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Elk Viewing in Gaylord, MI

Nature abounds in the Northern Lower Peninsula. Elk are the largest and most impressive wildlife you’ll encounter in the Gaylord area and there is more than one way to view them. Discover the many ways you can witness these majestic creatures firsthand.

Pigeon River Country State Forest

The Pigeon River Country State Forest’s expansive 114,000 acres offers a unique wilderness experience that is just a short drive from downtown Gaylord. Home to one of the largest free-ranging elk herds east of the Mississippi, the Department of Natural Resources maintains this flourishing elk habitat through careful forest and wildlife management.

Elk inhabit this site year-round, but certain times are better for viewing than others. Generally, the best months are September and October, when the males (bulls) are trying to establish dominance for mating rights with the females (cows). They are extremely 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 this time, try to arrive mid-week, as elk viewing has become very popular and weekends can be crowded at known viewing sites.

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 fewer people out to see them. Several elk viewing sites have been established in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. These are not the only places you can see elk, but they are located in known 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.

Gaylord’s City Elk Park

The City of Gaylord maintains an elk herd and provides viewing areas for the public to stop and watch these impressive animals. Under the City’s care, roughly 40 elk, along with sika and fallow deer, can be viewed from near the Elk’s Lodge off Grandview Blvd.

The herd is contained on 108 acres. City staff feed the animal corn, hay, sugar beets, and vitamins. The herd started with three elk, when a local nature center closed in the late-1980s.

Currently, a few of the bulls weigh well over 800 pounds and stand roughly 6 feet tall. The bulls will don their massive antlers during the fall and winter, dropping them in the spring.

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