Elk Poop (Some Pungent Questions & Answers) 

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Published on August 31, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023

In the animal kingdom, feces (commonly known as poop) serve many purposes aside from being a “stinky” solid bodily waste. Most animals use it as a form of territorial marker, for communication, for setting boundaries, and even as food! Isn’t that interesting?

Speaking of poop, in this article, we will talk about the pooping behavior of one of the most majestic inhabitants of the North American forests – the elks! 

Elk are universally adored for their beautiful, graceful stature and their magnificent antlers. Those are all great, but for now, we will discuss their feces, urine, and that kind of thing! 

Continue scrolling through the article and learn a heap of info!

What Is Elk Feces Called?

Elk feces have many names – it can be referred to as scat, droppings, feces, dung, or poop. There’s really no special or unique term for it. Moreover, Elks’ other family members from the Cervidae family like deer and moose also don’t have a specific feces name. 

What Does Elk Poop Look Like?

According to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, elk poop is typically around ⅝ inches in diameter and about 1 inch long and comes in the shape of pellets. In addition, elk poop’s texture also varies depending on the season. During summer, you’ll observe that it looks more like cow pies – softer but still with a hint of being pellet-shaped. While in winter, it tends to look more solid and hard.

The variation of the texture of their poop is a result of their seasonal diet changes. In summer, elks consume grass and plants on the ground. However, in the fall and winter, due to the lack of plants on the ground, they eat leaves from tree branches.

In addition, there’s also a minimal difference between a bull elk’s (male) and cow elk’s (female) poop shape. Bull elk poop has a more concave end, and cow elk poop looks narrower or tapered

Check this video to see what it looks like:

Personally, it doesn’t look too gross in comparison with other animal poop!

What Color Is Elk Poop?

Given that elks are herbivores, they usually consume plants, grass, tree bark, and more. With that, their poop color tends to be brown, dark brown, green, or black. However, despite mainly consuming plants, seeing green elk poop is rare. Elk poop is most often seen in the shade of brown and black. 

Why Is Elk Poop Pellet-Shaped? 

Since we are used to seeing tube or log-shaped poop from cats, dogs, and even humans, you might wonder, why elk poop is pellet-shaped? 

Well, it is because of their diet! The food (plants, grass, etc.) consumed by elks can be hard to digest. Thus, leaving their poop to appear harder than normal. Moreover, the elk’s sphincter (the anal muscle that relaxes and tightens), opens and closes in an automatic and faster rhythm. So, it cuts their feces into small pellet-shaped poop.

Do Fresh And Old Elk Droppings Look Different?

Fresh and old elk droppings don’t look the same! As time passes, elk poop texture and color change. Fresh elk poop usually comes in the colors of brown or dark brown. However, old elk droppings turn black. Texture-wise, old elk poop becomes drier and more crumbly

Moreover, the smell changes too! Fresh elk poop has a stronger scent. While old elk droppings only have a faint one. Later on, we will talk more about the smell of elk droppings!

Do Elks Poop A Lot? 

Yes, similar to deer and moose, elks poop a lot! They defecate around 10 times or more a day! Now, that might seem like too much, but with their diet and lifestyle, it’s completely normal. Plus, did you know that elks eat around 20 lbs (9 kilograms) of vegetation daily? Knowing that, their frequency of pooping is less surprising. 

Is Elk Poop Very Smelly?

Now, moving on to the most awaited question (probably), is elk poop very smelly? Since we all associate poop with an unpleasant odor, it is not surprising to assume that elk poop smells pretty bad. So, is their poop smelly or should we exclude them from the smelly poop stereotype? 

As mentioned earlier, elks are herbivores. Thus, they mainly feed on plants. Due to their diet, their poop releases an earthy smell – of course, it’s still not pleasant to the nose, but it is more tolerable compared to a dog, cat, and pig’s poop.

Elk droppings smell much more similar to horse poop, actually!

How Do Elk Poop?

Elk usually poop in piles! However, there’s a slight difference in how cow elks and bull elks poop. For example, bull elks sometimes leave a neat pile of droppings (usually in one place).

Elk cows, on the other hand, tend to spread the pellets in a  wide range with each pellet being spread out over an area. Plus, it looks like female elk poop while walking, whereas males stand still!

This difference is because bull elks (especially big bulls) produce a greater amount of poop than cow elks. 

Elk with big antlers lying down in a forest's thicket.

How Can You Tell Elk Feces From That Of Other Animals?

Distinguishing elk poop from other animals’ feces can be helpful if you are trying to identify what animal recently paid a visit to your backyard! Kidding aside, noticing the difference between different types of animal scat can help you track them, in case you are hoping to see one! 

Plus, recognizing fresh elk droppings can serve as your protection since seeing these can signify that there’s a nearby elk. With that, you can use it as an invitation to quickly leave the area because these beautiful creatures can, at times, be aggressive, and charge without any warning. 

So, check the comparison charts below to see the main differences between elk droppings from other animals!

Elk PoopDeer PoopMoose PoopCaribou PoopReindeer Poop
Size0.4 to 0.6 inches in diameter0.3 inches in diameter0.6 to 0.8 inches in diameterAround 0.3 inches in diameterAround 0.3 to 0.4 inches in diameter
ShapePellet or oval shapeOval shape (one end is pointed while the other one is flat)Pellet or oval shape (elk poop is slightly rounder)Pebble or pellet shapePellet shape during winter and large cow pies shape in summer.
ColorCan be green, brown, dark brown, or black (if old).Brown, black, and rarely green.Can vary from green, brown, to black.Can be brown, dark brown, black, and rarely green.Dark brown to black
SmellEarthy to rank (depending on their recent meal)Earthy to rank (depending on their recent meal)Earthy to rank (depending on their recent meal)Earthy to rank (depending on their recent meal)Earthy to rank (depending on their recent meal)
FrequencyAround 10 to 25 times a day10 to 30 times per day depending on the season. They poop more during spring and summer because of the additional fiber they acquire from plants that are not available during winter and fall. 13 to 21 times a day. But, take note that newborn moose will poop more than an adult moose. Roughly 15 times a dayAround 13 times a day

As you can see, most of them almost have the same smell, shape, color, and frequency! That similarity is due to their diets.

Where Do Elk Generally Poop?

There’s no specific area where elks generally poop. Since elks are travelers, they often spend their time walking with their herds. With that, they just literally poop anywhere they want to or when they feel like it.

Also, elks, like other animals, will not poop if they sense that they are in danger or there’s a predator nearby since their defense is usually weaker while defecating. 

An elk grazing next to the edge of a pine forest.

How Do Elk Urinate?

Bull elks have a unique way of urinating. First, they dig holes in the ground, then urinate. After urinating, they will roll their body over it to give themselves a distinct smell that attracts the female elks.

This practice among animals is also called “self-anointing.” Moreover, a bull elk’s self-anointing signifies that they are looking for a mate

Check this video of a bull elk spraying itself with its urine during rut season:


Meanwhile, cow elks don’t practice the same urinating behavior. So, they don’t have a special manner of urinating. But, their urine also attracts bull elks. With that, hunters often use their urine to attract bull elks to their locations. 

Do Elk Urinate A Lot?

Yes, elks urinate a lot – especially during the mating season since the stronger the urine “perfume,” the higher the chances of a female cow noticing them.

Is Elk Urine Very Stinky? 

Hunters describe elk urine as similar to a strong musk of cattle or ammonia. Elk urine really has a strong scent. In fact, some people can easily detect if there’s an elk nearby because of the elk’s distinguished urine scent. 

Elk grazing on brown grasses.

Do Elk Urine and Poop Have Other Purposes?

As previously stated, bodily discharge (whether urine or feces) in the animal kingdom can serve other purposes than just being waste. So, do elk urine and poop have other uses? Let’s find out!

Will Elk Use Urine and Poop To “Communicate” or Mark Their Territories?

Yes, elks use urine to mark their territories – but not poop. Moreover, they also establish territories by releasing a specific scent from their sweat glands, rubbing themselves against trees, and wallowing. 

Take a look at this bull elk marking his territory:

And similar to what I said earlier, urine can serve as a way of communication since it is used by elks to indirectly announce that they are looking for mates. 

Do Elks Eat Their Own Poop and Urine?

Yes, there are moments when a cow elk consumes her calf’s urine and poop. However, elks don’t exactly see it as a form of food!

According to an article from Montana State University, since calves have a particular scent, their poop and urine are things that might give away their location to nearby predators.

With that, mother elks eat it to protect their calves from predators. So, it may look gross to human standards, but it is actually a sign of a mother’s care and love!

Author: Kaye

Hi, I’m Kaye! Since an early age, I’ve been fascinated with animals. While growing up, I was constantly watching animal programs and reading magazines. I started writing about animals in 2021 when I volunteered to be a publicity officer in a nonprofit organization that advocates for giving stray animals a better life.

Author: Mitzie C

Mitzie is a writer and animal welfare advocate. Her writing is inspired by her love for her rescue cats, Eddy and Dylan, and her rescue dogs, Cypher, Daegu and Holly. Follow her journey as she discovers her unique voice here in Floofmania and shares her insights on the importance of the animal kingdom.


  • Kaye

    Hi, I’m Kaye! Since an early age, I’ve been fascinated with animals. While growing up, I was constantly watching animal programs and reading magazines. I started writing about animals in 2021 when I volunteered to be a publicity officer in a nonprofit organization that advocates for giving stray animals a better life.

    View all posts

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