Noah Austin

Depending on the time of year, elk (Cervus canadensis) can easily be spotted in Arizona’s high country, notably in the ponderosa pine and piñon-juniper forests on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. But not so long ago (relatively speaking), you couldn’t spot elk around here at all. A subspecies, the Merriam’s elk, once roamed present-day Arizona and other parts of the American Southwest, but unregulated hunting and cattle grazing drove those ungulates to extinction by the early 1900s. Starting in 1913, elk from Yellowstone National Park were relocated to Arizona, and today, the roughly 35,000 elk in the state can trace their lineage to those transplants. Many of the elk seen near the Canyon go there in search of water, and as a result, they’ve lost their natural fear of humans. That familiarity can lead to dangerous interactions for both the elk and Canyon visitors, because elk, while not usually aggressive, will defend themselves if people get too close. Park officials ask that you keep a distance of at least 100 feet. Our photographer captured this calf elk near Tusayan, south of the South Rim.