Are Elk Populations Rising In Several Parts of Texas?

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“Hey Chester, you’ve got to check out what I got on my game camera.”

An old Little League teammate approached me in a grocery store with a big smile on his face and an amazing photo.

A few minutes earlier, a five-by-five bull elk in velvet walked across his Moultrie Mobile Cam, which sent the picture to his phone.

“There are a fair number of elk around the lease that escaped a few years ago from a high-fenced ranch. The lease rule is we do a drawing for one bull a year and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime draw. We’re trying to manage them so their herds will increase,” he said.That photo, along with others he showed me of other elk on the lease confirmed what I had known about this area, that had both elk and a few red stags reported over about a 10-year period.

Check out our latest episode of Higher Calling Wildlife about this topic.

Chances are these elk will all get killed. But with more conservation-minded hunters in the woods than ever, it’s possible a small population could thrive.

I recently came across an incredible study by Richardson B. Gill, Christopher Gill, Reeda Peel, and Javier Vasquez.

It goes deeply into historical accounts of elk in the Lone Star State and as the study shows, elk were not limited to theTrans Pecos.

The earliest recorded sighting of elk in Texas occurred in 1601 according to the authors. The Spanish governor of New Mexico, don Juan de Oñate, embarked on an exploration of lands to the northeast of Santa Fe.

“This river [the Canadian] is thickly covered on all sides with these cattle [bison] and with another not less wonderful, consisting of deer which are as large as large horses. They travel in droves of two and three hundred and their deformity causes one to wonder whether they are deer or some other animal.”

Translation: Elk.In 1772, French captain Athanase de Mézières reported elk by calling them red deer (the elk’s close European cousin) between modern day Nacogodches and the Sabine River.

“This very large province can compete with the most fertile and productive. It produces in abundance beans, maize, large and small stock,buffalo, deer, red deer, wild goats, turkeys, wild hogs, partridges,hares, rabbits, and other species of both quadrupeds and birds, which has served us in this long journey for recreations as well as for sustenance.”

There are many, many more historical accounts in their study but just as fascinating is the DNA evidence they show of today’s free-ranging Texas elk origins.

“DNA research indicates that today’s free-ranging elk in the Davis and Glass mountains are the result of the natural immigration of elk from the Lincoln National Forest of New Mexico, just north of the Texas border, to recolonize areas of their former native range in the Trans-Pecos. The evidence presented substantiates the presence of native elk throughout Texas prior to their extirpation in the 20th century…”

Do you have any photos or videos of elk in Texas? If so, send them to

I’m pondering making a documentary with Paul Fuzinski of Aptitude Outdoors on the topic, so anything photos or footage would be great.

Chester Moore


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