Nature Alert: Roosevelt Elk

If you haven’t been to Finley Wildlife Refuge recently, you’re missing out. The Roosevelt elk herds that frequent the area are not only beautiful to behold, but seem to leave viewers with inexplicably good feelings.

Roosevelt elk, or Cervus Canadensis Rooseveltii, are named after the rough ridin’ former President Theodore Roosevelt, who established what is now Olympic National Park primarily as an elk reserve. These are some real deal massive ungulates, the third largest land mammal in North America. Adults weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds, have a shoulder height between three and five feet, and the antlers on bulls can add on an extra four feet to that number. 

Bulls grow their antlers over the spring and summer while solitarily grazing in the uplands. Meanwhile, cows and juveniles graze in herds. As the days get shorter, the cue to mate brings individuals and herds alike to lowland meadows. During this time, bulls will make a ghostly call, or “bugle”, to attract cows, especially at dawn and dusk. If another bull hears it, they will often appear for a fight in which those ginormous antlers come into play. After mating ends, the antlers are shed and remain absent through winter. 

Across Oregon, hunting for elk also occurs during the fall. But at Finley, the last opener ended on October 28, making now through the winter an excellent time for viewing. A sizable herd of 30 or so individuals can often be seen in the meadows below the refuge office, as well as in those off of Bruce Road. If you don’t trust your ability to spot the elk on your own, consider joining Friends of Finley on December 2 for a “Calling All Elk” nature hike. Or, if you are feeling like an outing farther away is necessary, try looking for elk on the hike up the face of Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City.  

Moral of the story: Though concern for the changing climate we are experiencing is necessary, so is appreciating the changes that come with each season in the place we live in. In other terms: when the state of the world is bugging you, go listen to an elk bugle.

By Ari Blatt