Elk

Cervus elaphus

Elk

Appearance

Otherwise known as ‘Wapiti’ (named by the Shawnee for the animals’ noticeable white rump), elk are members of the deer family and can be 140 centimetres tall at shoulder height. Their fur is mainly brown and they have a long neck with a long head. The males will grow antlers and the females are about ten per cent smaller than the males, on average.

Range & Habitat

Elk are found throughout southern B.C. and into the United States, Colorado and the eastern plains. From the grasslands to the ponderosa pine forest, these animals stay cool during the summer by staying high in the mountains and moving down to feed in the grasslands in the winter.

Diet & Behaviour

Elk are grazing animals. They eat shrubs and grasses such as bunchgrasses throughout the year and occasionally chew on aspen, sumac, and jack pine bark in the winter. They are social animals and herd together while traveling within their range.

Lifecycle & Threats

In early September elk begin their mating practice. The males call to the females and there is fierce competition often resulting in direct sparing. Eight to nine months after mating, females give birth to a 15 pound calf. It will have small white markings on its back (just like Bambi). Hunting and decrease in habitat due to human use have decreased the elk population in Canada, but they are not considered an endangered species.

Status

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

More Information

www.discoverlife.org

Photo: Royal BC Museum