Elk herds can be seen all throughout the Black Hills. The elk around Silver City
are normally seen around Jenny Gulch and Broad Gulch. Also, large Elk roam
around the south side of town around the middle nugget drainage and the
grasses around Stewart Gulch.
more, with a body thickness of about 6 inches. Adult bull elk may weigh more than 1,000 lbs. before the rut, but
Elk feed on all kinds of plants, but are primarily grazers of grasses. They also eat the sedges, forbs, twigs, needles of fir
and juniper, many young hardwood trees (such as chokeberry and aspen), and deciduous shrubs (willow and
serviceberry), especially during the winter.
Adult male elks, called bulls, have a dark brown mane or ruff on their throats. Their huge antlers can weigh 25 lbs.
(older bulls). The antlers may reach 5 feet in length and usually have five tines projecting from the main branch for a
total of six points per side. The antlers are shed in late winter (March or April). About one week afterwards, males
begin to grow new ones. The new antlers are covered with 'velvet.' Females, called cows, do not have antlers, have
shorter manes and are 25% smaller than bull elk.
In the spring, after calves are born, elk move slowly back up to higher mountain pastures. As mating season begins,
the elk move from the high mountain valleys to the lower valleys. There they gather into large herds of both sexes and
all ages. They spend the winter in the wooded slopes and often dense woods of the lower valleys, where the snow is
not too deep. Elk cows have a strong herding instinct. During spring and summer, herds of cows and their juvenile
calves usually graze separately from the bulls. An old cow usually leads this summer herd. As yearling (spike) bulls age,
they spend less time with the cow herds. During winter, males and females forage together.
A bull elk announces the rut, or mating season (Sept. - Oct.), by bugling. He begins with a low bellow followed by his
far-reaching whistle. During the fall rutting (mating) season, bulls rub their antlers on trees, "horn" the ground, and
then roll in the created wallows. Rival bull elk battle clash their antler racks in jousting matches for possession of a
female harem (cows). A bull may mate with as many as 60 cows, but the average harem contains only a dozen or so
cows at a time.
Cows usually breed when they are 2 1/2 years old. After the fall mating season, the gestation period for the cows is
255 to 275 days. Usually one or occasionally two calves are born in June-July and weigh 25 to 40 lbs. During the first
month, calves are totally dependent on milk and may suckle for up to 9 months.
Natural enemies of elk include mountain lions. Coyotes kill some calves and sick adults.
May 14, 2007 - A herd of eight elk feeds at night in the by Jenny Gulch Road next to silver City Road. At least two are
bulls with 12"-18" antlers.