Are Elk Pests? How Do I Repel Them From My Yard and Property?

A large member of the deer family, elk are known for being large mammals that roam various parts of the United States. These elk exist in great numbers in many states like Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and more.

However, some people may call elk pests, but aren’t pests a term only for insects? How can elk possibly be a nuisance to humans?

Elk are not pests if they are within their natural habitats. However, many farmers call them pests because they overbrowse their crops and potentially infect their livestock with diseases like brucellosis. The best way to keep elk away is to keep a tall fence around your property.

Do you want to learn more about if elk are truly pests and how you can repel them? Join us at Floofmania as we take a deeper look into elks being pests, what you can do about them, and more!

Are Elks Considered Nuisance Animals?

Elk without antlers with snow in the face, standing among snow-covered bushes.

Elks are not considered pests, and even if some consider them a nuisance, they’re not close to the level of insects like cockroaches. However, this mostly depends on who you ask!

Most farmers will gladly call elks pests because elks can enter their farmlands and overbrowse crops. Elk may also spread diseases to their livestock if the elk come in contact with the farm animals.

It is also worth noting that elk can still be beneficial to nature in the right circumstances. For instance, it is hypothesized that elk can eat competing vegetation to help Douglas-fir trees grow.

What Damage Can Elk Do To Buildings?

Normally, elk will not cause damage to your buildings, but it is possible! Male elk, or bulls, have long antlers that they can use to ram into buildings, which can break softer building materials like wood.

Elk are much more likely to cause damage to the outside of your property, however. For instance, they may wreck your garden if they decide to eat the vegetation.

Do Elk Come Near Your House?

It is unlikely that elk will go near your house unless you have a lot of plants that will entice a hungry elk. Elk often stay clear of areas that have a lot of humans because they are scared of people.

Of course, that is not always the case! A few rare instances may make your home suddenly a resting ground for elk, such as this man’s house in Colorado!

The house was located in Estes Park, which is surrounded by nature, allowing a herd of elk to easily find his house and rest in his front yard!

Do Elk Carry Diseases?

Elk do carry diseases, and the most notable disease that elk carry is a chronic wasting disease, which some people call elk wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease is a kind of prion disease that affects various members of the deer family, such as elk and moose. It is fatal to animals once transmitted and there is no vaccine or treatment, but there are no reports that humans have ever caught it.

According to scientists, this disease is transmitted through body fluids like urine, blood, or feces through indirect or direct contact. 

It takes around a year for the infected animal to show symptoms, and the following symptoms include:

  • Quick weight loss (wasting)
  • Listlessness 
  • Stumbling

Another disease that elk can carry and give to other animals (primarily livestock animals like cows and sheep) is brucellosis, which is a bacterial infection that causes stillbirth and abortion in the affected animals. 

However, most people do not have to be worried about sick elk. Chronic wasting disease has never been reported to be transmitted from elk to humans. 

As for brucellosis, it can only be contracted if you have come in contact with animals or animal products contaminated with the bacteria.

Moreover, it usually only occurs if you were to consume unpasteurized or raw animal products that were contaminated with brucellosis. As such, you should be safe if you eat pasteurized and fully-cooked animal products. 

How Can I Get Rid Of An Elk On My Property?

Three bull elk with antlers grazing together on a green grass field with green bushes behind.

If elk have been wandering into your property, there are a few ways you can deter them. The best way is to use physical barriers to keep them from entering your property.

Keep Elk Out With Fences

One of the most efficient ways to keep elk from your property is to set up tall fences to surround your property. Elk are unlikely to try ramming down your fence if the fence is strong enough and tall.

How Tall Should My Fence Be To Keep Out Elk?

It is ideal to make your fence at least 6 to 8 feet tall. Elk are often 5 feet tall at their shoulders, so adding another 1-3 feet in height to your fence can keep elk out.

Can Electric Fences Keep Elk Out?

Electric fences will keep elk out since the shock from the fence will startle the elk and make it leave.

However, it is important to get well-designed electric fences and maintain your electric fence regularly. Faulty electric fences can severely injure or be fatal to animals.

You may also want to consider what other animals are on your property before you get an electric fence. If you have a dog, you may not want to install one. 

Plastic Netting Can Protect Vegetation From Elk

If you have some vegetation that elk have been browsing, you can use plastic netting. Elk enjoy scratching their antlers on small, young trees to mark their territory. Wrap the plastic netting around small trees and plants, so elk cannot get to them. 

This is what an elk looks like when they mark their territory on trees:

Can You Repel Elk With Smells?

Elk can be repelled by smells. Elk have a strong sense of smell that they rely on to find food, so anything that smells foul to them will make them retreat. Here are some common repelling smells and how they work. 

  • Wolf urine: Wolves are predators that frequently urinate to mark their territory, and this will scare off elk.
  • Garlic plants: These strong-smelling plants can be placed near plants that elk may be tempted to eat, like vegetables.
  • Thyme, rosemary, lavender, and oregano: Elkrarely eat these plants, and having them around may help in keeping the animals away. 
  • Sulfur: Sulfur deters elk because of the foul smell. You can mimic the smell by using putrescent egg solids.
  • Coffee grounds: The bitter and strong odor often keeps elk from browsing or staying near the coffee grounds.

Does Deer Repellent Work On Elk?

Deer repellent often works on elk because elk are a part of the deer family. As such, deer repellent would work on other members, such as moose too.

Can You Repel Elk With Noises?

Elk are easily repelled by noise because their instincts tell them that there is danger nearby. The best sounds to use are noisy, banging sounds, such as:

  • Drums
  • Whistles
  • Propane or gas exploders (be careful!)
  • Using your voice to yell
  • Motion-triggered alarms
  • Loud music blasting from your speakers

Elk are very skittish animals as well, and they often run away from any unfamiliar noises. For instance, a wind chime may be enough to make elk retreat because they have never heard a wind chime before.

Can You Repel Elk With Lights or A Scarecrow?

Elk can be initially surprised by lights, and bright lights may repel elk. Unfortunately, frequently using bright lights on elk may make them learn that the lights do not actually hurt them. As a result, they will not be scared of bright lights anymore. 

As for scarecrows, it is pretty unlikely that elk will be scared of a scarecrow. Based on the principle alone, scarecrows should scare elk because scarecrows resemble humans. However, some elk may be used to being around humans or get accustomed to the scarecrow and not care about the scarecrow.

Can You Keep Elk Away With Pets?

It is possible to keep elk away from your property if you have a dog, especially if your dog wants to defend your property. Dogs will bark loudly at the elk, which is usually a good way to scare off the big animals.

On the other hand, cats are not effective at keeping elk away because cats are not obvious threats. Elk may become alert of cats if your cat stalks and hisses at the elk, but the elk may continue to ignore your cat. 

Can Elk Be Dangerous To Pets?

Elk can be dangerous to pets if you are not careful. Elk often try to stay on the safe side and run away, but they can also become aggressive, especially if they are faced with a male elk.

Male elk, during the breeding season, are more likely to use their antlers to fight, which can greatly harm your pet. Normally, the breeding season for elk is from late August to mid-October.

Additionally, most elk may leave your pet alone unless your pet continuously pesters them or attacks them. Once the elk feel threatened, they may attack your pet instead of running away.

If you want to learn more about elk and if they can cause harm, read our article called “Are Elk Dangerous?”.

Author: Allison Marie Dinglasan

Hello! I am Allison, an avid writer for 6 years with a deep interest in animals since I was a child. I grew up on Animal Planet and animal books and often did rescue work for stray and sickly cats, dogs, and birds in my area, which led to over 60 rescues. My future goal is to be a veterinarian to have a more hands-on approach to helping and learning about animals!

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