Survival of elk calves depends on a number of factors, including disease, predators, nutrition, maternal care, weather, and accidents. Generally, highest mortality in elk calves occurs during the first month of life, where predators can take a high percentage of calves. During the mid-summer through fall period, elk calves generally have higher survival rates. Survival during winter varies considerably depending on how harsh winter conditions are and what predators exist in the area. Elk calves are generally reliant on milk for the first month, but will continue to suckle for several months if allowed by the mother. Within a couple of weeks of birth, elk calves begin to eat natural vegetation, and by a couple of months old are capable of surviving without milk. A significant factor when considering whether orphaning of elk calves results in higher mortality is whether the calf joins other elk. Generally, by July elk cows and calves begin to form small groups. Orphaned elk calves that remain in an elk group, or find another gorup, are expected to have higher survival rates.