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The Pigeon River State Forest’s expansive 105,000 acres with the Midwest’s only free ranging elk herd offers a unique wilderness experience that is just a short drive from downtown Gaylord. The Department of Natural Resources maintains this excellent elk habitat through careful forest and wildlife management.
Elk inhabit this site year-round, but certain times are better for viewing than others. Probably the best month is September, when the males (bulls) are trying to establish dominance for mating rights with the females (cows). They are very active during this time, making loud vocalizations (bugling), and breaking brush with their antlers to impress cows and intimidate their rivals. If you plan to visit during September, try to arrive during the week. Elk viewing has become very popular and weekends are crowded.
Another good time to view elk is from late April through early May. Elk are active throughout the daylight hours eating the new green growth and there are few people out to see them. Several elk viewing sites have been established on this site. These are not the only places you can see elk, but they are located in known elk gathering spots, and are good places to start.
The best viewing is done from your car, since elk are accustomed to seeing cars. Use binoculars or spotting scopes for best results. Do not approach elk. Despite their large size, they are timid animals and will not tolerate much disturbance.
Try these spectacular spots:1. On Fontinalis Road, about three miles north of Sturgeon Valley Rd. near the Cheboygan County line, a small cleared parking area and field.
2. At the DNR-signed elk-viewing area on East Sturgeon Valley Road, about eight miles east of Vanderbilt.
3. Less than a mile north of the Osmun Road and Clark Bridge Road intersection in the Pigeon River Country State Forest.
Facts you may not have known about elk, tips for best time to view and even best viewing locations.
The city of Gaylord maintains an elk herd and provides viewing areas for the public to stop and watch the impressive herd. Under the city's care the roughly 70 elk can be viewed from near the Elk's Lodge off Grandview at Elk View Park.
The herd is contained on 108 acres. City staff feed the animals corn, hay and sugar beets, plus vitamins. The herd started with three elk 14 years ago, when a local nature center closed.
Currently, a few of the bulls weigh well over 800 pounds and stand roughly 6' tall. The bulls will don their massive horns during the fall and winter, dropping them in the spring.
Gaylord's City Elk Park