Elk

Banner Elk

Fun Facts

  • Eastern elk were native to Virginia, but declared extinct in 1855. Rocky Mountain elk were reintroduced to Southwest Virginia in 2012.
  • 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.

SCIENTIFIC NAME
Cervus canadensis

CLASS
Mammal

FAMILY
Cervidae

HABITAT
Forest, forest edge and alpine meadows

DIET
Plants

SIZE
500-700 pounds

RANGE
North America and Eastern Asia

RELATIVES
Deer

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.

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.