Over the course of the last decade, more and more elk are returning to German woods, reports nature conservations organization NABU. Elk are thriving in eastern Europe resulting in more and more animals migrating westwards. For example the Polish population grew from about 2,000 individuals around 1990 till about 4,000 individuals today. Animals from Poland easily cross rivers like the Oder or Neiße; either by swimming or walking over the ice in winter times. Also within the Check republic several elk populations can be found.
Best know German Elk was called Knutschi, a young in individual which turned up around Görlitz in 2008. This measures only about 200 km from the next westward country, the Netherlands. Unfortunately this animal died in 2009. More to the east, more and more sightings are being recorded from the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saksen and Bayern. Even elk calves are being sighted.
Elk play a unique roll with in European ecosystems. Compared to other grazers it is more of a tree eater, while others are either intermediate feeders or true grazers. Its wide hooves even support these big animals in wet swampy conditions, places which are inaccessible to other grazers. Its high needs for nutrition such as calcium and iron causes them to regularly dive to consume aquatic vegetation.
The NABU also warns for possible side effects caused by the return of these animals. Especially traffic has to take into account that these animals can be met alongside the road. Elk are Europes largest deer, weighing up to 800 kilos and having shoulder heights up to 2.3 meters. You don’t want to bump into one.