Rocky Mountain Elk

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Cervus elaphus nelsoni

DIETGrasses, leaves, bark, and plants

RANGENorthwest and western United States, the Rocky Mountains, and Canada

HABITATMountains, open forests, floodplain marshes, coniferous-hardwood forests, and coniferous swamps

Rocky Mountain Elk

Physical Description

A male bull will weigh approximately 700 lbs and will be about 5 feet tall at the shoulder; while females will weigh approximately 500 lbs and be about 4 ½ feet tall. During the summer, their coat will be copper brown, but during the rest of the year, it will be light tan with their neck and legs being darker than the rest of the body.


Some of their predators include bears, wolves, cougars, and coyotes.


In the wild, they live an average of 15 years, but in human care they have been known to live into their 20’s.


The rut, or mating period, for elk begins in September and will last for about 10-12 weeks. During this time, male bulls will compete for and then defend a harem of females. Their gestation period is 240-262 days and will result in a single calf being born. Calves will be weaned by about 2 months of age but will remain with their mother for about a

Fun Facts

  • Also known as Nelson’s Elk, the Rocky Mountain Elk is the second largest member of the deer family, with Moose being the largest.
  • Only male elk have antlers, which they will shed and regrow every year. These antlers can weigh up to 40 lbs!

Conservation Messaging

Early settlers in North America caused a decline in certain elk populations because of overhunting and habitat loss. Their populations began recovering because of various conservation programs that worked on reintroducing elk to areas that had experienced extreme population decline or extinction and by creating programs to regulate hunting. One thing that we can do is support sustainable agriculture practices. By purchasing products that are certified by organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance and Bird Friendly, you are helping in the conservation of forests and habitats around the world.

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