On a walk last evening, in the forest adjacent to Grand Canyon Village, I came across two juvenile elk playfully chasing one another and rearing up on hind legs in mock battle. They appeared unconcerned with my presence, and they certainly brightened my day with their delightful antics. In my twenty years in the park I have seen the elk population increase to the point where encounters such as this are almost daily.
The elk indigenous to the Grand Canyon were hunted out in the 1800s, and replaced early in the last century by others transported by rail from the populous Yellowstone herd. They have adapted well to the forests of northern Arizona, though have yet to make it to the North Rim.
Male elk, or “bulls” as they’re called, can weigh 700 pounds and stand five feet tall at the shoulder. During the mating season they spar with fellow males using their enormous antlers in an effort to lay claim to the numerous females or “cows.” This rutting season occurs in the fall, and it’s the time to be especially careful around these majestic beasts who can be unpredictable if approached or cornered.
The other time-frame to exercise special caution are the months of May and June when the cows give birth. These typically docile mothers can be understandably territorial while their newborns are still nursing.
I hope all of our readers get a chance to view the elk during an upcoming trip to the park. Many visitors claim that it’s a highlight of their Grand Canyon experience. Follow this link for more information on how to safely enjoy elk in the park: https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/nature/elk.htm.