Where To See Roosevelt Elk Along The Oregon Coast

Jump ahead to…

  1. Elk Etiquette & Safety
  2. Elk Warning Signs To Watch For
  3. Best Spots To See Elk
  4. Elk Information

Seeing a herd of elk on the beach is a surprise for most, but for Oregonians it’s not an unusual sight. Elk have even been seen wading in the Pacific Ocean.

While you can spot herds of elk all along the coastline, there are a few spots where they are frequently seen. Your best time to catch a glimpse of them is during dawn and dusk.

Elk Etiquette & Safety

When possible it is best to watch them from your vehicle. However, there can be times when you just happen to stumble upon them so it is important that you know how to interact with them – which isn’t interacting at all. Usually elk will move away from you, but can become aggressive if they feel threatened or have their young with them.

  • Do not feed
  • Do not approach
  • Are they responding to your presence? You’re too close and need to create distance
  • Keep dogs on a leash, do not let them bark at the elk, and keep your distance
  • Elk are more aggressive during the fall (mating season) + late spring, early summer (babies are born)

Elk Warning Signs To Watch For

  • Elk with their heads up high.
  • Wide eyes.
  • Moving stiffly and rotating their ears to listen.
  • Laid back ears and flared nostrils.
  • Punching with their front hooves.

Here is an article from High Country News that talks about dangerous elk encounters in Cannon Beach and other spots along the coast.

source: Oregon DFW

Best Spots To See Elk

Herds of elk can be seen all up and down the Oregon coastline, as the coastal landscape provides lots of shelter and grazing meadows. Below are spots where they are most frequently seen along the coast.

  • Along Highway 101 Sunset Boulevard Exit

It seems like an odd spot for grazing, but we’ve seen a herd of elk feasting on the grass in the middle of the highway “loop exit.” If you see multiple cars pulled over on the side of the highway, this usually means there are elk!

  • Cannon Beach – city park

At the city park, behind the tennis courts. The elk population around Cannon Beach is rather large. And aside from Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area, Cannon Beach is where most people can find them – especially during the winter months. Sport teams have even had to stop practice to allow the elk to graze!

  • Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area

Bureau of Land Management land, on the side of Oregon 38 near Reedsport. This park is home to 60-100 Roosevelt elk. The animals can be seen in these meadows all year long and there are viewfinders throughout the park to look through. Website.

  • Ecola State Park

This is where we typically come across a herd of elk. The rainforest around the parking lots and vistas provide a place to hide and the park meadows are perfect for grazing. Dawn or dusk is the best time to spot them.

  • Ecola Creek

In the Check Ne Cus’ park, the grounds of the former Cannon Beach Elementary School, north end of Ecola Creek (near the bridge).

  • Gearhart + Warrenton

Catch herds of elk walking down the streets, through the golf course and in people’s backyards in these small northern Oregon Coast towns.

  • Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area

Located in central Clatsop County, north of Elsie and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. A winter habitat and feeding area for Roosevelt elk – there can be up to 200 elk seen here during the colder months. These meadows are some of the best spots to watch herds of elk. In the winter months they can hang out all day. In the summer months they are mostly seen at dawn and dusk. Park map

  • Les Shirley Park

Located on 5th Street in Cannon Beach. Les Shirley Park’s grass lawn is another popular spot. Elk also often rest or wander into the dunes on the creek-side of the trees to the north.

  • Tami Wagner Wildlife Area

Located in Yachats and 141 acres along the Yachats River. This area was purchased in the early 1980s to provide a foraging area for elk and to deter them from grazing on local farmland. Spring and winter is the best time to see herds of elk here.

Elk Information

  • Before European colonization, more than 10 million elk lived in nearly all of the U.S. and parts of Canada. Today, about 1 million elk live in Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ontario, Canada.
  • Roosevelt elk are the 3rd largest land mammal in North America. Named after President Theodore Roosevelt, who created the Olympic National Park, mostly as an elk reserve. Nicknamed “Rosies.”
  • Largest in body size for all elk subspecies, but not antler size. Males weighing 700-1,100 pounds and females weighing 550-650 pounds.
  • 1 of 2 subspecies of elk found in Oregon.
  • Estimated Oregon population: 59,000.
  • Some of the noisiest animals. They communicate danger and identify each other by sound.
  • Roosevelt Elk are darker in color than other elk.
    • Summer: copper brown.
    • Fall, winter + spring: light tan.
    • Rump patch: light beige.
    • Legs and neck are often darker than the body.
  • Birth cycle: calves are born in late May – early June and spend the first few weeks motionless and hiding while their mommas feed.
  • Diet – An elk’s stomach has 4 chambers: 1 stores food, and the other 3 digest it.
    • Summer: grasses and forbs.
    • Spring and Fall: grasses.
    • Winter: grasses, shrubs, tree bark and twigs.
  • Antlers – Only male elk have antlers.
    • Bulls shed and grow a new set of antlers every year.
    • New antlers are covered velvet – fuzzy skin.
    • Antlers harden by late summer, the velvet peels away and become solid bone by September.
    • Mature bull antlers can weigh up to 40 pounds.
  • Living situation – Cows, calves and yearlings live in loose herds or groups. Bulls live in bachelor groups or alone. During the rut, cows and calves form harems with one or two mature bulls.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s