Elk, also known as wapiti, are one of the largest species of deer in the world. They are known for their impressive antlers and their ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats.
While elk are commonly associated with western states like Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, many people wonder if there are elk in Arkansas.
Arkansas was once home to a thriving elk population, but by the late 1800s, the species had been hunted to near extinction.
In the past few decades, however, elk have been reintroduced to the state. Today, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission estimates that there are around 600 elk living in the state.
Despite their relatively small population, elk are an important part of Arkansas’s wildlife ecosystem.
They play a key role in maintaining healthy forests and grasslands and provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to view and hunt these majestic animals.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of elk in Arkansas, their current population, habitats, behavior, and more.
- Elk were once hunted to near extinction in Arkansas, but have been reintroduced in recent decades.
- Today, there are around 600 elk living in the state.
- Elk play an important role in Arkansas’s wildlife ecosystem and provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to view and hunt these majestic animals.
History of Elk in Arkansas
Elk were once a native species to Arkansas, but overhunting and habitat loss led to their extinction in the state in the mid-1800s. The last elk in Arkansas was reportedly killed in 1840.
Before European settlement, elk were abundant in Arkansas, with evidence of their presence dating back to prehistoric times.
Native Americans hunted elk for food, clothing, and other resources. When European settlers arrived in the region, they also hunted elk for food and sport, causing a decline in their population.
Efforts to reintroduce elk to Arkansas began in the early 1900s, but these efforts were unsuccessful due to a lack of suitable habitat and overhunting.
In the 1930s, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission attempted to reintroduce elk to the state by releasing them in the Ouachita Mountains, but this effort also failed.
It wasn’t until the early 1980s that successful reintroduction efforts began. In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released 112 elk in the Buffalo National River area. Since then, the elk population in Arkansas has grown to over 600 animals, with populations in both the Buffalo National River area and the Ozark National Forest.
Today, elk hunting is allowed in Arkansas through a limited quota system, with hunts taking place in both the Buffalo National River and Ozark National Forest areas. The elk population in Arkansas is closely monitored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to ensure their continued success and conservation.
Current Elk Population in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to a free-ranging elk population that was reintroduced in 1981. The elk population in Arkansas is currently estimated to be around 800-900 individuals. This population is concentrated in the northwest corner of the state, primarily in the Buffalo National River area.
The elk population in Arkansas is part of the larger elk population in North America, which has rebounded significantly since the early 20th century. Elk were once found throughout much of the United States, but their populations were decimated by overhunting and habitat loss. Today, elk populations are found in many western states, as well as in a few eastern states, including Arkansas.
The Arkansas elk population is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). The AGFC oversees hunting of elk in the state, with a limited number of tags available each year. The hunting season typically runs from October to December.
The AGFC also monitors the health of the elk population in Arkansas. Surveys have been conducted to test for the presence of disease agents in the elk population, including chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, and tuberculosis. Despite some concerns about the potential for disease transmission from captive elk populations in neighboring states, these surveys have found a low likelihood of disease in the Arkansas elk population .
In summary, the elk population in Arkansas is a small but growing population that is concentrated in the northwest corner of the state. The population is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which oversees hunting and monitors the health of the population. Despite some concerns about disease transmission, surveys have found a low likelihood of disease in the Arkansas elk population.
 Source: Surveys for disease agents in introduced elk in Arkansas and Kentucky (https://meridian.allenpress.com/jwd/article-abstract/46/1/186/124363)
Elk Habitats in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to a growing population of elk, with the highest concentration being in the northwest part of the state. Elk habitats in Arkansas include public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as well as private lands in the area.
One of the most popular spots to view elk in Arkansas is the Boxley Valley, a picturesque valley located in the Buffalo National River area. The valley is surrounded by pine and hardwood forests, which provide ideal habitat for elk. Additionally, the Buffalo River area is home to the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area, which is a core elk management zone.
Elk in Arkansas can also be found in the Richland Valley, which is located just south of the Boxley Valley. The Richland Valley is a mix of private and public land, and it provides excellent habitat for elk due to its abundance of food and water sources.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been working to restore elk populations in the state since the early 1980s. As part of these efforts, the Commission has established a number of elk restoration zones throughout the state, including the Buffalo River Elk Restoration Zone. This zone covers over 300,000 acres of public and private land in north-central Arkansas, and it is home to a growing population of elk.
Overall, elk habitats in Arkansas are characterized by a mix of public and private land, with a focus on areas that provide ample food and water sources for the animals. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission continues to work to restore elk populations in the state, and visitors to the area can enjoy viewing these majestic animals in a number of locations throughout the state.
Elk Viewing Locations and Times
Arkansas is home to a healthy elk population, making it a popular destination for elk viewing. Visitors can observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at various locations throughout the state. Here are some of the best elk viewing locations and times in Arkansas:
Ponca is one of the most popular places to view elk in Arkansas. Visitors can see elk grazing in the fields and along the Buffalo National River. The best time to view elk in Ponca is during the early morning or late afternoon.
Dusk and Dawn
Elk are most active during dusk and dawn, making these times ideal for elk viewing. Visitors can observe elk grazing in open fields or walking through the woods during these times.
Buffalo River Elk Festival
The Buffalo River Elk Festival is an annual event that celebrates the reintroduction of elk to Arkansas. The festival includes elk viewing tours, live music, food vendors, and more. Visitors can learn about the history of elk in Arkansas and observe them in their natural habitat.
Pruitt Bridge is another great place to view elk in Arkansas. Visitors can see elk grazing in the fields near the bridge and along the Buffalo National River. The best time to view elk at Pruitt Bridge is during the early morning or late afternoon.
AR 43 and AR 21
AR 43 and AR 21 are two scenic routes that offer excellent elk viewing opportunities. Visitors can drive along these roads and observe elk grazing in the fields and along the roadside. The best time to view elk on these roads is during the early morning or late afternoon.
Ponca Elk Education Center
The Ponca Elk Education Center is a great place to learn about elk in Arkansas. Visitors can view exhibits and displays about elk and their habitat, as well as attend educational programs and events. The center also offers elk viewing tours.
Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum and Elk Information Center
The Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum and Elk Information Center is another great place to learn about elk in Arkansas. Visitors can view exhibits and displays about elk and their habitat, as well as attend educational programs and events. The center also offers elk viewing tours.
Overall, Arkansas offers plenty of opportunities for elk viewing. Visitors can observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at various locations throughout the state. By following the best times and locations for elk viewing, visitors can have a memorable experience observing these majestic animals.
Elk Behavior and Characteristics
Elk, also known as wapiti, are large members of the deer family found in North America. They are known for their majestic antlers, which are shed and regrown every year. Elk are social animals and live in herds, with bulls often leading the group during mating season.
During the fall, elk enter into the rutting season, which is when the bulls compete for breeding rights with the cows. This is also when they display their characteristic bugling call to attract mates and intimidate rivals. Bulls can be very aggressive during this time, and it is important to keep a safe distance from them.
Rocky Mountain elk are the most common subspecies found in North America, and they were introduced into Arkansas in the early 1980s. They prefer forested areas with open meadows and clearings, and they are known to be excellent swimmers and runners.
Elk calves are born in the spring, and they are able to stand and walk within hours of birth. They stay with their mothers for the first year of their life and are weaned in the fall. Cows often mate for the first time at two years old, while bulls typically start breeding at four or five years old.
In summary, elk are fascinating animals with unique behaviors and characteristics. From their bugling calls to their impressive antlers, they are a sight to behold. As they continue to be reintroduced into areas like Arkansas, it is important to appreciate and respect these magnificent creatures.
Elk Hunting in Arkansas
Elk hunting in Arkansas is a popular activity among hunters. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) is responsible for managing the state’s elk population and regulating elk hunting.
To hunt elk in Arkansas, hunters must obtain a hunting permit from the AGFC. The permit is available through a quota system, and hunters must apply for a permit during the application period. The application period is typically in May, and the permits are awarded through a random drawing process.
The elk hunting season in Arkansas is typically in October and November. The season is divided into several hunting zones, including Boone, Carroll, and Newton counties. Hunters are required to follow specific regulations for each zone, including bag limits and antler restrictions.
Hunters are allowed to harvest one elk per year, with the exception of antlerless elk, which can be harvested in addition to a bull or cow elk. The harvest of antlerless elk is limited to specific zones and is subject to quota restrictions.
Elk hunting on private property in Arkansas is allowed with the landowner’s permission. However, hunters must still obtain a hunting permit from the AGFC and follow all regulations for the hunting zone in which the property is located.
The AGFC maintains records of elk harvested during the hunting season. The record for the largest elk harvested in Arkansas is held by a bull elk harvested in 2012, which had a Boone and Crockett score of 355 2/8 inches.
To participate in elk hunting in Arkansas, hunters must possess a resident sportsman hunting license, which is available through the AGFC. The license is valid for one year from the date of purchase and allows hunters to hunt other game species in addition to elk.
Overall, elk hunting in Arkansas provides hunters with a unique and challenging hunting experience. With proper permits and adherence to regulations, hunters can enjoy a successful and rewarding hunt.
Elk and Other Wildlife in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including elk, black bears, and other wild animals. The state’s elk population was reintroduced in the early 1980s, and since then, it has grown steadily. Today, Arkansas has a thriving elk population, with herds found in several regions of the state.
Elk are not the only large mammals found in Arkansas. The state is also home to black bears, which can be found in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. While black bears are not as numerous as elk in Arkansas, they are an important part of the state’s wildlife population.
In addition to elk and black bears, Arkansas is home to a variety of other wild animals. The state’s forests and wetlands are home to a diverse range of species, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, and more. Many of these animals can be seen in Arkansas’s state parks and wildlife management areas.
Arkansas’s wildlife population is an important part of the state’s natural heritage. The state’s Department of Parks and Tourism works to manage and protect the state’s wildlife populations, ensuring that they remain healthy and sustainable for future generations to enjoy. Whether you’re a hunter, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, Arkansas’s wildlife has something to offer.
Elk Conservation Efforts in Arkansas
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has been working to restore elk populations in the state since 1981. Their efforts have focused on reintroducing elk to suitable habitats in the state, managing the herd, and minimizing conflicts between elk and humans.
The elk herd in Arkansas is currently concentrated in the northwest part of the state, primarily in Franklin County, Newton County, and the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The AGFC has also recently reintroduced elk to the Bearcat Hollow WMA in the eastern part of the state.
To manage the elk population, the AGFC conducts annual population surveys and regulates hunting seasons. Hunting permits are issued through a lottery system to ensure a sustainable population. The AGFC also works with landowners to manage elk habitat and minimize conflicts between elk and humans.
The AGFC’s efforts have been successful, with the elk population in Arkansas growing from just a few animals in the 1980s to over 600 animals today. However, the growing elk population has also led to increased conflicts between elk and humans, particularly in areas where elk are not traditionally found.
To address these conflicts, the AGFC has implemented a number of measures, including education programs for landowners and hunters, fencing to keep elk out of crops and gardens, and relocation of problem animals.
Overall, the AGFC’s elk conservation efforts in Arkansas have been successful in restoring elk populations to suitable habitats in the state while minimizing conflicts with humans.
Elk Viewing Activities in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to a growing population of elk, providing ample opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat. Elk viewing activities are popular throughout the state, and there are many great places to see these magnificent creatures up close.
One of the best places to view elk in Arkansas is at the Boxley Valley Elk Viewing Area. Located near the town of Ponca, this area is home to the largest elk herd in the state and offers visitors a chance to see these animals grazing in the fields and along the riverbanks. Visitors can also enjoy hiking trails that wind through the valley, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
Another popular spot for elk viewing is the Carver Bridge Elk Viewing Area. This area is located near the town of Jasper and offers visitors a chance to see elk grazing in the fields and along the river. Visitors can also enjoy hiking trails that wind through the surrounding forests.
For those who prefer camping, the Erbie Campground is a great place to stay while enjoying elk viewing activities in Arkansas. This campground is located near the Buffalo National River and offers visitors a chance to camp in a beautiful natural setting while enjoying easy access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
Elk viewing activities are available throughout the year, with different seasons offering different opportunities to see these animals in action. Spring and summer are great times to see elk grazing in the fields and along the riverbanks, while autumn is a great time to see them during the rutting season.
In addition to elk viewing activities, visitors to Arkansas can also enjoy a wide range of other outdoor activities, including floating on the Buffalo National River, hiking on the many hiking trails throughout the state, and camping in one of the many campgrounds located throughout the state.
Overall, elk viewing activities in Arkansas are a great way to experience the natural beauty of the state and see these magnificent animals up close. With so many great places to view elk and so many other outdoor activities to enjoy, Arkansas is the perfect destination for wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike.
Elk in Other Regions
While Arkansas is home to a small population of elk, other regions in North America have a more significant number of elk. For example, Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest elk population in the world, with an estimated 30,000 individuals. The elk in Yellowstone are of the Rocky Mountain subspecies and are known for their large antlers and dark brown coat.
Another region with a significant elk population is the Madison Valley in Montana. The Madison Valley is known for its high concentration of elk, which attracts many hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. The elk in the Madison Valley are also of the Rocky Mountain subspecies.
Eastern elk, a subspecies of elk that was once widespread in the eastern United States, were hunted to extinction by the late 1800s. However, there have been recent efforts to reintroduce eastern elk to the region. In 2011, Pennsylvania reintroduced elk to the state, and there are now an estimated 1,000 individuals in the state.
Arizona is another region with a significant elk population. The elk in Arizona are of the Rocky Mountain subspecies and are found in the northern part of the state. The state’s elk population is estimated to be around 35,000 individuals.
Finally, buffalo are often associated with the American West, but they were also once found in the eastern United States. By the late 1800s, buffalo were hunted to near extinction, with only a few hundred individuals remaining. Today, there are around 500,000 buffalo in North America, with the majority living on private ranches.