Here Are the 6 Places on Earth Where Elk Live


If you live in an area with a large population, it’s only natural to want to know more about them. Have you ever wondered where on Earth you’d find elk living?

Elk live primarily in North America and Eastern Asia. They have also been introduced to Argentina, Australia, Chile, and New Zealand. In the US, certain subspecies live in different areas, but elk can be found in approximately 20 states.

Let’s take a closer look at these places.

Here’s a Quick Look at Elk

Elk are the second largest species of deer and known to be found in forest habitats around the world. However, they primarily live in North America and Eastern Asia.

Their diet consists of grass, plants, leaves, and bark, so they will settle where they can find good sources of this. Because it’s such an adaptable species, the elk have been able to establish populations throughout a variety of environments.

North America

There are six subspecies of elk located in North America; however, two of those are now extinct. Although they once roamed all of North America many years ago, most elk now reside in the United States of America, though the Roosevelt elk have spread into Canada as well.

They can live in almost all environments except tundra, dessert, and the gulf coast of the US.

These six subspecies of elk in North America are:

  • Rocky Mountainfound near the Rocky Mountains but have been transplanted to other locations
  • Roosevelt’sfound in the Coastal Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada
  • Tulefound in Central California areas
  • Manitoban found in the Northern Great Plains
  • Merriam’s now extinct but were originally found in the Southwest and Mexico
  • Eastern also extinct, but were once found east of the Mississippi

Canada

Elk can be found mostly on the western side of the country, though there is a small population on the eastern side. The two subspecies found here are the Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt’s elk subspecies.

The present population of elk in Canada is around 72,000. However, most of this number can be found in British Columbia, totaling around 40,000 elk.

In Alberta, they have approximately 20,000 elk roaming the Rocking Mountain foothills, with some elk located in the national parks of Banff, Jasper, and Waterton.

Canada also created the Elk National Park, which helped preserve the population within the country.

United States

Elk can be found in several states throughout the country. You can find a list of what states elk are in below, though the species isn’t limited to these regions.

  • Alaska – Two subspecies of elk were introduced to Alaska in 1929 with the successful transplant of eight Roosevelt elk calves and they have since established themselves on both the Afognak and Raspberry Islands. Another transplant occurred in 1987 of both Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk after being moved from Oregon to Etolin Island in Southeast Alaska. These elk have also moved to Zarembo Island as a second breeding ground.
  • Arkansas – First introduced in 1933, there is a small herd of elk that is approximately 450 animals. 
  • California – The most common subspecies of elk that live in California are the Roosevelt and the Tule elk. Tule elk are the only subspecies who will tolerate semi-desert environments and are primarily located in California.
  • Missouri – Between the years of 2011 and 2013, the state initiated a restoration plan. They were successful, but due to diseases and calf mortality (like due to meningeal worm infections) has kept the overall population low, roughly estimated at 100 to 200 elk.
  • Nevada – In the last decade, the population of elk has doubled, which is approximately 17,500. 
  • North Carolina – The state’s population started out as the Eastern elk, but as those became extinct, the elk found in North Carolina are now the Manitoban subspecies, with the population only totaling around 100-200 elk.
  • Pennsylvania – There is a large population of elk located in Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest, which spans across four counties. A more thorough history of the elk can be found in the History of Pennsylvania Elk.
  • Tennessee – In 2000, Tennessee began their restoration of elk by releasing elk into its population. As of 2019, the estimated number of elk in the state is around 350.
  • Utah – Over the last 30 years, the population of elk in Utah has increased to roughly 68,000 animals.
  • Virginia – Between 1997 and 2002, the state experienced an influx of elk due to spillover of the fast-growing population in Kentucky. However, this population in 2015 was only around 120 animals. 
  • Washington – Here, the Roosevelt elk are found in coastal regions and the western slopes of the Cascade mountain ranges. The Rocky Mountain elk are found in the mountain ranges on the eastern side of the state.
  • West Virginia – Similar to the situation in Virginia, the growing success from Kentucky’s restoration elevated the need for West Virginia.

A shoutout to e-know.ca for sourcing some of the elk population info above.

Eastern Asia

The elk located in Siberia and central Asia were once more spread out through the country; however, in recent years, they are found in more restricted areas.

They can now be found in the mountain ranges of Sayan and Altai Mountains of Mongolia and the Tianshan region, which borders Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China’s Xinjiang Province.

Argentina

First introduced to the country in the early 20th century. Often referred to as the Red Deer or Red Stag, these animals are now considered an invasive species because of the competition for food with the indigenous Chilean Huemul

Chile

Elk were introduced to Chile around the same time as Argentina. Now because of the negative impact, these animals have on the indigenous wildlife, elk have been named one of the world’s 100 worst invaders.  

New Zealand

Elk were actually a gift from President Roosevelt to New Zealand in 1909. 20 Roosevelt elk were released into the area of George Sound, Fiordland in the South Island.

There is only a small population of elk in the country. 

Australia

The elk in Australia is known as the Red Stag or Red Deer. They are located mostly in southern Australia and have been declared a pest animal.

Also – Please Don’t Approach Elk!

As with all wild animals, elk can be dangerous if they feel frightened or threatened. If you see one in the wild, do not approach them. If they are disturbing your property or causing damages, call your local animal control to handle it for you.

You may not have that issue, but there you have it! The six places on Earth where elk live are primarily North America, Eastern Asia, Argentina, Australia, Chile, and New Zealand.

Other Refrences

Jenkins, K. J., & Starkey, E. E. (1991). Food habits of Roosevelt elk. Rangelands Archives, 13(6), 261-265.

Murie, O. J. (2017). The elk of North America. Stackpole Books.

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_010000.pdf

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/elkisland

https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=elk.main

www.e-know.ca/regions/east-kootenay/where-did-the-elk-go/

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