Kalispell Montana Wildlife – Elk
During the winter of 2021-2022, we were lucky enough to be able to observe a herd of about 30 elk as they made their way around the neighborhood. Almost every morning, we’d see them cross our land as they meandered back into the woods where they’d spend the day. If we didn’t actually see them, we’d see tracks that they must have left right before we came outside. I compiled the below video to share some of the elk sightings.
Below is some miscellaneous information about elk:
Bulls can reach 1,000 pounds and cows can weigh 500-600 pounds. The antlers of a bull elk alone could weigh 40 pounds!
In the summer, elk typically live at higher elevations, but during the winter they often move lower where there is more grass or shrubs. We’re lucky that this winter the area they chose to visit was ours.
Apparently elk typically eat grasses, forbs (mostly flowering plants), deciduous shrubs, young trees and some conifers. We did observe them munching on our Rocky Mountain Maples before they sat down in the snow to rest.
Elk usually breed in late spring or summer after an eight month pregnancy. Cows start producing babies when they’ve reached two and a half years old. They usually only have one calf. To protect the newborn, a cow will hide her calf for several weeks. The calf has no odor and will remain absolutely motionless, even when danger is quite close. The cow consumes the placenta, other birth membranes, the dirt and vegetation that may have been soaked by birth fluids, and any fluids a calf may excrete in order to ensure scents remain at a minimum. After two or three weeks of this, the cow and calf rejoin the herd.
Bull antlers usually finish growing around August, and bulls begin rubbing on trees to remove the velvet. They also start sparring with other bulls. The bulls challenge one another by bugling (and a human with a elk call can have a long conversation with the bugling bull!). Bugling is used to keep other bulls away from the harem of cows. Yes, bull elk have a cow harem. And the peak breeding season is somewhere around October.
And there you have a quick overview of elk. There are several herds in the Kalispell area, both on the west and eastern sides of the valley. Keep your eyes open and you may be lucky enough to see them!
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