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


Date of this Version

Fall 2008


Published in Great Plains Research 18 (Fall 2008):189-204.


Elk (Cervus elaphus) were historically found throughout North America but were extirpated from Nebraska and much of the Great Plains in the 1880s due to consumptive uses by settlers, miners, market hunters, and others. Elk began to reappear in Nebraska in the 1950s and 1960s, and established a stable, nonmigratory population that currently consists of seven herds and an estimated 1,400 individuals throughout western and central Nebraska. The reappearance and subsequent persistence of elk in Nebraska suggests there is adequate habitat to support a self-sustaining population. The general movement of elk eastward may lead to an eventual statewide distribution, and populations being established in states to the east and south of Nebraska, where elk populations were historically present and suitable habitat still exists. We examined published historic accounts, museum and archeological records, and current literature to determine historic and current distribution of elk in Nebraska and the Great Plains.