Let’s Make Elk Tracks! (PEEC)


Participants will learn about signs left by elk, and how to make a model of an elk track.

Grade Level:

K - 6

Recommended Setting:

Outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:



Ponca Elk Education Center, Ponca, AR


Education Program Coordinator, 870-861-2432


30 - 45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

10 - 20

Special Conditions:

Seasonal, Weather Permitting


  • Learn common elk signs.
  • Make a model of an elk track.

Key Terms*:

Bark chews

Dropped antlers



Tree rubs


*See glossary for definations


Elk sign poster

Elk track mold

Foot of an elk

Hamburger trays (class set)

Measuring cup




Zipper bags (class set)


Certain signs indicate elk have been in an area. These signs include tracks made by an elk’s feet.


  1. Ask participants to look around the room to see if there are any ways to tell that people have been there.
  2. Point out some indicators such as a cup of coffee, lights on, a coat on the back of a chair, etc.
  3. Explain that these things indicate a human is, or has been, in the room. These things are called signs, and they are everywhere, left by all animals. This activity will teach about elk signs and how to make a model of a track.
  4. Show the poster that illustrates signs left by elk. Point out the following information:
    • Tree rubs – Bark scraped off about four feet off the ground where a bull may have cleaned or polished his antlers.
    • Tips of small trees and shrubs nipped off.
    • Dropped antlers – Bulls will shed their antlers in spring.
    • Bark chews – About ¼-inch apart.
    • Droppings or scat – Pellets that are oval-shaped and range from ¾ of an inch to 1½ inches.
    • Wallows – An area where an elk may have cooled off in a shallow pool.
    • Tracks – About 4 inches long. Take note of where they lead or from where they come. It could lead to an elk bed, and there could be hair and scat as well.
  5. After introducing tracks as a sign, show them a model and share additional information about an elk’s feet:
    • Elk have four toes on each foot.
    • The two outer toes are called dew claws.
    • Elk walk on the larger toes. This part is covered by a tough, thick toenail and is considered its hoof.
    • Sometimes elk will rise on their hind legs and use the front hooves when in the fighting posture.
    • By staying on their tiptoes, elk can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour and remain surefooted on uneven ground.
  6. Now it is time to make the tracks! To make the elk tracks:
    • Give each participant a hamburger tray and ask each to write their names on them.
    • Put one heaping cup of moist sand in each hamburger tray.
    • Smooth out the sand.
    • Press the elk track mold into the sand, and set it aside. (Make sure participants press hard and lift the track mold straight out of the sand.)
    • Mix ½ cup of water with one cup of plaster in a zipper bag. The mixture should be runny, not thick.
    • Seal the bag tightly, and knead it with hands until it is mixed well with no lumps.
    • Pour the plaster into the sand mold.
    • Leave it to dry.
    • After it has dried, carefully remove the track and brush away the sand.


  • What are some signs an elk would leave?
  • How many toes are on an elk foot?
  • What are the two outer toes called?
  • On which two toes does an elk walk?


Bark chews – signs on a tree where elk have been stripping bark for food

Dropped antlers – antlers found on the ground; a sign left by a bull elk that has shed his antlers

Scat – an animal’s fecal droppings, especially a wild animal

Track – a footprint of wildlife

Tree rubs (elk) – places on trees where the bull elk has rubbed to remove the tattered velvet and to polish his antlers

Wallow – an area on the ground that an elk has churned with his front legs; elk may lie in the wallow at times