Canadian Wildlife Spotlight - The Elk

Elk in Canada

The elk is the second largest member of the deer family; only the moose is larger. Bull elk grow large antlers every year, which they use to spar with other bulls during the rut each fall. In the late winter, the antlers drop off and new antlers start to grow.

When antlers are growing, they are covered in dark brown fuzz, called velvet. This protects and nourishes the soft antlers with blood and nutrients until they are fully grown. In August the antlers harden. The bulls will rub the velvet off and polish their antlers on tree trunks and shrubs.

The rut is the breeding season for ungulates. It begins in the fall, usually after the first few frosty nights. Elk are known for their distinctive bugling, which sounds like a high-pitched howl. Bull elk bugle during the rut to attract females and to challenge other males.

Elk graze on grasses as well as browse leaves from shrubs. They prefer dry, arid habitat spotted with deciduous trees such as trembling aspen or balsam poplar. They like a combination of large grassy meadows, with nearby forest cover.

There are an estimated 300-400 wild elk in the Yukon. They are descended from elk introduced from Elk Island National Park in Alberta. And its not like you have to look far for them. Each year as we drive the highways we can see them roaming the sides of the hills by day and coming out to graze roadside when the sun goes down.

If you want to go photograph the elk, please see my Yukon Photography Workshops. All the details can be seen here