New Mexico Elk Chaco Culture National Park

by Bridget Harrington - Michael Moore February. 27, 2018 1405 views

New Mexico’s native elk, the Merriam, was driven to extinction by market hunting and uncontrolled grazing in the early 1900s. In 1910, a few short years after the last Merriam’s disappeared, far-sighted individuals like New Mexico’s first Territorial Game Warden, Thomas P. Gable, and organizations like the New Mexico Game Protective Association (later known as NMWF) were transplanting small groups of a different sub-species, Rocky Mountain elk, from the Yellowstone region to areas ranging from the Pecos and Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the Jemez, Mt. Taylor and Grant County. In little more than a century, elk numbers in New Mexico rose from zero to at least 70,000, and perhaps as many as 95,000, according to the most recent population estimates from the Department of Game and Fish.

These were taken in late summer 2017 in Chaco Canyon. We saw an entire family group of does and young calves.

It seems the elk spend the evening near the cliff wall and in the fields of Chaco Canyon grazing, then, in the mornings, they walk down into Chaco Canyon's washes to find shade and graze some more.

We were delighted to see the herd's Bull make an appearance. Sizeably larger than the others, this Bull has obviously had a long and well-fed life in the park.

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