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Olympic Peninsula Roosevelt Elk

The prominent metal elk sculptures at the east and west entrances to Sequim signify the presence of a major herd of Olympic Peninsula Roosevelt Elk that inhabits this area. The Highway 101 flashing caution lights remind us of their presence and the need for caution on this stretch of highway.

Elk Habitat
The Sequim elk herd is comprised of approximately 100 Roosevelt elk who consider the Sequim area part of their range. They move about in the foothills east of the Dungeness River, south to approximately Blyn, east of the City of Sequim and north to Port Williams Road. When not in the forest, they graze in farm fields and lawns. Fences do not normally bar their movement. Homeowners within the elk's range who don't want elk in their yards can consult local nurseries for landscape ideas to discourage the elk.

Elk Description
Roosevelt elk are native to the Olympic Peninsula. Adult males (bulls) can weigh up to 1000 lbs., and females (cows) up to 700 lbs. Calves weigh in at an average 35 lbs. at birth. Elk are members of the deer family which is comprised of (from largest to smallest) moose, elk, caribou and deer.

Elk lose and replace their hair twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Bulls lose their antlers each winter. The antlers grow again in the summer, first appearing as "velvet" (sensitive soft skin, which is shed) becoming hardened antlers which are polished against trees and bushes. A set of antlers can weigh up to 40 lbs. Antlers are shed and grown again each year. In contrast, horns grow throughout the life of an animal. (Bighorn sheep, bison and mountain goats have horns.)

Elk are herd animals. A herd offers safety and security because there are many eyes, ears and noses to detect danger. Two major predators of elk are cougars and humans.

The leaders of the herd are dominant cows. They determine when and where the herd moves. They also keep watch while the herd eats and sleeps.

Bulls and cows usually live apart much of the year. Rutting season begins in the fall, a time when bulls determine dominance of their harem and mating with cows begins. Calves are born in the spring. Sometimes, the herd may also split into smaller groupings. At these times there may be several sub-herds, each with cows, calves, spikes (young bulls) and mature bulls roaming throughout the range area.

Be Elk Wise!
The Sequim elk herd is not tame, although they may appear to be. Normally, they avoid close contact with people and generally move away when approached. However, they may show signs of agitation if people get too close, throw things, or when people or cars block what they consider to be an escape route. Signs of agitation are nervousness, quick movements, or suddenly rising from prone positions. Bulls can be particularly aggressive during the rutting season. In the summer, cows that have given birth will be protective of the young calves and may take aggressive action against perceived threats. This is typical behavior with many animals and caution should be used at all times. They can move very rapidly when reacting to danger.

Where the Elk Roam
Because the elk roam over a wide area, and split into sub-herds much of the year, it is difficult to know where they may be viewed at any time. Favorite spots of the elk seem to be along Happy Valley Road and surrounding hills, West Sequim Bay Road, Palo Alto Road, and north toward Port Williams Road vicinity.

Flashing Lights and Radio Collars
Some of the Sequim elk wear transmitting radio collars. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife monitors the herd by using portable receivers with directional antennas. In addition, collar signals are sent to an innovative system of receivers along Highway 101 just east and south of Sequim. These receivers pick up the elk signals, triggering flashing lights on elk crossing signs to warn motorists when elk are close enough to be a collision danger.

Persons interested in volunteering on behalf of the elk, please contact the SEQUIM ELK HABITAT COMMITTEE, P.O. Box 1930, Sequim WA 98382.

Elk Habitat Brochure funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Leiter Family Foundation and the Sequim Elk Habitat Committee.

Download PDF Elk Grazing map (large file, will take awhile to download).