Elk is a species of cervids (deer) that make up the largest members of this family. Elk are native to North America. They are not found on any other continent unless they have been brought there by humans.
Elk are extremely adaptable, which can prove to be a double-edged sword for wildlife preservation. When introduced to new areas, they will always try to dominate the food chain from other grazing herd animals. Wildlife authorities have set strict hunting regulations, as European settlers have wiped out certain subspecies of Elk throughout the centuries, including the Eastern Elk and the Merriam's Elk.
Many states do not have any elk populations, due to extinction, migration or never being there in the first place. For example, in Rhode Island and Hawaii, it is extremely unlikely that there has ever been elk in these states at any given time to populate a habitat. In the case of Hawaii, the Pacific island does not makeup part of the continental North American lands which are home to Elk.
Many other states have had their elk populations eliminated throughout history, usually due to overhunting or disrupting the natural ecosystem in those areas. The last elk was identified in Alabama in the early 1800s, Connecticut in the mid-1700s to early 1800s, Illinois between 1800-1850, and Mississippi by 1900. Elk haven’t been recorded in Massachusetts since 1732 or in New York since 1847.
Delaware is another interesting case. It was assumed that the elk were never here, but there is archeological evidence to suggest that elk populations may have been found in Delaware in prehistoric times. This acknowledges the fact that there may be elk populations that are not native to certain areas, as the migration throughout time will have affected where the elk can settle down and graze.
Colorado has the largest elk population, estimated to be around 290,000 currently residing in the state. Colorado is situated in a colder climate, with vast open spaces and woodlands. This makes the habitat extremely popular for elk to reside in.
They will also cross state borders, even crossing the Canadian border when they are migrating down south. This is also true for Montana, which has an estimated population of around 135,000 elk - another key climate and habitat where elk can both migrate to and settle down to make permanent homes.
The remaining states with the top five highest numbers of elk are in the same northwest region of the country. Oregon (133,000), Idaho (120,000), and Wyoming (112,900) are the other states with over 100,000 elk.