The Yellowstone National Park elk have been around for at least 1,000 years and are the most prevalent of the large mammals that can be found in the park. Approximately 30,000 elk call Yellowstone home in the summer, while the winter population falls into the 15,000 to 22,000 range. It is believed that there are seven to eight different herds.
The subspecies of elk that can be found in Yellowstone National Park is quite prevalent throughout the Rocky Mountains region. In fact, you can find representatives as far south as Arizona and as far north as northern Canada. No other member of the deer family is larger, save for moose. Adult male elk, which are commonly referred to as bulls, can weigh up to 700 pounds. Adult females, or cows, as they are known, tend to weigh between 500 and 525 pounds. Because of their size, the Yellowstone elk demand a considerable amount of respect. Yellowstone Park Rangers advise that visitors keep a distance of at least 25 yards at all times.
It is easy to tell whether an adult elk is male or a female. Adult males have antlers, while females don’t. The antlers start growing when the males are around one year old, and bulls can have a "rack" that weighs more than 30 pounds. It is interesting to note that male elk shed their antlers in the early spring. A new rack starts to grow in May, and the growth typically continues until early August.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Yellowstone elk is encouraged to arrange a guided Yellowstone wildlife tour. The guides on these tours are full of knowledge and can help visitors find the best viewing spots for the many different animals in Yellowstone.