Once upon a time, Texas had herds of buffalo and elk that wandered the great plains and the western mountains.
Elk like to spend their summers in the forested mountains and migrate to the plains during the winters.
Current land use practices prohibit this kind of behavior, and as a result, limit the presence of large numbers of elk in Texas. In modern times, buffalo and elk are found only in public or private sanctuaries within the state. In my little part of Texas, there are buffalo in Caprock Canyons State Park, and not far from there is a ranch that has a small herd of elk.
The smaller size of the mule deer and white-tailed deer and their ability to exploit the local range land year round makes them able to inhabit smaller, more patchy environments than the elk.
Elk ranching is an expensive proposition because these animals require a lot of space and very tall fences. Elk are the second largest member of the deer species found in North America and they can jump fences up to 7 feet tall. Elk have a four chambered stomach that helps them process the grass, forbs, leaves and bark they consume daily. Male elk can weigh over 700 pounds while females average near 500. The size of these animals requires 9 to 15 pounds of forage per day.
Elk in Texas occur mainly on private ranches in the Hill country and in West Texas where they encompass enough acreage to provide the habitat needed by these animals. Free range herds exist on ranches in Pecos and Brewster counties where hunting privileges are sold to help support these operations. Elk in these parts are considered a competitor for resources for the Bighorn Sheep and are an unwanted species in local wildlife management areas. Read more about this issue in Texas Monthly.