A few hundred years ago, the elk of North America numbered in the millions. Over hunting caused their population to dwindle to fewer than 100,000 around the turn of the 20th century. Thanks to conservation efforts, the elk population is stable at around one million today. Most live in the western United States, including the land surrounding Missoula, and we’ve been known to spot them from our Missoula Montana Bed and Breakfast.
These majestic creatures migrate between low valley pastures in the winter and high mountain grazing grounds in the summer. Calfs are born in the early summer, and mating takes place towards the end of the summer after antlers have regrown on the males. A herd of elk is a magnificent site.
The Elk Foundation’s Elk Country Visitor Center is located about 10 miles north of our Missoula Bed and Breakfast. It’s worth a look, if for no other reason than to gawk at the display of impressive elk mounts that resides there. Feel the weight of elk antlers, learn to identify animal tracks, and listen to the bugling call of elk, among other activities.
Visitors are also invited to walk the trail that meanders around the 22-acre property. It’s unlikely that you’ll spot elk there, but there is a good chance you’ll see other wildlife: owls, wild turkeys, bald eagles, and white-tailed deer are frequently seen there.
The Visitor Center is open year-round, daily through the end of the year. Admission is free. More information is available at Elk Country Visitor Center.