Elk NetworkAre Elk Strictly Herbivores?

Conservation | August 6, 2016

Are Elk Strictly Herbivores?

Though they’re generally considered strict herbivores, elk have been known to munch on antlers, bones, birth byproducts and even eggs to supplement their diet.

In 2003, ecologists studying sage grouse in northern Wyoming used remote-sensing cameras to document predation. One image captured a bull elk eating eggs out of the nest site.

“I’m sure he wasn’t actively seeking them out,” said Matthew Holloran, lead author of the study. “It was probably happenstance on his part.”

Cows also checked out the nests but showed little interest. Instead, the ladies have been known to eat their calf’s placenta, which serves the double purpose of replenishing nutrients and eliminating olfactory evidence of the birth to camouflage the newborn. It’s a risky habit, though—afterbirth can concentrate and transmit deadly diseases like brucellosis.

Ever seen an elk munching on something different? Let us know in the comments below.