Most people associate elk (or wapiti) with the Rocky Mountains but don’t realize elk once lived in Iowa. When the first European settlers arrived there may have been as many as 10 million elk in North America.
Early reports give the impression that elk were more abundant than bison in Iowa. Elk were most common on the prairies in the western two-thirds of the state. Elk spent the summer scattered loosely across the prairies. In the winter, they formed large herds.
Due to heavy hunting and loss of habitat, elk disappeared rapidly throughout much of their range. The last elk seen in Polk County was in 1850 and elk had completely disappeared from Iowa by 1871.
Several small captive herds exist today throughout the state. One of these herds can be seen at Jester Park wildlife enclosure which is accessible year round.
Enature.com - This page provides a complete online field guide for elk as well as other groups of animals.