Just 300 years ago, more than 10 million wapiti, or elk, roamed the plains of North America. The eastern wapiti was extinct by 1898, after about 100 years of hunting and habitat loss to agriculture. It only took about 20 years for the Arizona wapiti to become extinct. It was gone by the early 1900s. Former grazing lands became cities and farms. Roads replaced natural migration routes. Forests were cleared.

Those subspecies of wapiti that were not totally exterminated have stabilized and have experienced large increases over the remaining parts of their range. Wilderness preserves, wildlife personnel, and concerned citizens have helped to save North America’s four remaining subspecies of wapiti, or elk.

The Navajo Zoo in Window Rock, Arizona has two elk on exhibit; one is male (a bull) and the other is female (a cow). Both elk were brought to the Zoo by the New Mexico Game & Fish Department in April 2007 after they were found orphaned. Both have grown quite well from their first year at the Zoo! Visit the Navajo Zoo online to find all the important facts about elk, plus some interesting background into the tradition between Native Americans and the animals, like elk, that they once depended upon.