Elk NetworkColorado Cattle Rancher Welcomes Elk

General | April 9, 2024

A cattle ranch in central Colorado is more than doing its part to get along with elk. Located about 70 miles southwest of Denver, Dave and Jean Gottenborg view elk as an asset rather than just hay-eating machines.

Elk are known to cause issues with private ranchlands in some places because they take advantage of water-fed crops, especially if forage is barren in the high country due to drought or poor habitat conditions. They have their upside as well.

“Elk can provide an indicator of how well habitats are functioning, which works to ensure the animals have the habitat they need to thrive,” Karie Decker, director of wildlife and habitat for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, told Modern Farmer. “They have a direct role on vegetation through herbivory and seed dispersal, create wallows and serve as prey and carrion for many other wildlife species.”

For their part, the Gottenborgs are seeking funders that would offer financial support in exchange for letting elk feed on their land during the winter. They also built a series of water guzzlers that supply water for cattle and elk alike.

“The elk have been here a long time, and we’re trying to change our approach to make them an asset,” Dave Gottenborg told Modern Farmer.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)