Elk In Texas. Really?
The majestic elk, also known as Cervus canadensis, is a popular species that roams across North America. However, their history in Texas is not so straightforward. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), elk were present in Texas prior to European settlement in the 1800s. Evidence suggests that bighorn sheep and elk were found west of the Pecos River and other areas of Texas.
However, both species were eradicated due to hunting and diseases from domesticated animals.It wasn’t until the 1930s that elk were reintroduced into Texas by private landowners. The TPWD also played a role in elk reintroduction efforts. By the 1960s, bighorn sheep were also reintroduced to West Texas. However, elk were reclassified as non-game or exotic species in 1997 due to concerns about their impact on bighorn sheep populations.
According to the Texas Tech University Natural Science Research Laboratory, elk can adapt to a variety of habitats and have been known to thrive in Texas. Elk prefer to inhabit areas with a mixture of forested land and meadows, making the Texas Hill Country and other parts of the state suitable for their survival. Pitchstone Waters, a land and wildlife management company, argues that elk are indeed native to Texas based on historical evidence of their presence in the state prior to the arrival of European settlers.
Despite their complicated history in Texas, elk are a unique and valuable addition to the state’s wildlife population. The TPWD allows hunting of elk on private lands, and some ranches even offer guided elk hunting experiences. With careful management and conservation efforts, elk populations can continue to thrive in Texas for generations to come.
Map below shows elk range (open range, or low fence) in Texas, based off articles, actual sightings, crowd sourcing: