Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rocky Mountain Elk - South Dakota

A 2012 article in the Rapid City Journal notes that there are now only about 150 elk in Custer State Park, down from about 1,000. The drop is due to hunting and predation on calve elk from mountain lions. Based on studies with collared mountain lions and elk, it appears that the lions are getting more than 80% of the calves that are born, shortly after birth. 

We were in Custer State Park northwest of the Buffalo corrals and Red Valley Road, on the Wildlife Loop Road, and southeast of Oak Draw Road. We saw people pulled over on the side of the road and looked up to see four elk traversing the hills above us, three females, one with a collar, and a spike buck. Eventually they scrambled over some hills and we caught another glimpse of them as they crossed the Wildlife Loop Road and headed into the trees on the other side. The next day, when I went into the park very early, I heard an elk bugling in the distance. They have a haunting, beautiful call.
Four Rocky Mountain elk in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

After they crossed Wildlife Loop Road and were heading into some trees. 


  1. I've probably seen elk only four or five times in my life. It's a thrill. They are elegant, beautiful animals.

  2. That's a shockingly high mortality rate for baby calves. It's amazing they survive at all.