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Elk in New Mexico – An Amazing Recovery

Judging by the huge herds of healthy Rocky Mountain Elk that roam the highlands of our New Mexico Unit 4 in and around Chama, it is hard to imagine that just about 100 years ago the majestic elk was extirpated from New Mexico altogether.  According to a brochure from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, unregulated hunting of the elk to feed the waves of soldiers, miners and ranchers who arrived following the Civil War completely eliminated them from the State around 1909.

Then in 1910, the Bartlett Ranch brought in 15 elk from Yellowstone and in 1911 the Territorial Game Warden released another 12 Rocky Mountain Elk into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico.  But for the actions of these visionary pioneers we might not see the majestic elk in New Mexico at all today.

The brochure also contains an interesting timeline about elk in New Mexico and offers insights into the life habits of the elk and the habitat requirements that have made the elk such an abundant species in New Mexico today.  The estimated total population of 70,000 elk statewide makes New Mexico the third most populous state for the species.   The brochure singles out Unit 4 as one of the most abundant elk populations in the state.  All Timbers at Chama hunts are conducted on Unit 4 private land.

The brochure “Elk in New Mexico” is available as a free download from the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game by clicking on this link.