Living in Colorado, it’s easy to take for granted our enormous elk herds. After all, Colorado is home to nearly 280,000 animals — the largest elk population in North America. But did you know that elk were near extinction at the turn of the century? In fact, fewer than 1,000 elk remained in Colorado during the early 1900s. The elk’s dramatic demise was attributed to unregulated market-hunting.
A century ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife imported 350 elk from Wyoming to re-establish dwindling herds. The elk were transported and released in Idaho Springs and in the Greenhorn Mountains in Pueblo County. Sportsmen also called for regulated hunting seasons to protect and manage elk populations. From these meager transplants, and through decades of conservation programs, elk populations have soared to the abundant herds for which Colorado is now famous.
CPW, in cooperation with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservation groups, continues to conduct research, protect key winter range and migration corridors and improve habitat to ensure Colorado’s elk herds remain abundant for future generations. Because CPW does not receive general tax dollars, hunters fund conservation programs for elk and other species throughout Colorado.
This video captures elk during their fall mating ritual called the “rut.” This rite of autumn attracts thousands of visitors to Colorado each year, generating millions of dollars to the state’s economy.
Blog post and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is an information specialist and senior videographer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.