Can Elk Eat Apples?

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Among hunters and the populace in general, a question is often asked ‘can elk eat apples?’ The answer is yes, elk love apples. 

Elk thirst for their sugar boost and a curious effect that ferments apples in their stomachs, making them drunk. Apple scented attractants are a big hit with elk and deer baiters. 

Understanding Elk Dietary Habits to See If They Eat Apples

Elks are majestic animals, but the ruminant large deer species is a voracious feeder. They are herbivores, much like cattle and deer, dependent on a selection of plants as daily fare.

The scientific name for elk is Cervus elaphus. They have four-chambered stomachs; the first is for storing food while the other three digest it. 

In the wild, elk have a diet that consists of grasses, shrubs, and forbs. Forbs are any species of broad-leaved herbaceous plants that aren’t grass.

These are important components of the elk diet, providing vital nutrients for their growth and vitality.

Proof that Elk Loves Apples

On the 3rd of December last year, an elk was caught while indulging its love for apples. It happened in Maggie valley, an orchard filled part of Windswept Way, North Carolina.  

Unfortunately, there was a hammock attached to the apple trees, and the bull elk’s antlers got entangled.

The garden’s owner, Jim Beaver woke up to see the gigantic bull trying to free his antlers from the hammocks ties. Haywood county sheriff’s corporal ken stiles climbed onto Jim’s roof and cut the hammocks rope to free the elk. 

Beaver reiterated that elk were regular visitors to the valley for the apples. It certainly wasn’t the first time they’d been interested in the hammock. 

Normally, according to Jim Beaver, they’re really quiet and will wander over into the apple gardens. This particular elk came for more apples a few days later, pieces of the red hammock still shredded on his antlers.

Damage Caused by Elk When They Rampage After Apples

Elk has been a problem in many fruit growing regions, particularly in Washington State. In 2018, excessively hot weather had killed range grasses that previous year, and the following winter had more snow than usual.

The Colockum Heard 

This prompted an expensive band of elk known as the Colockum herd, which is highly overpopulated, to invade Wenatchee and Colombia, Washington. 

They left orchards in a mess, young cherry trees trampled in an orchard near Malaga south of Wenatchee. 

At the Columbia Orchard Management orchard, they have been coming for the last three years. During harvest time, they ate tree seedlings and consumed between 50 and 75 bins of apples. 

A large part of the Colockum herd came by and knocked apples from the trees according to the orchard manager, Rene Hernandez. A week later, the same herd came back to eat the now softened up apples on the ground. 

The Garden City, Idaho Bull

In Garden City Idaho, a young bull elk couldn’t keep from being sedated and captured twice, after being found eating apples. In the 2014 story, his hankering for apples made him one of the usual suspects for officers of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. 

At first, he was captured in Garden City and moved to a safer location, 25 miles away north to Horseshoe Bend. During the second capture, the elk was sedated after being spotted in a vacant lot, again eating from an apple tree.

This time when he was moved, he woke up earlier than expected, injuring an IDFG officer by sticking his ear with a sharp antler. 

The officer however survived the incident and was treated and then discharged at a nearby hospital. 

What Does Elk Eat?

What Is Elk’s Favorite Food?

In terms of favorite food, I’d have to say shrubs come highly appreciated by elk. 

They’re selective of the tips of specific trees, which represent that year’s shrubbery growth. Elk will gobble up the occasional fruit, such as apples, to diversify their taste buds and augment their nutritional uptake. 

Alongside shrubbery and the occasional fruit, elk will traverse long distances in search of water and a salt lick. 

How Much Food Quantity Do Elk Eat?

On average, an elk will eat 3 lbs. of foliage each day for every 100 pounds of its weight. That means that the average 800-pound bull elk will consume 24 pounds of greenery.

A mid-sized 500-pound cow takes in 15 pounds of food daily.

Elk also loves wild mushrooms, ferns, legumes, and a variety of forbs. An elk is equipped with sharp incisors and molars that are broad and flat for mashing plants and fruit

Their molars line the lower and higher jaw, while incisors are present only on the elk’s lower jaw. 

What Sets Elk Feeding Habits Aside From the Other Ruminants?

When confronted with the question ‘can elk eat apples?’ what comes to your mind is probably a comparison of elk and deer or domestic cattle. 

While these are valid comparisons, some contrasts set them apart.

Cattle and sheep are referred to as grazers. That’s because they consume such large quantities of grass or shrubs on the ground. 

Deer, on the other hand, are browsers. A larger part of their diet consists of on-tree leaves and shrubs.

Distinctions between Cattle, Deer, and Elk Feeding Habits

The obvious distinction between cattle and deer would be the physical sizes of their stomachs or rumens. This is besides their associated strategies of food digestion such as drinking large or small quantities of water and seeking the ubiquitous salt lick.

When you’re considering elk feeding habits, think of them as intermediaries between the grazers and the browsers. This means that elk are adapted to consuming a large amount of grass as well as browsing for shrubs and yearling leaves. 

As long as foliage quantities are sufficient, elk are capable of meeting their nutrition needs across a wider habitat condition spectrum.

Adaptable and generalists of foraging, elk can occupy a diverse landscape. There are more elk where the ecosystem supports grasses, forbs, shrubs, and fruit, alongside water and some thirst generating salt licks.

Elk is also taller and will browse on taller trees or alimentary shrubs than deer during winter. The migratory elk will spend winters in open forests and floodplain marshes. 

During summer, elk migrate to alpine basins and subalpine forests.

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