Elk hunting and seedling destruction

Elk is the largest deer species in Europe. It has adapted to almost all types of forest and thrives in semi-open fields and even in cultivated areas. Elk live all over Finland, but its population density varies considerably from one region to another.


It is Finland’s most important game animal, but it is also clearly the most destructive mammal apart from humans. In terms of money, elk is more valuable than other game animals. An autumn hunt is therefore not just recreation, for example, one-tenth of the elk hunted ends up in stores and restaurant tables.

Elk numbers have risen rapidly since the 1970s; at he beginning of the 1970s, there were about 5000 but ten years later there were 50000 and there are more than 60000 today. One of the reasons for the growth in the population has been selective hunting. Female elk are generally spared while calfs are hunted. This led to the overexpansion of the population and in 2002 and 2003 the elk population was drastically thinned. Even that thinning of the population has apparently not sufficiently reduced its numbers enough in some parts of the country.

Elk take most of their nutrition from trees and bushes. In winter the main course is pine shoots and in the summer there are various leaves, berries and grasses. In autumn, elk often also visits oat fields. An adult elk will eat around 10 kg of fresh vegetation a day. This is a problem as elk are very fussy eaters and only part of a tree’s seedlings will be on its menu. In areas where pines are cultivated the trees often have a similar genus, meaning all those pine trees will be suitable nutrition.

Photo: Markku Lappalainen