Elk are now in the midst of their mating season. Bulls (males) have now established their “harems” of cows (females) and will mate as soon as the females are receptive. A harem may consist of up to 25 females, which are “managed” by the bull.
Very soon, elk will begin their amazing annual migration from areas north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s their age-old, natural migration pattern towards the National Elk Refuge, which abuts the town of Jackson. Prior to the development of Jackson Hole, these animals migrated even further south of Jackson.
Some elk will travel 20-50 miles to reach the Refuge. But, most will not travel as far.
Once the elk arrive at the National Elk Refuge, their numbers can reach as many as 10,000! They can be easily seen on a daily basis in Jackson during winter. They generally arrive on the Refuge in December, and return to their summer range (north) in April.
During mating, a bull elk may lose 20% of its body weight due to physical stress from constantly fighting off rival elk. Later in winter, they may lose even more body mass due to hypothermia, or natural graze they can’t reach due to snow accumulation. And, imagine… A bull elk can weigh over 900 pounds before losing this body weight!