Elk Encounters in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

On my recent trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I had the incredible opportunity to photograph some of the majestic elk that call this place home. The refuge is home to a significant herd of Rocky Mountain elk, which were reintroduced to the area in the early 1900s after the native Merriam’s elk had been hunted to extinction.

Cow Elk On Fort Sill
Cow Elk On Fort Sill, Oklahoma

My first elk sighting was of a solitary cow elk grazing peacefully on the grounds of Fort Sill, which borders the refuge. Later, I came across another pair of cow elk on Fort Sill. The terrain of Fort Sill extends into the Wichita Mountains, allowing the elk to migrate freely between the two areas. It was a serene sight to watch these beautiful animals in their natural habitat, seemingly undisturbed by my presence.

Two Cow Elk Feeding On Fort Sill
Two Cow Elk Feeding On Fort Sill Behind A Fence

The most exciting encounter, however, was with a group of bull elk in a closed area of the refuge. While I could observe and photograph them from a distance, they were behind a fence, separating them from the public areas of the refuge. This experience piqued my curiosity about why certain parts of the refuge are off-limits to visitors, which I’ll explore in an upcoming post: “Why Part of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is Closed to the Public.”

Three Bull Elk In A Closed Area
Three Bull Elk In A Closed Area Of The Refuge

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has played a crucial role in the conservation and preservation of the Rocky Mountain elk species. After the original Merriam’s elk were wiped out, the refuge took steps to reintroduce elk to the area. In 1908, a single bull elk of unknown origin was donated by the city of Wichita, Kansas. Then, in 1911 and 1912, additional Rocky Mountain elk were brought in from the National Elk Refuge herd to establish the current population.

It’s truly remarkable to witness the descendants of these reintroduced animals thriving in the Wichita Mountains today. My encounters with these majestic creatures were a highlight of my trip, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe and photograph them in their natural habitat.

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