Elk Habitat – Mountains

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Elk have adapted so well to the harsh, rugged life of the mountains that it is often difficult to imagine that this is actually a plains animal that has simply adapted to a new environment.

Within its mountain environment, elk prefer to live in the upper reaches, usually in the upper third in habitat where both trees and meadows dot the landscape.

This is called sub alpine habitat and provides the elk with good cover and lush grass. This sub alpine habitat tends to hold more winter snow longer into the summer, and the grass always seems to be greener and lusher than anywhere else on the mountain. Also, the sub alpine habitat tends to have more boggy areas (called wallows), which the fly bitten elk seek out to roll in and pack mud onto their hides to escape the onslaught of bloodthirsty horseflies.

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Unfortunately, life in the mountains is not Utopia. In fact, the high elevations where elk prefer to live often are snowed under by late fall, and the elk must constantly move down with the deepening of the snow. Eventually, they find themselves in lower elevations, called wintering range, where snow depth is shallow and grass greens up first in the spring.

The problem is that much of this prime winter elk range is also prime human subdivision range, and the elk pay dearly every time a new subdivision robs the desperate wintering elk herd of this critical habitat.

With the melting of snow, the elk impatiently follow the receding snowline upward to escape harassment from human gawkers, vehicles and dogs. Eventually, they reach the sub alpine habitat which they prefer where water, feed, and isolated cover provide them with the security they need to survive.


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