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Categorized | Outdoors

Michigan Elk

Bull Elk

From the DNR

Elk are the second-largest member of the deer family in Michigan. Elk are large herbivores and prefer to graze on grasses and forbs. Michigan’s native elk disappeared around 1875. Today’s elk herd dates back to 1918, when seven Western animals were released near Wolverine. 

Elk viewing

Elk are more active during the early fall breeding season, creating the perfect time to view the wild herd. Grab your binoculars or camera and plan your route through the 13 elk viewing locations in northeast Michigan. 

Throughout September and October, elk will gather in forest openings at dawn and dusk to feed and look for potential mates. Keep your eyes peeled for elk moving through the open fields and listen for the bugle of a bull elk. 

The Michigan elk herd can only be found in areas throughout Otsego, Montmorency, Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties. There are 13 designated elk viewing areas that can be accessed by roads throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord. The Pigeon River Country State Forest is home to one of the largest free-roaming elk herds east of the Mississippi.

Elk viewing tips

The most popular time to view elk is during the breeding season in September and October when they are feeding in open grassy areas and bulls are bugling.

The best times to view elk are at dawn and dusk.

Don’t forget your binoculars! Elk should be appreciated at a distance and individuals should not try to approach the animal.

You likely will not be alone at designated viewing areas. The opportunity to see elk will be enhanced If everyone sits quietly and avoids going into the fields. 

Please see the map below for designated Elk viewing areas within the Pigeon River Country State Forest. You can also check out the elk viewing guide at michigan.gov/dnr. Click on things to do, and then Elk, and then scroll down to the elk viewing guide.

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