Elk (Cervus canadensis) Photo Credit: Jeff Heidel, HeidelPhotography.com
The Shawnee & Cree Indian term for Elk is Wapiti or “white rump”. Elk historically lived across the North American continent north of Mexico. Today they naturally occur in prairies and woodlands of the American & Canadian Rockies as well as the Pacific Northwest. Elk graze on grasses and forbs in the summer. As winter snows move in, they feed on the bark and twigs of shrubs and trees. The fall rut determines which dominant male can breed with a harem of cows. Their antlers are shed in the spring. The following text is from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.
Elk were another big game species that were common in pre-settlement Kansas. They were also extirpated at the turn of the century. However, a small herd was maintained at the Maxwell Wildlife Area near McPherson. The 2,200-acre enclosure is operated as a refuge and also features bison. In 1981, elk from Maxwell were released at the Cimarron National Grassland, and that herd was free-ranging. To keep that herd from growing too big and causing crop damage, a limited resident-only season was opened in 1987. Later in the 1980s, elk were captured at Maxwell and released on the Ft. Riley Military Reservation. That herd is also free-ranging, and a season was established for the fort in 1990. Today, elk are primarily hunted on and around Ft. Riley, but individual elk or small herds may be found at other locations around the state, and hunting is permitted everywhere except Morton County. About 900 applications are received for the 20 or so permits allotted each year, and they are divided among military personnel and Kansas residents.