Is an Elk a Decomposer? (What do Elks Eat?)

Elk are grazing herbivores that live in wooded areas. In the wild, elk eat a variety of plants including grasses, shrubs, and bark. Their diet changes between seasons as different plants become more or less available.

Elks are not decomposers because they only eat living organisms. Elk live on plants like grasses and moss, but they would never eat a dead animal. Therefore they cannot be classified as decomposers, detritivores or scavengers, but rather as primary consumers or herbivores.

Elk are browsers, which means they eat leaves, stems, and other parts of plants. They also eat a lot of twigs and buds. In the winter, when food is scarce, they will even eat lichens and mosses.

Elk are sometimes confused with moose, but they are not the same animal! However, all the points on diet of elk will be true for both species as they are quite similar in their dietary preferences and none of them are decomposers.

Can Elk be Considered Decomposers?

No. Elk do not eat dead or decaying matter and are therefore not decomposers. The bacteria in the gut of the elk play a very important role for their digestion and these microorganisms may be considered true decomposers.

However, elk do eat dead grass, also known as hay, which do put them slightly in the same category as decomposers. But it is important to remember that it is actually bacteria in the stomach of the elk that decomposes the fibers of the hay!

Read on to see what feeder type the elk belongs to and where they belong in the food chain!

But first we need to learn a bit about where it lives.

Habitat of the Elk

Elk live in forests and grasslands. In open grasslands, elk feed on grasses, shrubs, and bark. In forests, elk eat leaves, twigs, and small plants.

Elk prefer to live in peaceful areas, so forests or areas with tall grasses or shrubs are often ideal habitats. Elk are herbivores, so they only eat plants.

Diet of the Elk

Elk are herbivores. They eat grass, shrubs, and bark. Elk eat the leaves, twigs, and small plants of forests. In the open grasslands, elk feed on grasses, shrubs, and bark.

Feeding Habits and Digestion of the Elk

Elk use their strong teeth to rip off and chew grass and the other plants that they eat multiple times before swallowing. Elk differ from cattle in that forage digestion takes place in the hindgut vs. the stomach compartments in cattle.

The grass or hay passes through the esophagus, stomach and small intestine before reaching the cecum. The cecum has bacteria, fungi and protozoa that work to break down the fibrous material.

Are Elk Carnivores, Herbivores or Omnivores?

Elk are herbivores because they primarily eat plants. Elk eat grasses and shrubs, but also consume bark from trees.

I recently caught an elk (with my camera…) grazing in the forest! A beautiful sight in springtime.

Is an Elk a Producer or a Consumers?

Elk are consumers because they acquire their energy from other living organisms. Elk are herbivores and thus primary consumers.

What Type of Consumer is an Elk?

Elk are primary consumers because they only eat plants. Generally, herbivores are primary consumers, omnivores are secondary consumers and carnivores are tertiary consumers.

Where are Elk in the Food Chain?

Elk are fairly low in the food chain because they only eat plants. Animals that only eat plants are primary consumers and are placed on the second trophic level in the energy pyramid.

Is a Elk an Autotroph or a Heterotroph?

Elk are heterotrophs because they eat other living organisms. Practically no animals are autotrophic because animals do not get their energy directly from the sun like plants do.

That is, animals like the elk cannot make their own energy!

What Animals Prey on Elk?

Predators of the elk include bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars and bobcats. These animals will hunt for and eat elk in the wild.


In this blog article I have looked at the diet of the elk, a very important herbivore in many ecosystems.

Elk is found in many parts of the world and is very adaptable in terms of food choices. Elk are grazers and prefer to eat grass and other plants and the bark of trees. Elk have a digestive system that functions very well with plants, unlike some other herbivores such as cattle.

Elk have a very impressive antler and a broad diet. They are part of the food chain in many environments, and in some areas they play a very important predator role and are a very important source of food for other animals!

If you want to learn more about the life of elk, check the video below!

The life and feeding habits of an elk.

However, they are not decomposers and few animals are! If you want to know more about actual decomposers, take a look at my other blog posts on the topic and why decomposers are so important for our ecosystems.