Elk, not to be confused with moose which are called elk through some of their range, are one of the largest species of deer on the planet. This species was once thought to be a subspecies of the red deer, but recent research suggests that they are a distinct species. Elk are native to North America and eastern Asia and are one of the largest land mammals in these areas. They have also been introduced into many countries where they usually adapt quickly and thrive. Male elk are known for their large antlers, which are shed and regrow each year. This species has long been an important food source for humans and other predators. Let’s take a look at the typical diet of the elk.
What do elk eat?
Elk are vegetarian (plant eaters) and graze on available plant matter depending on the season. Native grasses make up the bulk of their diet and are eaten year round. Tree bark is consumed in winter when other food is scarce or not available. Small flowering plants and tree sprouts are consumed in spring and summer. Like cows, they have four chambered stomachs and require time to digest their food. They primarily feed during early morning and evening, and search for a sheltered area to digest their meals during the rest of the day. It is estimated that elk consume about 9 kg (20 lbs) of food each day.
Did you know?
Elk love eating sprouts of the Aspen tree and studies have shown that these trees are in decline where elk are present!
Wildlife workers study elk pellet groups (elk poop) to determine the number of animals and what they are eating!