We had a beautiful, generously sized campsite at Mather Campground at Grand Canyon. The first morning we were there, we discovered a family of Rocky Mountain Elk grazing in our campsite. They were not intimidated in the least by the presence of humans; they simply wandered through our site and several adjoining sites. There was a bull, his harem of 3 or 4 cows, and two juveniles. Click on any of these photos to enlarge them.
Later that day we attended a presentation by a ranger about the elk. Arizona was once the home of Mirriam’s Elk; however they were hunted to extinction over 100 years ago.
Rocky Mountain Elk were plentiful in Yellowstone National Park, so between 1913 and 1928 a conservation group transported via train hundreds of Rocky Mountain Elk from Yellowstone, and released outside Grand Canyon National Park.
Despite not well suited to the desert climate of Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountain Elk are thriving in the park, finding food in non-native decorative lawns in the park, and taking advantage of the water stations which were installed to provide water to hikers.
Unfortunately, the elk also consume massive quantities of native vegetation, which is also a prime food source for the native species of Mule Deer, to the point that the deer are now suffering due to lack of food source.
The ranger made a key point that decisions made without considering the science and implications – such as the decision to bring a new species into the environment – can have drastic, unintended consequences.
We were regularly visited by this group, and saw many others during our exploration of the park.
This mule deer was fearless as well. When i framed this picture, he was on one side of the narrow campground road, I was on the other. Suddenly he started toward me. I took the picture, and backed away (quickly)!!!