Status of Elk in Ontario

Ontario’s Elk Restoration Program


In February 1996, the Ontario government announced, with the support of partners, the intention to develop an elk restoration program. In 1998, The Plan for the Restoration of Elk in Ontario was created.


This comprehensive plan addressed many factors involved in a wildlife restoration project.  The factors included habitat needs, habitat suitability, population ecology, genetics, diseases and parasites, human-elk interactions. It also identified potential areas in Ontario for restoration. 


bull elk with cows and calves
A total of 443 elk were released at four sites across Ontario.

The restoration program was carried out with the help of many partners. Between 1998 and 2001, elk were released in areas around the Nipissing/French River, Bancroft/ North Hastings, the North Shore of Lake Huron, and Lake of the Woods. (View map of elk release areas. ) Released elk came from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, a source of elk for many reintroduction and restoration projects in North America.


During the planning stages of each local elk restoration project, several local meetings were held and a notice was posted on the Environmental Registry as required by the Environmental Assessment Act and Environmental Bill of Rights.


Elk Populations

American elk populations in Ontario are estimated by counting the number of animals observed during aerial surveys and entering this data into a population model. Population estimates vary across the province, and do not include elk that may live outside of the primary core ranges.


The sizes of all wildlife populations rise and fall over time. Small changes in population size from year to year may not be significant, while changes over many years can indicate a trend. Differences in elk population estimates seen from year to year can result from a combination of factors including: natural mortality, hunting mortality in areas where there is a hunting season, natural dispersal of animals away from the core area, survey conditions, and differences caused by the statistical model that generates the estimates.



Year Provincial Population Estimate

Population Estimates¹ for
Core Elk Release Areas in Ontario

Lake of the Woods (LOW)


Lake Huron North Shore (LHNS)

Nipissing/French River (NFR) Bancroft/North Hastings (BNH)
2004    375-440 35-45 60-65 110-130 170-200
2005    339-442 35-45 65-70 120-150 119-177
2006    375-452 35-45 70-80 greater than 120 150-207
2007 Not Available² 35-45 75-85 fewer than 100 Not Available²
2008    426-647 35-45 80-100 128-148 183-354
2009    535-670 25-35 100-115 110-120 300-400
2010   700 25-35 110-130 Not Available³ 330-766
2011   679-1026 35-45 135-165 160-175 349-641
2012   648-916 35-45 155-200 165-195 293-476



¹ Elk population estimates were acquired using a variety of techniques.  Due to the difficulties in observing elk from the air during surveys, population estimates are reported either as an approximate range or as the average value within that range.


² Information was not available as a survey was not done in an area that year.


³ Information was not available due to poor survey conditions in the area during the 2010 survey.