Best Places to Have an Elk Encounter around Cannon Beach
Although they make themselves scarce during the busy summer months, herds of Roosevelt Elk are frequently spotted at some of their favorite grazing grounds around Cannon Beach the rest of the year. These amazing creatures can be seen in herds of a dozen or more, and adults can be 10 feet in length, weigh over 1,000 pounds, and stand five feet to the shoulder. Bull elks carry an impressive multi-point set of antlers, while herds often consist of several females and juveniles.
If you know where to look and keep your eye out, especially during their most active hours at dawn and dusk, there’s a good chance you might encounter these impressive animals on your visit to Cannon Beach. During the fall, you might witness bugling bull elk using their trumpeting call to attract females or demonstrate dominance over other males.
Here are some of the most likely spots you’ll encounter these impressive creatures:
Meadows of Ecola State Park:
Roosevelt Elk seem to enjoy the jaw-dropping vistas of Ecola State Park as much as the hikers and sightseers. The nearby rainforest provides stealthy hiding for elk, and the meadows surrounding the main parking lot are an all-you-can-eat buffet. These meadows are good bets for spotting elk at dawn and dusk or on tranquil days.
Along the edge of Ecola Creek:
Just a block or two from downtown, the grassy spots on both sides of Ecola Creek are famous grazing grounds for elk. Check Ne Cus’ park and the grounds of the former Cannon Beach Elementary School. On the north side of the creek near the bridge, green grasses offer enticing grazing while woodlands and wetlands provide cover. Further west, the lawn at Les Shirley Park on 5th Street is also a popular spot, including on the creek-side of the trees where elk often rest or wander into the dunes to the north. Patient observers may even catch them crossing the creek between these areas. Sometimes all you have to do is watch for stopped cars or people gazing into these areas, a likely sign that elk are present.
Behind the tennis courts and the Cannon Beach Information Center at Second and Spruce streets, the athletic field of City Park offers some of the greenest grass in town and an invitation for elk to emerge from the nearby wetlands to graze. The elk are so fond of these fields that local coaches occasionally have to put practice on hold while the herd grazes through.
Highway 101 Sunset Boulevard Exit:
The small grassy portion of land between the highway and the looping Sunset Boulevard exit to midtown Cannon Beach is also popular with elk and a reminder to always use caution when driving this stretch of Highway 101. Maybe it’s their way of welcoming visitors, but the herd seems to have an affinity for munching on the grasses and napping in this exit circle on the east side of Highway. Again, watch for cars parked along the highway for no apparent reason. Remember to use your flashers and follow traffic rules when you pull over for a photo!
Elk watching etiquette and safety
Remember that these are wild animals and should only be watched from a respectful distance. When possible, enjoy them from the safety of a vehicle. Never try to feed elk or approach them closely. Usually, they will move away from you, but elk can be aggressive if they feel threatened or you come between the herd or their young. If the elk respond to your presence by moving away or closer to you, you are too close and in potential danger. Always keep dogs on a leash, quiet, and at a safe distance. During the fall mating season and late spring to early summer, when they have babies, elk are more likely to be aggressive and should be treated with even higher levels of caution. Enjoy experiencing the sight of these amazing creatures, and be safe!
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