Elk

Banner Elk

Natural History

Wild elk lived in Virginia, from the Richmond region to the western border, during the 1600s, but they vanished by 1855, a result of overhunting and loss of winter grazing areas. Around 1900, elk appeared in the Commonwealth again when the owner of Bellwood Farms, located south of Richmond, introduced a pair to his property and successfully produced a herd in captivity. The herd still lives at the site which is now the Defense Supply Center Richmond, operated by the U.S. Army. Meanwhile, a wild elk population is resurging in southwestern Virginia, thanks to conservation efforts by Kentucky and Virginia.

Due to limited space, the U.S. Army, along with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), make efforts to keep the herd size small at the Defense Supply Center Richmond, moving some animals to other preserves and qualified animal care organizations. While the relocation of cervids (members of the deer and elk family) in Virginia is strictly regulated, Maymont was approved by VDGIF as one of the few places in the Commonwealth to keep elk in an area for public viewing and education.

SCIENTIFIC NAME
Cervus canadensis

CLASS
Mammalia

FAMILY
Cervidae

DIET
Grasses, plant material, acorns

SIZE
400-1,000 lbs, 6-8 ft long

HABITAT & RANGE
Grasslands, wetlands, and forests of southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as the western U.S. and throughout Canada

Fun Facts

  • Eastern elk were native to Virginia, but were declared extinct due to overhunting and habitat loss in 1855. A herd of Rocky Mountain elk, a western subspecies of elk, were introduced to southwest Virginia in 2012 and are still in the area today.
  • Only male elk (bulls) grow antlers, which are shed and grow back every year. Females are called cows.
  • The unique sound made by an elk is known as a bark or a bugle.
  • A group of elk is called a herd or gang.
  • Elk will live about 8-12 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity.
  • In 1900, Bellwood Farms, located south of Richmond, successfully established a captive herd of elk. The captive herd still lives at the site, now called the Defense Supply Center of Richmond, which is operated by the U.S. Army. Maymont is one of the few places in Virginia allowed to keep elk for public viewing and education.
  • Maymont is home to three elk, two female and a male, from the Defense Supply Center.

Adopt an Animal

Did you know it takes $500,000 each year to feed and care for the animals at Maymont? Your support of the Maymont Adopt an Animal Program helps provide food, care and enrichment to keep the rescued animals active, healthy and engaged.