THE NORTH AMERICAN ELK ( or WAPITI)

The elk is a hoofed animal. Elk are members of the deer family.
Elk are larger than deer but smaller than the moose.
The male is called a bull, the female is a cow and the young are calves.

DESCRIPTION

  • long thin legs
  • adult bull elk is about 150 cm tall at the shoulder
  • average male weighs 300 to 350 kg
  • some adult bulls are as large as 500 kg
  • cows are about 135 cm tall at the shoulder
  • cows weigh about 250 kg

  • coat is reddish brown in summer, grayish-brown in winter
  • dark brown head and neck
  • a dark shaggy mane (thee hairs from neck to chest)
  • rump (or rear) is yellowish-white with a short tail

  • males have large antlers
  • new antlers grow each year
  • antlers are shed (dropped) in late winter; begin growing in spring
  • antlers have velvet covering in spring and summer
  • velvet rubs off in late summer leaving light grey antlers
HABITAT

  • live in open country, forests and parklands, high country (mountains)
  • found in British Columbia and the Yukon;
    Alberta - foothills, national parks, forests;
    Manitoba - Riding Mountain National Park;
    Saskatchewan - in the forests north of Prince Albert;
    in the southern part of the province
    (Moose Mountain, Duck Mountain, Cypress Hills areas)
  • map

ADAPTATIONS

  • good swimmers
  • run up to 50 km/hour
  • hide in thick brush or trees
  • wooded areas provide shelter during winter
  • grow a thick coat for the winter

FOOD

  • plant eaters.
  • winter - grasses and leaves under the snow, twigs
  • spring and summer - new growth of plants, grasses,
    leaves and tips of branches
  • fall - dry grass, dry leaves, twigs

HABITS/BEHAVIOR

  • live in groups of six or seven or up to 20 or more
  • sounds made are grunts, barks (warning) and squeals
  • bulls make a whistling sound called "bugling" (72 KB WAV)
  • fall is the rutting season when bulls fight head to head for the females
  • strong bulls may have a large group of cows
  • front hooves and antlers are used as weapons

YOUNG

  • cows give birth to one calf in late spring (May or June)
  • newborn calves drink mother's milk
  • calves remain very quiet so enemies can't spot them
  • coats are spotted
  • calves are kept hidden for ten days or more after birth
  • then calf and mother rejoin the herd

ENEMIES

  • humans hunt elk
  • wolves, grizzly bears, cougars
  • black bears and coyotes kill calves
  • killed accidentally when crossing highways

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS

  • Wapiti is a Shawnee Indian name meaning white rump
  • life span - 14 years (males) and 24 years (females)
  • Elk were plentiful when the settlers first arrived.
  • Large numbers were hunted for their meat, hide and antlers.
  • Elk Island National Park (Alberta) was set up in 1913
    as a protected area for elk and bison.
  • Elk are now raised on ranches.
  • Oriental people use the antlers for medicine.
  • Elk living in parks have become quite tame.

photo 1 | photo 2 | photo 3 | elk at Banff


CANADIAN WILDLIFE


CREDITS:
web page by J.Giannetta
2004 (updated 2011)
jgiannet@hotmail.com
background from http://www.patswebgraphics.com
information from Hinterland Who's Who
PHOTOS : Copyrightę 2004 Ray I. Doan
http://www.raydoan.com/w3420.htm


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