Elk Predators

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It seems hard to believe that an animal weighing a thousand pounds would have predation problems, but elk do have several predators that commonly hunt them with success. Mountain lions, wolves and bears prey on elk at various times of the year and practice hunting methods uniquely suited to each predator’s abilities.

Surprisingly, a mature elk, even a large antlered bull, has very little defense against an attack from an animal as small as a hundred pound mountain lion. A bull’s antlers, though impressive and lethal in appearance, serve mostly as a jousting tool during fall rutting battles. Actually, an elk’s mass and elongated frame are detriments when attacked by a predator at close range because an elk cannot move quick enough to avoid a sudden charge, and is not fast enough to out run the most predators in a short distance.

The most lethal defensive tactic of an elk is to stand its ground an flail at its attacker with its hard, sharp-edged hooves. An elk’s forelegs have the ability to deliver a tremendous blow and have been responsible for many wounded, maimed and dead predators who were not fast enough to avoid one of those slashing hooves.

The single most concentrated predation on elk occurs during the late spring birthing season when the cows have their calves. All the major large predators, plus some medium sized predators such as coyotes and bobcats who normally avoid the larger elk, roam the calving grounds and exact a fearful toll of newborn elk.



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