Elk

The main course for wolves

Elk are Yellowstone’s most abundant ungulate, with 10,000 to 20,000 roaming in large and small herds throughout the park. This creates a paradise for wolves and a key reason of why Yellowstone was chosen for wolf reintroduction. Elk comprise about 90% of winter wolf kills and are also an important food source for bears, mountain lions, and at least 12 scavenger species, including eagles, ravens, foxes, and coyotes.

In real life, a wolf pack is only successful about 20% of the time when hunting elk. A lone wolf has about a 3% chance of killing an adult elk.

Quick Facts

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

Elk or wapiti are one of the largest deer in the world. Not to be confused with the even larger moose (Alces alces), which is called an "elk" in Europe. Elk live in herds which gives them protection in the meadows and open forests. Male elk have large antlers which are shed each year.

  • SIZE: 227-318 kg (500-700 lbs)

  • DIET: Herbivores (eat plants): grasses, sedges, other herbs, and shrubs.

  • TOP SPEED: 72 kph (45 mph) and can run 40 kph (25 mph) for extended periods

Elk in WolfQuest

Elk are Yellowstone wolves' main meal source and a single kill can easily feed your whole pack.

Elk calves and cows are wolves’ preferred prey. Elk calves are easiest to kill - if you can get them away from their protective mothers. Older elk calves also defend with hooves.

Bull elk are the strongest and are hard to kill. Spikes (young bulls) are somewhat easier to kill than older bulls but they are still dangerous.

Elk carcasses are scattered throughout the game and provide food for wolves and other scavengers.

Main elk defenses are fleeing and then using hooves or antlers (when available).

You may hear male elk bugling and see them sparring especially during the autumn rut.