Meet Emmett the Elk and see why he’s making history in Michigan

LANSING, MI — Potter Park Zoo is home to nearly 500 animals. The habitats include space for endangered species like black rhinos, Amur tigers, red pandas, Massasauga rattlesnake and spider monkeys. But now another rare species will be calling the Lansing zoo home:


A male elk named Emmett and two females named Sage and Belle arrived at the zoo this year. They were acquired from Amber Elk Ranch, an elk farm in Michigan and will live in the exhibit where moose were previously viewed.

The zoo’s staff is calling the elks a “historically significant” species. When the Lansing zoo first opened in 1920, male elk were among the first species to be exhibited. Their return is a full-circle moment for Potter Park Zoo.

The facility initially had plans to acquire orphaned moose from Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game in 2019, but no calves were available at the time. And Meeko, a popular moose at the Potter Park Zoo, died from cancer in July 2019 according to MLive.

With no moose to show zoo visitors, elk made sense in their absence.

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Elk is the second largest member of the cervidae family, falling right behind moose. They were chosen as the moose replacement because the three-acre exhibit is well suited for their needs. .

Elk are known for their unique vocalization patterns that include the bull’s signature “bugling”, which can be heard for miles. Male elk can easily be identified by their antlers, which can grow up to 4 feet above their head and weigh up to 40 pounds. Antlers are used to attract mates and spar with competitive males.

The beautiful beasts live primarily in western North America and northern Asia. They spend their time in open woodlands, coniferous forests, and open mountainous areas, where they feed on grasses, shrubs, and tree bark.

The Potter Park Zoo is still closed to the public, but visitors can still see photos and learn more about the animal exhibits on their website.

Never seen an endangered elk before? Check out the gallery below from Amber Elk Ranch, Emmett’s old home.

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