One of Michigan's best-kept secrets could be in your backyard. Located behind the (no joke) Elk's Lodge in Gaylord, Michigan, there is a city-funded elk herd living on a sprawling 108 acres of protected land.

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

History of Elk in Michigan

The history of elk in Michigan is a unique one. Elk used to be very common in the state until they disappeared back in the 1800s "due to unregulated harvest and lack of quality habitat." Since then, the elk population was reintroduced from the state in the 1900s. Pigeon River Country State Forest is home to much of the state's wild elk population.

What makes Gaylord's elk herd so special is where they came from. The elk, which currently number around 40 elk, started as three elk that were released from a nature center that closed in the 1980s. Since then, the elk have been protected and taken care of by the City of Gaylord across 108 acres. The best part of the elk is that they can be viewed for free at select viewing spots around Gaylord.

Best Time to View the Elk

Two times of the year offer the best times to view the elk at their most active.

September through October

  • This is the height of the mating season for elk, where the males attempt to mate with the females. During this time, they make "loud vocalizations and break brush with their antlers" to establish dominance among the females and ward off other would-be suitors.

Late April through Early May

  • During this time, elk are grazing on the fresh, green grass, providing excellent visibility during an off-season for tourism.
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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