The local Roosevelt elk have been delighting guests since the cabin opened. They are a comforting presence and reminder of how close we are to wildlife here in Greenwater, Washington. Many are unaware of how lucky we are today that these elk still exist, even if there are only an estimated 700 left that live in the Rainier National Park, and between 150 and 500 live in the Greenwater area.
We were curious to learn more about them. We’d like to share what we’ve learned about these beautiful creatures that visit the cabin regularly.
How Roosevelt Elk got their name
President Roosevelt had a powerful connection to nature from his early days exploring the West. The sacred, raw beauty of the land and the shameful eradication of species during his time struck a deep chord. His later acts to protect our lands earned him the nickname “The Conversationist President.” An ironic name for a wealthy Harvard Graduate New Yorker, some may think. His mark upon this great country is felt even today, from the childhood staple — the Teddy Bear — to summer meccas like Yellowstone National Park, where he laid the cornerstone of the park’s northern entrance.
Theodore Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service and established 150 national forests, countless wildlife preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments through the 1906 American Antiquities Act.
And this leads us to the naming of the Roosevelt elk. One of those eighteen monuments he established was the Mount Olympus National Monument. Teddy Roosevelt witnessed first hand the decimation of wildlife even in the remote West, and the elk in particular.
His desire to protect the elk is why we can enjoy Olympic National Park today, through future president Franklin D. Roosevelt. By establishing these protected regions and monuments, the elk had a haven in which to thrive.
It would be his relative, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would visit the monument and region, naming the elk after Teddy. One year later, F.D.R. created the Olympic National Park. It was just in time, too. There was an estimated 10 million elk that lived in North America before 1500. By 1907, these majestic animals had been comparatively wiped out with only 100,000 remaining. F.D.R. stepped in just in time to save them. In fact, the first suggested name for the Olympic National Park was Elk National Park because it was intended to be a reserve for dwindling elk herds.
One of Only Four Surviving Sub-Species
Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the four sub-species in the United States. The other species are the Tule Elk, Manitoban Elk, and Rocky Mountain Elk. The Roosevelts graze on berry bushes, grasses, small leafy plants. One of the largest unmanaged herds of Roosevelt Elk is right here in Washington state where it all began at the Olympic National Park. In Rainier National Park and the surrounding area, there is a unique combination of entities lending an invisible hand to protect and help our local elk thrive. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe spent over 1.5 million dollars developing monitoring programs and conduct numerous research projects. This information has been shared with state and federal government agencies to better manage, protect, and help sustain the herd’s viability.
Elk Bugling Tours
When guests stay at Crystal Rainier Retreat, elk are often close by. When breeding season approaches in September, young bulls will challenge their elders for the right to mate. They emit an unmistakable high-pitched call, known as bugling. Often family groups or even an entire herd will wander by the backyard on their way to the White River or in search of lush grazing opportunities in the fall and early winter. In spring, we have seen the new calves mixed in with the herds.
For those who want a more coordinated tour, NorthwestTrek on the southwest side of Mt. Rainier offers wildlife tours throughout the year. Their free-roaming area hosts herds of Roosevelt elk, bison, moose, caribous, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, and swans.
As for Greenwater, we love our elk. To be so close to something which has become so rare is humbling and inspiring. Our thanks to past presidents who had enough foresight and courage to preserve and help protect these wonderful residents we call neighbors.
Crystal Rainier Retreat is a rental cabin tucked into the town of Greenwater, Washington. The cabin is just 15 miles to Mt. Rainier and hosts groups and families looking to reconnect with nature and each other. Consider booking with us and come see the elk!
We’ve gathered a few links so you can learn more about the Roosevelt Elk.