HomeOutdoorsNewsWild Elk Sightings Are Increasing In Iowa

Wild Elk Sightings Are Increasing In Iowa

by Brett Stayton
Elk Chewing Cud In Field Of Grass
Photo by Holger Leue/Getty Images

Deer hunters who set out trail cameras in Iowa got quite a surprise when even bigger antlered animals showed up in their pictures. State wildlife officials in the Hawkeye State have confirmed an increased number of elk sightings lately. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) says that though elk are native, the last historical sighting of one was in 1871. Today though, elk herds in nearby states are growing larger. It seems as if the second-largest deer species in North America is making its way back to Iowa too.

Josh Gansen, a wildlife biologist with IDNR explained the increase in sightings in a press release that was picked up by Field and Stream. “I had reports coming in weekly to my office all fall. It’s to the point that it’s no longer uncommon.” 

Though sightings have increased precipitously, it’s likely that just a few animals are responsible for all of them. The elk have reportedly been covering a lot of ground. Reports indicate the same ones are getting picked up by different trail cameras in different locations.

Elk In Iowa Believed To Be Wandering Over From Nebraska & South Dakota

Though the presence of elk in Iowa has been confirmed, the state isn’t quite calling it a full-on elk herd. Wildlife officials say they are most likely all young bulls that have wandered into the state from nearby herds. It’s believed they originated from herds in Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The number of people utilizing trail cameras to scout their deer hunting properties is also believed to be increasing. That could be another reason the elk are being detected more and more often.

Elk are still considered to be a protected species in the state. The punishment for shooting one includes up to a $1,000 fine. While most elk don’t cause any issues, there are concerns about livestock damage and collisions with vehicles. For the most part, though, the big animals mind their business.

“Three or four years ago, we had an elk that was trying to get into a penned livestock area damaging the fence in northwest Iowa, and it had to be dispatched,” said Doug Chafa another Wildlife Biologist with IDNR. An elk was hit by a car and killed near Sioux City back in the fall too. Elk are considerably bigger than deer and can cause a lot more damage. “An adult elk can weigh between 750-800 pounds with hooves as large as your hand,” he said. By comparison, the biggest of whitetail bucks usually only get up to about a maximum of 250 pounds. “Take a moment to enjoy seeing a wild elk in Iowa,” said Chafa. “As long as these animals are not causing any problems, our position is we are going to leave them be.”