu)

    Illustration of eastern elk

    Illustration of Altai wapiti

    Illustration of Manchurian wapiti

    Illustration of Kashmir stag

    Elk have thick bodies with slender legs and short tails. They have a shoulder height of 0.75–1.5 m (2 ft 6 in–4 ft 11 in) with a nose-to-tail length of 1.6–2.7 m (5 ft 3 in–8 ft 10 in). Males are larger and weigh 178–497 kg (392–1,096 lb) while females weigh 171–292 kg (377–644 lb). [21] The largest of the subspecies is the Roosevelt elk (C. c. roosevelti), found west of the Cascade Range in the U.S. states of California, Oregon and Washington, and in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Roosevelt elk have been reintroduced into Alaska, where the largest males are estimated to weigh up to 600 kg (1,300 lb). [22] More typically, male Roosevelt elk weigh around 318 to 499 kg (701 to 1,100 lb), while females weigh 261 to 283 kg (575 to 624 lb). [23] Male tule elk weigh 204–318 kg (450–701 lb) while females weigh 170–191 kg (375–421 lb). [24]

    Antlers are made of bone, which can grow at a rate of 2.5 centimeters (0.98 in) per day. While actively growing, a soft layer of highly vascularized skin known as velvet covers and protects them. This is shed in the summer when the antlers have fully developed. [25] Bull elk typically have around six tines on each antler. The Siberian and North American elk carry the largest antlers while the Altai wapiti has the smallest. [13] Roosevelt bull antlers can weigh 18 kg (40 lb). [25] The formation and retention of antlers are testosterone-driven. [26] In late winter and early spring, the testosterone level drops, which causes the antlers to shed. [27]

    During the fall, elk grow a thicker coat of hair, which helps to insulate them during the winter. [28] Both male and female North American elk grow thin neck manes females of other subspecies may not. [29] : 37 By early summer, the heavy winter coat has been shed. Elk are known to rub against trees and other objects to help remove hair from their bodies. All elk have small and clearly defined rump patches with short tails. They have different coloration based on the seasons and types of habitats, with gray or lighter coloration prevalent in the winter and a more reddish, darker coat in the summer. Subspecies living in arid climates tend to have lighter colored coats than do those living in forests. [28] Most have lighter yellow-brown to orange-brown coats in contrast to dark brown hair on the head, neck, and legs during the summer. Forest-adapted Manchurian and Alashan wapitis have red or reddish-brown coats with less contrast between the body coat and the rest of the body during the summer months. Calves are born spotted, as is common with many deer species, and lose them by the end of summer. Adult Manchurian wapiti may retain a few orange spots on the back of their summer coats until they are older. This characteristic has also been observed in the forest-adapted European red deer. [13]

    Elk are among the most gregarious deer species. [29] : 52 During the summer group size can reach 400 individuals. [21] For most of the year, adult males and females are segregated into different herds. Female herds are larger while bulls form small groups and may even travel alone. Young bulls may associate with older bulls or female groups. Male and female herds come together during the mating season, which may begin in late August. [29] : 75, 82 During this time, bulls enter the rut and compete for females to include in their harems. [29] : 92 Males try to intimidate rivals by vocalizing and displaying with their antlers. [29] : 109 If neither bull backs down, they engage in antler wrestling, sometimes sustaining serious injuries. [30] Bulls also dig holes in the ground called wallows, in which they urinate and roll their bodies. [31] [30] A male elk's urethra points upward so that urine is sprayed almost at a right angle to the penis. [32] The urine soaks into their hair and gives them a distinct smell which attracts cows. [30]

    Dominant bulls follow groups of cows during the rut from August into early winter. A bull will defend his harem of 20 cows or more from competing bulls and predators. [33] A bull interacts with cows in his harem in two ways: herding and courtship. When a female wanders too far away from the harem's range, the male will rush ahead of her, block her path and aggressively rush her back to the harem. Herding behavior is accompanied a stretched out and lowered neck and the antlers laid back. A bull may get violent and hit the cow with his antlers. During courtship, the bull is more peaceful and approaches her with his head and antlers raised. The male signals his intention to test the female for sexual receptivity by flicking his tongue. If not ready, a cow will lower her head and weave from side to side while opening and closing her mouth. The bull will stop in response in order not to scare her. [29] : 100–101 Otherwise, the bull will copiously lick the female and then mount her. [29] : 115

    Younger, less dominant bulls, known as "spike bulls" because their antlers have not yet forked, will harass unguarded cows. These bulls are impatient and will not perform any courtship rituals and will continue to pursue a female even when she signals him to stop. As such, they are less reproductively successful, and a cow may stay close to the big bull to avoid harassment. Dominant bulls are intolerant of spike bulls and will chase them away from their harems. [29] : 100–105

    Bulls have a loud, high-pitched, whistle-like vocalization known as bugling, which advertise the male's fitness over great distances. Unusual for a vocalization produced by a large animal, buglings can reach a frequency of 4000 Hz. This is achieved by blowing air from the glottis through the nasal cavities. Elk can produce deeper pitched (150 Hz) sounds using the larynx. [34]

    Reproduction and lifecycle Edit

    Female elk have a short estrus cycle of only a day or two, and matings usually involve a dozen or more attempts. By the autumn of their second year, females can produce one and, very rarely, two offspring. Reproduction is most common when cows weigh at least 200 kilograms (440 lb). [35] The gestation period is 240 to 262 days and the offspring weigh between 15 and 16 kilograms (33 and 35 lb). When the females are near to giving birth, they tend to isolate themselves from the main herd, and will remain isolated until the calf is large enough to escape predators. [30]

    Calves are born spotted, as is common with many deer species, and they lose their spots by the end of summer. After two weeks, calves are able to join the herd, and are fully weaned at two months of age. [21] Elk calves are as large as an adult white-tailed deer by the time they are six months old. [36] Elk will leave their natal (birth) ranges before they are three years old. Males disperse more often than females, as adult cows are more tolerant of female offspring from previous years. [37] Elk live 20 years or more in captivity but average 10 to 13 years in the wild. In some subspecies that suffer less predation, they may live an average of 15 years in the wild. [38]

    Migration Edit

    As is true for many species of deer, especially those in mountainous regions, elk migrate into areas of higher altitude in the spring, following the retreating snows, and the opposite direction in the fall. Hunting pressure impacts migration and movement. [39] During the winter, they favor wooded areas for the greater availability of food to eat. Elk do not appear to benefit from thermal cover. [40] The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem elk herds comprise as many as 40,000 individuals. [41] During the spring and fall, they take part in the longest elk migration in the continental U.S., traveling as much as 168 mi (270 km) between summer and winter ranges. [42] The Teton herd consists of between 9,000 and 13,000 elk and they spend winters on the National Elk Refuge, having migrated south from the southern portions of Yellowstone National Park and west from the Shoshone and Bridger–Teton National Forests. [42]

    Diet Edit

    Elk are ruminants and therefore have four-chambered stomachs. Unlike white-tailed deer and moose, which are chiefly browsers, elk are similar to cattle in that they are primarily grazers. But like other deer, they also browse. [43] [44] Elk have a tendency to do most of their feeding in the mornings and evenings, seeking sheltered areas in between feedings to digest. Their diets vary somewhat depending on the season, with native grasses being a year-round supplement, tree bark being consumed in winter, and forbs and tree sprouts during the summer. Elk consume an average of 9.1 kilograms (20 lb) of vegetation daily. [45] Particularly fond of aspen sprouts which rise in the spring, elk have had some impact on aspen groves which have been declining in some regions where elk exist. [46] Range and wildlife managers conduct surveys of elk pellet groups to monitor populations and resource use. [47] [48]

    Predators and defensive tactics Edit

    Predators of elk include wolves, coyotes, brown and black bears, cougars, and Siberian tigers. [49] [50] Coyote packs mostly prey on elk calves, though they can sometimes take a winter- or disease-weakened adult. [51] In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes Yellowstone National Park, bears are the most significant predators of calves [52] while healthy bulls have never been recorded to be killed by bears and such encounters can be fatal for bears. [53] The killing of cows in their prime is more likely to affect population growth than the killing of bulls or calves. [54]

    Elk may avoid predation by switching from grazing to browsing. Grazing puts an elk in the compromising situation of being in an open area with its head down, leaving it unable to see what is going on in the surrounding area. [55] Living in groups also lessens the risk of an individual falling to predation. Large bull elk are less vulnerable and can afford to wander alone, while cows stay in larger groups for protection for their calves. [29] : 75 Bulls are more vulnerable to predation by wolves in late winter, after they have been weakened by months of chasing females and fighting. [54] Males that have recently lost their antlers are more likely to be preyed upon. [56]

    Parasites and disease Edit

    At least 53 species of protist and animal parasites have been identified in elk. [57] Most of these parasites seldom lead to significant mortality among wild or captive elk. Parelaphostrongylus tenuis (brainworm or meningeal worm) is a parasitic nematode known to affect the spinal cord and brain tissue of elk and other species, leading to death. [58] The definitive host is the white-tailed deer, in which it normally has no ill effects. Snails and slugs, the intermediate hosts, can be inadvertently consumed by elk during grazing. [59] The liver fluke Fascioloides magna and the nematode Dictyocaulus viviparus are also commonly found parasites that can be fatal to elk. [60] Since infection by either of these parasites can be lethal to some commercial livestock species, their presence in elk herds is of some concern.

    Chronic wasting disease, transmitted by a misfolded protein known as a prion, affects the brain tissue in elk, and has been detected throughout their range in North America. First documented in the late 1960s in mule deer, the disease has affected elk on game farms and in the wild in a number of regions. Elk that have contracted the disease begin to show weight loss, changes in behavior, increased watering needs, excessive salivation and urinating and difficulty swallowing, and at an advanced stage, the disease leads to death. No risks to humans have been documented, nor has the disease been demonstrated to pose a threat to domesticated cattle. [61] In 2002, South Korea banned the importation of elk antler velvet due to concerns about chronic wasting disease. [62]

    The Gram-negative bacterial disease brucellosis occasionally affects elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the only place in the U.S. where the disease is still known to exist. In domesticated cattle, brucellosis causes infertility, abortions, and reduced milk production. It is transmitted to humans as undulant fever, producing influenza-like symptoms that may last for years. Though bison are more likely to transmit the disease to other animals, elk inadvertently transmitted brucellosis to horses in Wyoming and cattle in Idaho. Researchers are attempting to eradicate the disease through vaccinations and herd-management measures, which are expected to be successful. [63] Nevertheless, research has been ongoing since 2002, and a successful vaccine has yet to be developed as of 2016 [update] . [64]

    A recent necropsy study of captive elk in Pennsylvania attributed the cause of death in 33 of 65 cases to either gastrointestinal parasites (21 cases, primarily Eimeria sp. and Ostertagia sp.) or bacterial infections (12 cases, mostly pneumonia). [65]

    Elk hoof disease was first noticed in the state of Washington in the late 1990s in the Cowlitz River basin, with sporadic reports of deformed hooves. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly with increased sightings throughout southwest Washington and into Oregon. The disease is characterised by deformed, broken, or missing hooves and leads to severe lameness in elk. The primary cause is not known, but it is associated with treponeme bacteria, which are known to cause digital dermatitis in commercial livestock. The mode of transmission is also not known, but it appears to be highly contagious among elk. Studies are being undertaken by government departments to determine how to halt or eliminate the disease. [66] [67] [68]

    The elk ranges from central Asia though to Siberia and east Asia and in North America. They can be found in open deciduous woodlands, boreal forests, upland moors, mountainous areas and grasslands. [1] The habitat of Siberian elk in Asia is similar to that of the Rocky Mountain subspecies in North America. During the Late Pleistocene their range was much more extensive, being distributed across Eurasia, with remains being found as far west as France. These populations are most closely related to modern Asian populations of the elk. Their range collapsed at the start of the Holocene, because they were specialized to cold periglacial tundra-steppe habitat. This was replaced largely by closed forest where red deer outcompeted the elk. Relictual populations survived into the early Holocene in southern Sweden and the Alps, where the environment remained favorable. [69]

    Introductions Edit

    The Rocky Mountain elk subspecies was reintroduced by hunter-conservation organizations in the Appalachian region of the eastern U.S., where the now extinct eastern elk once lived. [70] Since the late 1990s, elk were reintroduced and recolonized in the states of Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. [71] In 2017, a male elk, likely from the Smoky Mountains population, was sighted in South Carolina for the first time in nearly 300 years. [72] In 2015 Elk have also been reintroduced in a number of other states, including Pennsylvania, [73] [74] Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, [75] and introduced to the islands of Etolin and Afognak in Alaska. [76] Reintroduction of the elk into Ontario began in the early 20th century and is ongoing with limited success. [77] As of 2014, population figures for all North American subspecies are around one million. Prior to the European colonization of North America, there were an estimated 10 million elk on the continent. [78]

    Elk and red deer were introduced to Argentina in the early 20th century. [79] There they are now considered an invasive species, encroaching on Argentinian ecosystems where they compete for food with the indigenous Chilean huemul and other herbivores. [80] This negative impact on native animal species has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to identify the elk as one of the world's 100 worst invaders. [81]

    The introduction of deer to New Zealand began in the middle of the 19th century, and current populations are primarily European red deer, with only 15 percent being elk. [82] There is significant hybridization of elk with the more numerous red deer to the extent that pure elk may no longer exist in the wild in New Zealand. These deer have had an adverse impact on forest regeneration of some plant species, as they consume more palatable species, which are replaced with those that are less favored by the elk. The long-term impact will be an alteration of the types of plants and trees found, and in other animal and plant species dependent upon them. [83] As in Chile and Argentina, the IUCN has declared that red deer and elk populations in New Zealand are an invasive species. [81]

    Elk have played an important role in the cultural history of a number of peoples. Neolithic petroglyphs from Asia depict antler-less female elk, which have been interpreted as symbolizing life and sustenance. They were also frequently overlaid with boats and associated with rivers, suggesting they also represented paths to the underworld. [84] Petroglyphs of elk were carved into cliffs by the Anasazi of the southwestern U.S. hundreds of years ago. [85] The elk was of particular importance to the Lakota and played a spiritual role in their society. The male elk was admired for its ability to attract mates, and Lakota men will play a courting flute imitating a bugling elk to attract women. Men used elks' antlers as love charms and wore clothes decorated with elk images. [86]

    The Rocky Mountain elk is the official state animal for Utah. [87] An image of an elk and a moose appear on the state seal and flag of Michigan. [88] The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.) chose the elk as its namesake because a number of its attributes seemed appropriate for cultivation by members of the fraternity. A representation of the majestic head of the male, with its spreading antlers, was adopted as the first badge of the Order it is still the most conspicuous element of its copyrighted fraternal emblem. [89] A prized possession of many members of the B.P.O.E. are jewel encrusted, gold mounted elk teeth—which are actually ivory. [90]

    Although breakdown figures for each game species are not available in the 2006 National Survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunting of wild elk is most likely the primary economic impact. [91]

    While elk are not generally harvested for meat production on a large scale, some restaurants offer the meat as a specialty item and it is also available in some grocery stores. The meat has a taste somewhere between beef and venison and is higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, and chicken. [92] Elk meat is a good source of iron, phosphorus and zinc. [93]

    A male elk can produce 10 to 11 kilograms (22 to 24 lb) of antler velvet annually and on ranches in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, it is collected and sold to markets in East Asia, where it is used in medicine. Some cultures consider velvet to be an aphrodisiac. [62] However, consuming velvet from elk in North America may be risky since velvet from animals infected with chronic wasting disease may contain prions that could result in a human getting variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. [94]

    Antlers are also used in artwork, furniture and other novelty items. All Asian subspecies, along with other deer, have been raised for their antlers in central and eastern Asia by Han Chinese, Turkic peoples, Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, and Koreans. Elk farms are relatively common in North America and New Zealand. [82] Native Americans have used elk hides for tepee covering, clothing and footwear. [95] [96]

    Since 1967, the Boy Scouts of America have assisted employees at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming by collecting the antlers which are shed each winter. They are then auctioned, with 80% of the proceeds returned to the refuge. In 2010, 2,520 kilograms (5,560 lb) of antlers were auctioned, bringing in over $46,000. [97]

    Stephen Leek, Father of the Elk

    Stephen Nelson Leek (1858–1943), a founder of Jackson, Wyo., was an early wildlife photographer. His nationally recognized images of starving elk helped establish the National Elk Refuge near Jackson. As a hunting guide and dude rancher, his conservation advocacy came at a crucial time when the future of the species was in doubt. He was thus called “The Father of the Elk.”

    In his times, Leek was intelligent, passionate, and committed. Today, he’s an example of the difficulty of judging historical figures. The more scientists learn about ecology, the more concerned they become about Leek’s cause of artificially feeding elk in the winter. Leek was also a racial extremist, and in acting on those views participated in an event that even some of his contemporaries labeled “murder.”

    The function of history is to report and to understand (not to participate in cancel culture or conversely, to venerate). Who was Stephen Leek? What did he do, how and why? And what have been the effects of those actions? History provides facts to answer those questions, so that moral debates and judgments can be more informed, rational and useful.

    Leek was born in 1858 in Turkey Point, Ontario, Canada. In his youth he lived in Illinois, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. In 1888, at age 30, he homesteaded a ranch three miles south of today’s townsite of Jackson, in an area now known as South Park. One of his descendants later said, “He knew this was to be his home and took to his heart the beauty of the scenery and the wonder of the abundant wildlife.”

    White people had only recently permanently settled the remote, high-elevation valley. Leek soon became a leader of the community, which then consisted of about 50 people scattered throughout Jackson Hole. Leek married Etta Wilson, niece of Elijah Nicholas Wilson, who soon founded the nearby town of Wilson. Leek recruited his half-brothers Hamilton and Charles Wort to join him in Jackson Hole Charles’ sons later built the famed Wort Hotel in downtown Jackson.

    Leek established the valley’s first sawmill, a water-powered mill on Trail Creek, in 1893. He had the materials shipped 120 miles from the nearest railroad station, at Market Lake (now Roberts), Idaho. Leek was the first area resident to irrigate his ranch and plant grain. By 1895, his ranch boasted one of the biggest barns in the county, capable of holding 50 head of livestock and 200 tons of hay. In 1907 he served as a state representative. In 1919 he arranged to show the valley’s first movies.

    Like many in the area, Leek’s jobs and hobbies were tied to wildlife and the outdoors. When he arrived, he was a trapper. Later he raised cattle, hunted and guided other hunters. In 1889, he established a “clubhouse” on Leigh Lake, in today’s Grand Teton National Park, where he hosted hunters from out of town—making him one of the area’s first outfitters. As guiding and outfitting gradually evolved into the industry of dude ranching, Leek is one of several people sometimes called Jackson Hole’s first dude rancher.

    In the late 1800s, Leek built a hunting and fishing camp at a particularly scenic spot on the shores of Jackson Lake, north of Colter Bay. In 1927, Leek designed and built a rustic lodge of native logs and stone at the site. (At the time, the land was owned by the U.S. Forest Service, which gave him a lease.) He and his sons Holly and Lester ran a summer boys camp and hosted hunters in the fall.

    Although a chimney is all that remains of the lodge after a 1998 fire, the chimney—which was the most dramatic feature of the lodge’s main room—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The adjacent boat launch, with private boat services and a lakefront pizzeria, are still operated by the National Park Service as Leeks Marina.

    Early elk losses

    When Leek arrived in Jackson, in 1888, area elk populations were at a high point. By some estimates, the area herd had reached 50,000, following several mild winters. Leek later wrote that he commonly saw tens of thousands of elk leaving Jackson Hole for the Green River Basin in the fall.

    There is some scientific debate about whether elk that summered in the high country around Jackson Hole traditionally wintered in the Hole itself. Lower elevations in the Green River Basin and Red Desert would have been warmer and less snow-covered. Before the 1870s, many elk must have migrated there, although some may have wintered in Jackson Hole. But white settlements gradually disrupted migration patterns. Then the harsh winter of 1889–1890 killed as many as 20,000 elk.

    Jackson residents were concerned. With agriculture difficult in the high-elevation valley, many hunted game for food all year long. Several, including Leek, were also making a living guiding hunters. Loss of elk threatened both their lifestyles and their livelihoods. Leek in particular was aware that wildlife populations could be decimated quite quickly. In his youth he’d seen Midwestern skies blackened by passenger pigeons, and the Nebraska plains blanketed with bison. By the time he arrived in Jackson Hole, the entire continent held just over a thousand buffalo and maybe a few thousand passenger pigeons.

    Although he had once been an individualistic trapper, a latter-day mountain man, Leek came to see that saving wildlife would require laws and enforcement to limit the activities of hunters and trappers. Thus he became what we today might call a conservationist.

    His first targets were roaming bands of indigenous people. Bannock and Shoshone had hunted in Jackson Hole for centuries—and those hunting rights were guaranteed in the tribes’ treaty with the federal government. But Leek and other leaders targeted them for arrest. One such attempted arrest, in 1895, led to a “war.”

    In that war, Leek joined a posse that killed two Bannocks, an infant and an unarmed, nearly blind elderly man. Although the 1890s were in general a more racist era, even the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming called the deaths “murder.” In memoirs that Leek wrote in the 1930s, he referred to the dead elderly Indian as a “good Indian.” He expected people to be so familiar with the saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” that he could allude to it without explanation. He also accused (almost surely incorrectly) the Black “buffalo soldiers” sent to protect the whites of Jackson Hole of thievery.

    Jackson settlers won the war, which also led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896 Race Horse decision ending all Indians’ treaty-reserved rights to hunt off-reservation. But Wyoming elk populations continued to decline. Blame shifted to wolves, mountain lions and other predators. But Leek also criticized “tuskers.”

    The 1890s saw a fad for wearing elk teeth as jewelry. It may have begun with Elks lodges (officially, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks), whose members considered an elk tooth on their watch chains a status symbol. To fill this demand—teeth could run as much as $100 a pair—hunters flooded northwest Wyoming. They were called “tuskers.”

    The tuskers ignored game laws they were poaching. They built remote cabins on public lands, often hiding the structures in heavy timber or beneath overhanging ledges. Some tuskers used the cabins to smoke meat into jerky, which they could sell. However, Jackson residents accused the tuskers of wanton slaughter of elk solely for the teeth, leaving the meat to waste. One gang of tuskers was said to have killed 1,600 elk. Another was accused of driving elk into snowdrifts, where they became immobilized, and taking their ivories without bothering to kill them. One source said that tuskers massacred and left to rot more elk in a single winter “than were killed in ten years of normal hunting.”

    As with the Indians, it’s possible that Jackson residents were condemning outsiders for practices that they condoned among themselves and their clients. For example, when a 1901 party of eight hunters with two guides killed 59 elk, did they use that meat, or waste it? The following year, William L. Simpson, then living in Lander, noted that he had seen elk teeth trafficked at Jackson Lake in the presence of a deputy game warden. In 1902, local rancher Harvey H. Glidden wrote that "elk teeth are the coin of the realm, all over Jackson's Valley and vicinity, for the purchase of supplies of all kinds, particularly whiskey."

    Leek could see parallels to earlier wildlife tragedies such as bison being slaughtered for their tongues. Elk, like bison, had once populated the plains, and were now hard to find outside of greater Yellowstone. Were they, too, headed for near-extinction? Jackson’s guides and outfitters organized an association to help game wardens enforce Wyoming’s anti-poaching laws. In so doing, they helped bring law enforcement to this once-lawless country, because the cause of conservation demanded it.

    In 1905-06, residents of Jackson organized vigilante parties to target the tuskers. Leek is not named as an organizer, but he probably participated. In 1906 he was elected to his single term in the state legislature, and helped pass a law that made it a felony to kill big game for tusks, antlers or heads. In 1907, the Wyoming legislature, surely again propelled by Leek, asked members of Elks lodges to denounce the wearing of elk teeth—although they were six years behind President Theodore Roosevelt, who with other conservationists began publicizing the issue in 1901. Although some Elks lodge members expressed skepticism that the elks’ peril was related to tusking, the lodges nevertheless discouraged the practice and encouraged other steps to preserve their elegant wild namesake.

    The tuskers gradually faded away. But the elk were still in trouble.

    Preserves and bad winters

    In 1905, Wyoming created its first game reserve. To protect elk, the Teton State Game Preserve banned hunting and grazing in an area from Yellowstone Park’s southern border south to the Buffalo Fork river (which joins the Snake at today’s Moran, Wyo.), and from the continental divide west to the Idaho border (its boundaries were later adjusted). But this land, already regulated as a National Forest, was largely summer range. The elks’ problems came in the winter.

    For example, in March 1907, 200 elk became snowbound on Willow Creek, near Pinedale, Wyo. The Teton National Forest supervisor collected contributions to provide hay to feed them. In 1909, the state set aside $5,000 for such feeding. That year at least 20,000 elk wintered in Jackson Hole (some estimates suggested 50,000). The elk population may have become inflated because of the settlers’ success at killing wolves and other predators. But now the settlers had to feed the elk to prevent starvation—up to seven pounds of hay per elk per day. In several winters, those efforts required private funding before the state appropriation became available.

    In their hunger, elk would raid ranchers’ haystacks. “When their feed is cut off by heavy snow, the elk swarm over the ranches by the thousands, tear down fences and devour the ranchman's stock feed,” wrote the Sheridan Daily Enterprise on March 9, 1910. Some ranchers would sleep, armed, in their haystacks to keep the elk away. However, many of them understood the economic importance of elk. Jackson residents appointed a committee of Leek, James M. Simpson and L.B. Hoagland to develop a permanent organization to feed and protect elk.

    Then the winter of 1908–1909 proved especially severe. Several thousand elk died. Area sentiment settled on the need for some sort of winter refuge. In 1906, state game warden D.C. Nowlin had suggested setting aside a winter refuge in the Gros Ventre valley, east of Jackson. In 1909, the Wyoming state legislature asked Congress to give the state six 36-square-mile townships of Gros Ventre valley land for an elk refuge. But the proposal would have displaced homesteading ranchers, and public opposition killed it.


    George Eastman (1854–1932) was the inventor of roll film and founder of the pioneering photography company Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y. In 1905 he vacationed in Wyoming. Although neither man recorded the date, it was probably on this trip that Eastman met Leek and gave him a camera.

    Legend suggests that with this gift, Leek suddenly discovered his talent for the new art of photography. That’s probably exaggerated: photos attributed to Leek date back as far as 1891, and an account in the Feb. 8, 1904, Wyoming Tribune noted that his elk photos would be featured in an upcoming state pamphlet. But Eastman’s device was certainly easy to use, and the connection also may have helped Leek acquire a Pathé motion-picture camera in 1907.

    Through these painful winters, Leek photographed the starving elk thronged around Jackson. He would dress in white and paint his camera white to sneak up on elk in the snow. He took large-format glass-plate photographs of starving and dead elk. In 1908, he also took movies of elk, including scenes of them being fed from a hay wagon.

    Leek used his photos to illustrate articles that he wrote for Outdoor Life, In the Open, and many other publications. He assembled photos in a small illustrated book that he published under various titles, most often The Elk of Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming: Their History, Home, and Habits.

    Most important, he went on tour. In 1909–10, on a vaudeville circuit of Orpheum theaters throughout the West, he showed lantern slides and movie footage of starving elk. The elk he showed resembled pets, domesticated but with personality. His pictures showed “graphically the needless suffering and death among these noble animals,” one reporter wrote. Publicity for the lectures billed Leek as “The Father of the Elk.” His efforts built sympathy across the nation for the plight of the Jackson Hole elk.

    A national elk refuge

    Meanwhile, sympathies within Jackson Hole also started turning. Support shifted to the idea of having the federal government buy out local ranches to establish a wildlife refuge. Hay could be grown on the property all summer, and fed to the elk in the winter.

    On Aug. 10, 1912, Congress appropriated $50,000 for three purposes: to purchase 1,760 acres in the Flat Creek area north of Jackson, to set aside an adjacent 1,000 acres of public land and to purchase additional hay. At this point, elk occupied only 10 percent of their original winter range. By feeding these elk through the winter, the Biological Survey (predecessor of today’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) could ensure that elk didn’t go extinct, while also separating them from haystacks and people.

    The refuge proved successful. It added adjacent ranchlands to eventually reach 24,000 acres. The Jackson elk herd remains one of the largest in the country, and a tourist attraction. For many decades, elk from Jackson and Yellowstone were shipped to 37 states plus Canada and Mexico, to reestablish elk herds across their former range. Biologist Olaus Murie studied Jackson’s elk for 18 years, leading to landmark advances in ecological science.

    The refuge is also notable in political history, because Jackson Hole residents supported federal government ownership of land for conservation. Although in coming decades many of these same people would resist the creation of Grand Teton National Park, that effort was arguably more about preservation than conservation.

    Should elk be fed?

    Beginning with state appropriations in 1909, people have fed Jackson Hole elk all but 10 winters since. (Early exceptions included 1915 and 1926 more recently, 2018.) The feeding traditionally took place from January through March, when deep snows covered Jackson Hole. Under a plan adopted in 2019, feeding activities will slow considerably, with the volume of alfalfa-based pellets distributed each winter cut in half, and eliminated entirely during average winters.

    Ecological science has demonstrated problems with feeding, hence this change. For example, the free food accelerated the decline of traditional migration routes. Soon after establishment of the Refuge, elk that summered in the nearby high country completely ceased winter migrations to the Green River valley and Red Desert. Area elk started wintering exclusively in Jackson, and concentrated their foraging near the feedgrounds.

    Concentrating elk populations can lead to disease. Most other Western states have abandoned winter feeding programs. Amid concerns about chronic wasting disease—an untreatable, easily spread, always fatal malady that destroys the brain and central nervous system of animals in the deer/elk family—environmental groups have sued the National Elk Refuge and the U.S. Forest Service for moving too slowly in discontinuing feeding.

    Although the federal feeding practices are better known, the state of Wyoming runs 22 additional feedgrounds across Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties. These facilities help elk live through difficult winters. However, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sees today’s elk populations as too high. Among other issues, overpopulations of elk out-compete mule deer, upsetting natural balances.

    Artificial sources of winter forage disrupt the complex natural processes called ecosystems. For example, wolves are attracted to elk feedgrounds elk respond by moving unpredictably. Sometimes vast numbers of elk move across the geographic boundaries set by Game and Fish, complicating the allocation of hunting permits.

    Elk that winter on the National Elk Refuge can now be classified in two populations: “Suburban elk” have thrived by summering on private ranches and subdivisions in the southern part of Jackson Hole, while elk to the north have struggled, probably due to comparatively higher predation from Yellowstone-area wolves and grizzlies that avoid settled, “suburban” areas.

    On the other hand, closing feedgrounds would be painful. It could mean fewer Wyoming elk to hunt and more conflicts with livestock. Most important, it could mean that Wyoming residents would have to watch thousands of elk die during each difficult winter—precisely the problem Stephen Leek so effectively demonstrated.

    Leek’s legacy

    After establishment of the Refuge, Leek continued to tour with his images. He continued to speak on behalf of the elk, and of Jackson Hole. His reputation grew. In 1920, an article by William T. Hornaday in Scribner’s magazine on “Masterpieces of Wild Animal Photography” said, “Mr. Leek has made so many stunning elk pictures that it is difficult to choose the masterpiece.” The 1920s were a heyday of dude ranching, and Leek lived in comfort. He spent the rest of his life as a community and industry leader.

    Leek’s view of wildlife was very much in tune with his times. Like the writer-illustrator Ernest Thompson Seton, he built sympathy for animals by making them seem accessible, cuddly, almost human. Like the pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson, he used the new medium to make the wonders of Wyoming feel real, even for people who had never visited. Like the artist Charlie Russell, he used visual imagery to capture the tragedy of animal starvation in a difficult winter. Leek both built sympathy for wildlife and helped translate that sympathy into a sense that humans had obligations to those creatures. Because of his work, the National Elk Refuge could be seen as (in the words of one commemorative video), “our gift to this majestic species.”

    That courage and vision should not be underemphasized. Leek helped lead one of the biggest humanitarian efforts of his day. At the time, it was easy for people to shrug off the potential extinction of species like elk and bison, as a small price to pay for progress. Leek’s efforts helped change those philosophies.

    Yet in part because of Leek’s accomplishments, we now have different views of wildlife. We highlight their wildness, not their tameness their difference from humanity, rather than their pet-like accessibility. We know much more about how they survive in the wild, and we have much more respect for those natural processes. These new values put us at odds with the consequences of Leek’s actions.

    So do our values of racial justice. Leek’s racist words and actions are impossible to excuse. It’s hard to imagine how he could see a wild animal as so noble and deserving of sympathy, while denying such nobility and sympathy to large numbers of human beings simply because of the color of their skin. The best we can say is that Stephen Leek, like many of us, was a complex mixture of heroic and reprehensible traits. How we judge him says as much about ourselves as it says about history.

    The Elk Reflects: History and Memories

    “It’s a special and memorable day to know that the museum is not just a place to look at old pictures it is also a place that helps bring history and memories back to those we have honored.” – Carolyn Pirnat, Volunteer

    Many memories are shared each week by our local veterans at the Museum of Elk River Communities in Kanawha County. A few of the veterans who stop by each Thursday include: Richard Bashlor – US Navy, Vietnam 1967 Billy R. Meadows – US Army, Vietnam 1969-1970 Bob Lynn – US Navy, Vietnam. 1968 Wounded returned 1969-1972 Nick Bird – US Army, Vietnam, US Air Force Iraqi Freedom Ray Milton Walker – US Army, Viet Nam 1969-1970 and Visitors/Volunteers Harry Lynn, Carolyn Pirnat, Jerry Morris, Larry Duvall.

    Carolyn Pirnat, Museum Volunteer, shared one of their meetings for this month’s The Elk Reflects. Their stories and history unfolded as they visited the Veteran’s Room at the Museum:

    “Ray, Richard and I were together and getting ready to enter the Military Section of the Museum. A few moments before, Ray had talked about some of the 1960’s songs that were piped into the barracks and helicopters in Viet Nam. All of a sudden, Ray began singing the 1965 Animals hit, We Gotta Get Out of This Place. One by one everyone behind them joined in and by the time they got to the Military room, everyone was singing and laughing. As the last stanza was sung ‘if it’s the last thing we ever do’ …. Bob Lynn piped in at the end, ‘When we win! WE WILL get out of this place!!’

    Also, boot camp memories were traded and re-lived.

    Richard Bashlor talked about his first day at boot camp. He was given a sign-in sheet for his bedding by the drill instructor. He signed it and gave it back, to which the instructor told him to drop and give him ten (push-ups). The instructor informed Richard that he had not asked for permission to sign the sheet! Richard finished the pushups and stood up. The drill instructor told him to drop and give him 20 more! The reason – Richard hadn’t asked permission to stand. After that experience, Richard said he made sure he didn’t do anything that he would get punished for again!

    At times the group were laughing and at times they were sad, but they all had one thing in common, they were proud to serve their country.

    Bob Lynn relayed a story that when he was caught smoking, he had to place a bucket over his head and smoke even more cigarettes. Billy Meadows pointed out that he understood boot camp today was not as hard today as it was then.

    Some had the original letters they had sent home, as their loved ones saved them. To them, they were treasures.

    Ray Milton Walker (he was Milton to us in school) has a pictorial documentary of his time after leaving college, serving in the Army, then returning to college. One of his favorites is a picture of him standing in front of the Huey helicopter nicknamed ‘Slick’ that was used to transport ground troops.

    Their stories and history are amazing. Each one here today received medals for their service. Uniforms and pictures were touched and talked about. Memories and stories were shared of those fallen heroes who didn’t make it back.

    One picture was recently shared by our friend Sue Melton Vickers of her Dad, James D Melton. He was a POW of WWII, a Purple Heart Recipient and a member of CO F 7th Infantry. To quote Sue, ‘When you see any Veteran please say thanks!! It is because of men and women like them that we and others live in a free Country. God Bless them all.”

    Elk Coast History

    The Story of Cuffey’s Cove
    The current village of Elk lies a mile south of the first local settlement, known as Coffey’s Cove. It was settled in 1850 by two schooner shipmates, Frank Farnier, known as “Portuguese Frank” and Nathaniel Smith, called “Nat.” The town got its name from the Australian colloquialism, “cuffey” for a black person. Frank and Nat were farmers, and are credited with producing the famous Cuffey’s Cove red potatoes. In 1855, James Kenney, an Irish immigrant, came to the area and purchased land from Frank Farnier. Kenney is credited with the growth and prosperity of the town. He had a vision of establishing a distribution point for railroad ties, shingles and produce to San Francisco. Under the direction of John Kimball, a successful tie broker, railroad tie mills began to sprout up in Cuffey’s Cove. Shipping by land was arduous, so in 1868 Kenney constructed a wharf and chute system, to transfer goods down the cliffs to the rocks below, where they were floated out to schooners waiting offshore. By 1870, business was booming and a post office was established. An 1886 census showed a population of 300 living and working in town. But the boom was short-lived. A fire in that year destroyed a large portion of the town, after which Kimball sold 21 acres to his brother-in-law, Lorenzo (L.E.) White. The effect was devastating. The post office was closed, and the town never recovered. The only remaining evidence of the once thriving town is the graveyard on the bluffs on the West side of Highway 1.

    The Story of Greenwood
    At about the same time that Farnier and Smith landed at Cuffey’s Cove, four brothers, William, Britton, James and Boggs Greenwood settled on a ranch along the creek south of Cuffey’s Cove. The brothers were trappers and hunters, and supplied mills and camps up the coast as far north as Mendocino. Their father, Caleb, a trapper and guide, is believed to have helped the Donner party prior to their disastrous trek into the mountains. Caleb and the boys’ mother, Batchicha remained in the Sierra foothills, where Caleb guided pioneers from Oregon to California. In 1875, Fred Helmke had built a tie mill, two miles up Greenwood Creek from the coast in a very steep valley. Horses were used initially to haul cut timber down the valley. Helmke later built a wood-burning engine for the task. Helmke built his own chute down to the water a mile south of the original chute at Cuffey’s Cove. A third chute known as the Old Chism Chute was added at Dinney Doyles Point. Just north of the old Cuffey’s Cove post office, newcomer L.E. White attempted to build another chute at Li Foo’s Gulch, and a another was under construction two miles south at Abe’s Landing. By then, Greenwood’s population had grown to 50, including the four Greenwood brothers and Helmke. But in the early 1880’s Helmke’s mill on the creek was washed out with significant loss of life, and closed.

    In 1887, things began to change. After purchasing the 21 acres from Kimball, L.E. White bought Helmke’s mill site and equipment. White was on a mission. He negotiated with James Kenney for exclusive use of the Cuffey’s Cove chute, finally offering $40,000. But Kenney held out, demanding $75,000 – quite a tidy sum for the times. So White returned to his abandoned chute at Li Foo’s Gulch and completed it.

    Then, he began building a new mill in the cove just south of town. He implemented his vision of a sophisticated system for getting logs to the mill and finished lumber out to where it could be graded and stored, and then out to schooners for delivery to San Francisco. The company formed a large millpond by damming the creek where it emptied out to the cove. Devices called “steam donkeys” towed heavy logs from the forest out to where they were loaded onto flatcars and brought by train to the millpond. From there, log-walking “pond men” with pick-poles moved them into “boom pockets” by species and then coaxed them to the mill at the base of the bluffs.

    Sawn lumber was hauled up a ramp to the town level. When ready to ship, the lumber was placed on rail carts, which were lowered by cable to tracks that ran along the edge of the bluffs. Four mules, all named “Maude,” drew the carts north from the mill to the Greenwood Wharf at Li Foo’s Gulch, where it was loaded onto waiting ships. The mules were sheltered in a shack alongside the tracks called “Maude’s House.”

    Four mules, all named “Maude,” drew the carts north from the mill to the Greenwood Wharf at Li Foo’s Gulch, where it was loaded onto waiting ships. The mules were sheltered in a shack alongside the tracks called “Maude’s House.”By 1890, everything was in full operation and Greenwood’s population had swelled to over 1,000, sustained by 14 saloons, 4 dance halls, a barber, butcher shop, creamery and several, rather busy brothels. Mill production steadily increased to 100,000 board feet per day. In 1893, White built an executive guesthouse on the bluff overlooking the millpond, to accommodate visiting buyers while they negotiated the purchases that helped to build San Francisco, and then rebuild the city after the Great Earthquake of 1906. That house is now the Elk Cove Inn.

    After a long illness, L. E. White died in 1896. The lumber company and the Greenwood Wharf continued to operate, but lacked Lorenzo’s leadership. His son, Will, took the helm, but that was short lived. He died two years later of acute alcoholism, but under somewhat mysterious circumstances. According to local folklore, Will’s wife had been carrying on with a San Francisco attorney, the mill’s accountant, Frank C. Drew. When given medication by the local “sawbones,” and instructed to administer it to her ailing husband in very small doses, word has it that she gave him the whole bottle. He was found dead the next morning. Within a short time, Mrs. White married Drew, who became president of the company, and took the 1883 guesthouse as their residence, henceforth called the Drew House. The mill continued to operate for another 31 years. It was sold to the Goodyear Redwood Company in 1916, and closed for good in 1930.

    Elk: The Town with Two Names
    By 1890, Greenwood’s population had grown to the point where it needed to apply for its own post office. The only problem was, that Caleb Greenwood had already received approval for a Greenwood post office in Eldorado County. So our Greenwood was forced to choose another name. A herd of Elk in the area provided the inspiration. However, as rustic, hard-working and stubborn settlers, the town refused to give up its original name. And so, we are called “The Town with Two Names.” Our town is still officially Greenwood. Our Post Office is Elk.

    Located 17 miles south of Mendocino, our hamlet is now a peaceful and engaged, contemporary community, composed of retired professionals, craftspeople, and hoteliers, with an enviable quality of life. While the sign at the edge of town says “Population 250,” truth be told, there are only about 80 full-time residents enjoying this little slice of Heaven on Earth.

    We are located 150 miles North of San Francisco and 15 miles south of the village of Mendocino. A short stroll from the inn puts you in the center of Elk, a lively community composed of equal parts history and contemporary good living, with shops, convivial conversation, even a state park with visitor center.

    The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

    A Short History of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elk (BPOE) On November 15, 1867 a small group of actors and entertainers, lead by an English comedy singer named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, organized a drinking club in New York City. They called their newly formed organization the "Jolly Corks". Vivian adopted the name "Jolly Corks" from a bar-game he played while in England. The sole purpose of the "Jolly Corks" organization was to circumvent a New York law that closed saloons on Sundays. Vivian's group, with their initial intentions of promoting fellowship among entertainers, quickly saw the benefits they could bring not only to themselves but to others less fortunate. Charles Vivian, noted for his wit and personality, served as the moving force when the Jolly Corks organized. As the Jolly Corks membership shifted to more serious minded individuals, George McDonald, joined the organization. Mr. McDonald and others felt there was a need for a benevolent society for the theatrical world. This catapulted the mission of the Jolly Corks into a fraternal, charitable, and service oriented organization. In 1868, through the efforts these benevolent individuals "The Jolly Corks" was renamed The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of The United States Of America (BPOE), or simply "Elks". Such men as Charles Vivian and George McDonald gave the Elks its real organization and serious purpose, and also preventing it from fragmenting or going out of business. The name 'Elk' was selected because the Elk has a number of attributes that are deemed typical of those to be cultivated by members of the fraternity. The Elk is distinctively an American animal. It habitually lives in herds. The Elk is the largest of our native quadrupeds, it is yet fleet of foot and graceful in movement. It is quick and keen of perception and while it is usually gentle and even timorous, it is strong and valiant in defense of its own. The lessons taught by the Elks are communicated by short lectures. Included in Elk Lodge ceremonies are the Bible and the American Flag. Emblems associated with the Elks are: the flower called the 'Forget-Me-Not' Antlers of Protection and the Star of Fidelity. The cardinal principals of the Elks are: Brotherly Love, Justice, Charity, and Fidelity. The Elks also take deserved pride in their patriotic and charitable endeavors. The first Elk Lodge is located in New York and opened on March 12, 1871. If we fast forward to 2003 we find that there are over 1 million members of the fraternity and over 2,100 Elk lodges throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, and other US Possessions. Contributed by John Bennevich, Lodge Photographer

    The Elk - History

    North American Elk (Cervus canadensis)

    Elk are one of the largest members of the deer family. Large males, called bulls, can weigh several hundred pounds and stand five feet at the shoulder. Females are called cows and are roughly half that size. A dark brown mane, light-brown bodies and white rumps characterize both sexes. They grow a thicker coat of hair each winter which they shed each spring.

    Only males have antlers, which grow in the spring and drop each winter. Antlers can grow up to an inch a day. They are covered with a protective layer of velvety skin. When the antlers are fully grown, the bulls scrape this layer off.

    Large elk herds occupy meadow valleys in autumn and winter.

    Life History

    Elk are highly social animals and travel in various herd sizes throughout the year. Herds can grow as large as a few hundred individuals. Elk have a large range and move according to seasonal food availability. In the summer, herds move to higher elevations to feed on tundra vegetation, while in the winter they move down to lower elevations of the park and down into the Front Range. Large herds consist of cows, calves and young bulls (spikes). Older bulls remain in smaller groups or are solitary until the fall breeding season.

    Calving usually happens in tall grassy or brush areas away from the herd. Elk calves are born from late May into June and weigh about 30 pounds. Most cows give birth to one calf, but may also have two. Newborns have spots, which fade away by late summer. Calves can join the herd after two weeks and are weaned at two months old. Cows are extremely protective of their calves so use caution around elk at this time of year.

    Elk primarily graze on grasses and forbs but they also browse shrubs. They feed mostly in the morning and evening, and seek sheltered areas during the middle of the day to digest. They eat an average of 20 pounds of vegetation daily. Free roaming elk have a lifespan of 10-13 years in the wild.


    Learn about Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurodegenerative disease that affects elk.

    Bulls prepare for the mating season by sparring with one another.

    Mating Season

    Every autumn, elk descend from the high country to montane meadows for the annual breeding season. Within the gathering herds, the larger antlered males, now weighing up to 1,100 pounds move nervously among the bands of smaller females.

    In this season of excitement, bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with a herd of females. Prime bulls, eight to nine years old, stand the best chance of mating. While competition is high among bulls, it includes little fighting, since fighting causes injury and depletes energy. Instead, mature bulls compete for cows by displaying their antlers, necks and bodies. They emit strong, musky odors and bugle. With little rest or food during the mating season, bulls enter the winter highly susceptible to the hardships of the coming months.

    The elk bugle is a signal for the autumn rut.

    The Bugle

    Bull elk signal the mating season with a crescendo of deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts. The elk bugle gave rise to the term "rut" for the elk mating season. Rut is derived from the Latin word meaning roar.

    The eerie call echoes through the autumn nights and serves to intimidate rival males. Mating season is a stressful time for the animal, and the bugle may also act as a physical release of tension. Cows and younger bulls may also bugle, but they cannot match the strength or range of the older bulls' calls.

    Allow elk to behave naturally by viewing them from a distance.

    Elk Viewing and Protection

    Elk can be seen in the park all year long. In the summer, large herds are found in alpine areas and along Trail Ridge Road. In the autumn, elk gather in the Kawuneeche Valley, Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, and Upper Beaver Meadows. Watch for elk along the edges of clearings early in the morning or in the evenings. Bugling is more often heard at dawn and dusk.

    Help Us Protect Rocky's Elk

    To minimize disturbance to the animals and to ensure a pleasant experience for visitors:

    • Turn off car lights and engine immediately.
    • Shut car doors quietly and keep conversations to a minimum.
    • Observe and photograph from a distance comfortable to the elk. If the elk move away or their attention is diverted: you are too close!
    • Stay by the roadside while viewing elk in park meadows. Travel is restricted to roadways and designated trails. Be aware of posted area closures.
    • It is illegal to use artificial lights or calls to view or attract wildlife.

    Elk from Yellowstone National Park were reintroduced to Rocky in 1913-1914.

    History of Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

    North American elk, or wapiti, were once plentifulin the Rocky Mountain National Park area. As Euro-Americans settled the Estes Valley, they hunted elk intensively, sending much of the meat to market in Denver. By 1890 few, if any, elk remained.

    In 1913 and 1914, before the national park's establishment, the Estes Valley Improvement Association and United States Forest Service transplanted 49 elk from Yellowstone National Park to this area. Around the same time, an all-out effort began to eliminate predators—including the gray wolf and the grizzly bear. The resulting decrease in predators and hands-off management of elk hastened the recovery of Rocky's elk population. The population grew to record high numbers in the late 1990's causing deterioration of vegetation and other wildlife communities.

    The current Elk and Vegetation Management Plan addresses these issues. The plan's goal is to maintain a more natural population of 600-800 elk in the park's low-elevation valleys during the winter. Learn more about the Elk and Vegetation Management Plan.

    Remembering the Eastern Elk

    Hundreds of years ago, haunting bugle-like calls echoed through these hills and valleys. The sounds were made by bull elk to attract mates and fend off rivals. Elk in the Northeast? Yes, elk were once the most widely distributed of North American hoofed mammals. Millions roamed over much of the U.S. and Canada. Adaptable to a variety of habitats, elk were found in most ecosystems except the tundra, deserts, and the Gulf Coast.

    The specific range and number of elk that inhabited the Northeast are unknown, but fossil bones of elk have been found in shell heaps in Maine and at archaeological sites in Rhode Island. Elk antlers have been discovered in bogs in Vermont and a pond in New Hampshire. In The Mohican World, author Shirley Dunn relates a 1714 account of a Native American guide who was showing a group of settlers land near the Catskills. He pointed out a deep path worn in the streambank by herds of elk crossing a river.

    Much larger than their whitetailed deer cousins, male elk weigh 600 to 1000 pounds, while females are about 25 percent smaller. The bulls sport massive, spreading antlers. The animals are tawny or cream-colored, except for a dark brown mane around the head and neck. Elk are also known as &ldquowapiti,&rdquo a Shawnee word meaning &ldquowhite rump.&rdquo

    What happened to the eastern elk? According to historical accounts, when European settlers moved in, elk did not hide, but continued to roam where they always had, foraging near settlements, especially in winter. This made them an easy target, and reportedly settlers often killed more elk than needed: an &ldquoexterminating butchery&rdquo wrote zoologist J.A. Allen in 1871. In Lives of Game Animals (1929), Ernest Thompson Seton commented, &ldquoThere are few stories of blood lust more disgusting than that detailing the slaughter of the great elk bands.&rdquo

    The last elk in Massachusetts was killed in Worcester County in 1732. The few remaining in Saranac, New York were dispatched in 1826. John James Audubon mentioned that by 1851, a handful of elk could still be found in Pennsylvania&rsquos Allegheny Mountains, but they were gone from the rest of their former range east of the Mississippi. In 1880, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern subspecies of elk extinct.

    As the great elk herds dwindled, Teddy Roosevelt and others were moved to save the species in the West. States enacted hunting regulations and banned market hunting of elk. Sanctuaries such as Yellowstone were established.

    There were a few early attempts to bring elk back to the Northeast. In the 1890s, sixty wapiti from Minnesota were introduced into the Blue Mountain Game Reserve in southern New Hampshire, owned by Austin Corbin, a wealthy developer. Later, Corbin&rsquos heirs gave some elk to the State of New Hampshire for release. After the animals damaged crops, a hunt was authorized, and today there are no elk in the state, except on game farms. In the early 1900s, elk from Yellowstone were released in Pennsylvania. Today the elk herd in the north-central part of the state numbers about 900, and the Elk Country Visitor Center is a popular attraction. Pennsylvania elk prefer early successional habitats such as meadows (often provided by reclaimed strip mines), shrublands, and young forests.

    In recent years, southern and midwestern states have reintroduced elk. Today, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Arkansas, and Wisconsin have free-ranging elk herds. Elk have spread into West Virginia, and the first wild elk in 275 years was sighted in South Carolina, likely an emigrant from the herd in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Kentucky in particular has been a success story, and now has over 10,000 elk. The reintroduced elk are a western subspecies, smaller than the original eastern elk.

    Could elk be restored to the Northeast? A 1998 study on the feasibility of restoring elk to New York by two SUNY professors found good habitat, but raised concerns about potential elk-human conflicts such as vehicle collisions and crop damage. New Hampshire state deer biologist Dan Bergeron said he would be concerned about competition with deer and moose. Walter Cottrell, once the wildlife veterinarian for Pennsylvania, strongly advised against the idea. He said Pennsylvania reintroduced elk before chronic wasting disease, a devastating neurological disease that afflicts members of the deer family, became established in parts of the West. Arkansas brought the disease to their state via elk reintroduction (the disease cannot be tested for in live animals). Bringing elk to the Northeast would put our white-tail deer and moose at risk.

    We may never hear the bugling of wild elk in New England again, but fortunately can travel south or west to get a glimpse of, and perhaps hear, this magnificent animal.

    Susan Shea is a naturalist, conservationist, and freelance writer who lives in Brookfield, Vermont.

    © by the author this article may not be copied or reproduced without the author's consent.

    Watch the video: The Day Friends Died (January 2022).