ASHEBORO, NC – The very first elk calves ever born at the North Carolina Zoo have arrived. A male calf was born on May 28 and another male and a female were born May 30 – one to each of three mothers. This brings the N.C. Zoo’s elk total to 11. In addition, keepers suspect that two more females are pregnant and will give birth in June. The gestation period for a female elk averages about 250 days and the offspring, usually a single calf, weighs about 35 pounds

Today, there are approximately 1 million elk in North America. That number is roughly 10 percent of the estimated population before the European settlement of North America..

Elk that once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America diminished to the point that hunting groups and other conservation organizations became concerned the species was doomed to extinction.

In 2001, as part of an experiment, 25 elk were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Another 27 animals were imported by the park in 2002. The population is now estimated to be around 150 and is intently monitored and managed. The only other elk in the state of North Carolina are at the North Carolina Zoo or on private ranches.

The N.C. Zoo opened its North American Prairie Habitat in the mid-1990s and built a herd of 8 elk from various zoos, including a vasectomized male, and a herd of American bison. Additional animals were purchased from North Carolina elk ranchers in 2012 and 2014. Elk live 20 years or more in captivity but average 10 to 13 years in the wild. The original male died in 2014 at the ripe old age of 20. This allowed the N.C. Zoo to purchase a new breeding male in 2015, which would have been difficult earlier since the two bulls would not have been compatible in the same space.

In addition to the baby elk, a red wolf pup was born earlier in May at the Zoo.  With special events, the new Zoofari ride, the brand new Air Hike course, conservation and educational opportunities, North American and African animals and 5 miles of walking trails, the world’s largest zoo has something for everyone and is located in your own back yard.

About the North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo provides an experience like no other zoo anywhere. With five miles of exhibits, nearly 2,000 animals and 52,000 plants it is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and an international leader in wildlife conservation.

Find yourself surrounded by some of Africa’s giants including elephants, rhinos, and giraffes; share the love of gorillas with Mosuba and his six-member troop; welcome polar bear Nikita as he joins Anana in polar plunges every day at their Rocky Coast Exhibit; or join in the fun at the mud café in the Kidzone.

Located in center of the state in Asheboro, it is convenient to visit from anywhere in North Carolina. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes nearly 750,000 guests each year. Plan your adventure at


About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources 

The North Carolina Zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C.  Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit