The elk is one of the largest and most famous species of deer on the planet, and whilst they have been at risk over the last few years, they are being repopulated from their habitat in certain areas across the USA. This is great news for wildlife fans, and it’s interesting to learn more about this large, sometimes aggressive, and downright beautiful species of deer.
If you have ever did an online search on types of deer, the elk is perhaps one of the most commonly referred to, aside from the popular ‘Bambi’ appearance of a deer.
Formerly known as the Cervus Canadensis, groups of Elk are called a gang, and they certainly pack a size-able punch, especially during the mating season, when it is not unusual to see males clashing aggressively, with horns locked.
Overall, an elk is expected to live for around 8-12 years in general, and they can weigh anything from 325 – 1100lb overall – that’s huge! An elk is certainly one of the largest species of deer on the planet, and their majesty is certainly something to be hold.
They stand proud, with their neck straight and their antlers sometimes protruding up to 4 feet above their heads – this can make them around 9 feet in height!
The elk is sometimes also known as the Wapiti, which is Native American for the ‘light colored deer’, and that is basically what this animal is. Although the actual shade varies from deer to deer, the lighter color means that the can easily disappear into their background.
Whilst the elk did used to be much more easily spotted than it is today, there are pockets of the USA where this animal is particularly easier to spot. Back in the day, you could spot these beautiful and majestic creatures all over the States, but a large amount of deer hunting in concentrated areas drove the deer to migrate to higher ground to feed, where they feel safer and less threatened.
Nowadays you are much more likely to see them in their habitat in the western reaches of America, such as Yellowstone National Park, and Wyoming National Elk Refuge. There are other areas where elk are being encouraged to return to also, and hopefully over time this will bring elk back to the USA and Canada in larger numbers overall.
The large antlers of the bull (male elk) is the most prominent feature of this type of deer, aside from their sheer size and bulk. Some bulls can appear huge, and they are loud too! During mating season it isn’t unusual to hear large bellowing sounds emitted from the wooded areas where elk roam; this is the male mating call, attempting to attract a female for mating.
During this time, you may also be privy to clashes between males, which can sometimes become violent, with stamping of hooves, and clashing of antlers two of the most common stand-off features of this type of deer.
If you have a picture in your head of the deer being a quiet and stand-offish type of creature, the male elk will show you that this particular stereotype is certainly not always correct!
The large antlers are actually shed every year, around March, but over the year they do grow back, just in time to attract that mate during the breeding season, typically in the later summer months. Female elk, also known as cows, are much smaller than males, but they still stand larger than other typical species of deer you may have seen, such as whitetailed deer.
Prior to the summer breeding season, during the colder weather of winter, elk will migrate up to the mountains, typically trying to find patches of grass which aren’t covered in thick snow.
You will find large herds (gangs) during this particular time, however you will also notice that prior to the mating season, male and female elk (bulls and cows) will keep their distance from each other, and are rarely seen close to each other.
During summer however, you will find cows also dwelling towards the higher ground, where they go to give birth – this is thought to be a protection effort, as the cow attempts to protect the young from threats. Cows will give birth to just one calf, and these are quite hardy little creatures, as they are able to stand after just 20 minutes of life! Calves also rapidly grow in size during the first few months and first year of their life.
The Elk Summed up
Whilst the elk is a very well known version of deer, it is also one which is thought to be the most aggressive in terms of behaviour. This tends to be more linked to the male elk (bull) during mating season, when they can become rather aggressive towards other bulls in the area.
They are of course fighting for the attention of potential mates, and this can lend itself towards clashing of those large antlers, which can sometimes span up to 4 feet in height, above their head. During this time, if you do see a clash occurring, it is best to stay out of the way, as when an elk sees red, you never know.
While it is not as easy as it used to be to spot an elk. Efforts are being made to entice elk back into their original habitat. This includes wooded areas and higher mountain areas in the USA and Canada.
The elk is of course the largest of the main types of deer you will ever spot, and their stature is what lends itself to their majestic nature. When a bull stands straight and proud, they are huge, they are imposing, and they are spectacular to see.
Have you spotted an elk in the wild? Have you been lucky enough to witness the elk antler clashing sounds and the sheer force of an elk battling another elk during mating season? The iconic picture of a proud elk standing against a snowy background is something that you should attempt to see at least once during your wilderness outdoor adventures, for sure!
See Also: Learn About the Mule Deer