Elk

Cervus canadensis

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  • Elk |  Photo: USFWS
  • Elk |  Photo: USFWS
  • Elk |  Photo: USFWS
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Elk Photo Gallery

Basic Information

Other names

Wapiti

Order

Cervidae

Family

Artiodactyla

Size

Elk are large ungulates that can grow up to 9 feet in length.

Lifespan

up to 21 years

Weight

Elk (Cervus canadensis) facts, habitat, diet, range, elk pictures and more to help you learn to identify the large ungulate.

Diet

Elk are herbivores that feed on grasses and forbs in the summer and woody plants during the winter months.

Breeding

The elk rut is a spectacular display. Shortly before it begins, males lose the velvet on their antlers and begin to compete for female attention. Large dominant males will defend territory and bugle to attack females. Dominant males will mate with more than one female. Both males and females reach sexual maturity at about a year and a half, but young male are not likely to mate for a few years afterwards.

Range

Western U.S., Isolated Populations in Eastern U.S.

Number of Offspring

1-2 fawns

What does the Elk look like?

Elk vary in color depending on the season. In the winter they tend to be dark brown and a lighter shade of tan in the summer. Their undercarriages and backs are lighter in color than their dark necks and legs. The hair on their long necks is longer than the rest of their body. They have large heads and males grow impressive antlers that they shed each year. Males are larger than females and may weigh up to twice as much.

Elk Habitat

Open Forests

Elk Facts

Elk are large herbivores. They feed on grasses, flowers and a variety of woody plants. They are have a variety of predators including, mountain lions, wolves, grizzly bears and coyotes. They are also called Wapiti, which is a Native American meaning for “light colored deer.” The lose their antlers each fall after breeding and regrow them in the spring. In the summer they tend to migrate to higher grazing grounds. Elk calves can stand and walk within 20 minutes of birth. In the winter elk form large herds and return to lower ground were less snow is present. They once ranged across North America, but are primarily in the western U.S. now. However, there are several isolated pockets in the east, such as in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and in Pennsylvania. For a great chance at viewing them in the wild there is no better place than Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

See also