U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



David S. deCalesta, Research Wildlife Biologist, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, USDA Forest Station, Warren, Pennsylvania 16365
Gary W. Witmer, Research Wildlife Biologist, Denver Wildlife Research Center, USDA-APHIS-ADC, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-6410

Document Type Article


The elk is a large, powerful animal with an adult weight averaging over 400 pounds (180 kg). The Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) is found in the Rocky Mountain states and in scattered locations in the Midwest and East. Although elk once roamed freely into lower elevation grasslands, they are now found primarily close to heavily forested areas that are dotted with natural or human-made (clear-cut) openings. Elk graze on grasses and forbs, and browse on shrubs, tree seedlings, and saplings. Weather and human activities influence elk activity. Elk commonly impact agricultural resources by competing with domestic livestock for pasture and damaging cereal and hay crops, ornamental plants, orchards, and livestock fences. Plants browsed by elk have a characteristic appearance. Elk are protected and classified as a game animal in states and provinces where they are sufficiently abundant. In some situations, only one technique for controlling elk damage is necessary.