Average lifespan in the wild: 8 to 12 years
Weight: 325 to 1,100 lbs (147 to 499 kg)
Size: Height at the shoulder, 4 to 5 ft
(1.2 to 1.5 m)
Group name: Gang
Elk and other members of the deer family belong to a group of animals called ungulates, the Latin word for "hoof." All ungulates have hooves. Elk gather in herds. Common across North America hundreds of years ago, wild populations of elk are now concentrated in the western, mountainous portions of the continent.
What does a Elk look like?
Elk, or red deer, range in color from dark brown in winter to tan in summer. They have a characteristic buff colored rump and long thin legs. The head, neck, belly, and legs are darker than the back and sides. Elk generally have a long head with large ears.
Where do Elks live?
Elk were once found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, from Europe through northern Africa, Asia, and North America. Extensive hunting and habitat destruction have limited elk to a portion of their former range. Elk populations in eastern North America were reduced as a result of overhunting. Today large populations of elk in North America are found only in the western United States from Canada through the Eastern Rockies to New Mexico, and in a small region of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. Elk prefer open woodlands and avoid dense unbroken forests. Elk can be found in coniferous swamps, clear cuts, aspen-hardwood forests, and coniferous-hardwood forests.
What does an Elk eat?
Elk are browsers. They feed on grasses, sedges, and forbs in summer and woody growth in the winter months. Woody plants include cedar, wintergreen, eastern hemlock, sumac, jack pine, red maple, staghorn, and basswood. Elk are ruminant animals and therefore regurgitate their food and remasticate to aid in digestion. This is also known as chewing cud.
Do Elks have antlers?
Each spring, male deer and elk begin growing antlers from bony bumps on their skulls called pedicles. Increasing daylight elevates the level of the hormone testosterone in the animal's blood, which triggers the growth of antlers. Antlers begin as layer upon layer of cartilage that slowly mineralizes into bone. They are light and easily damaged until they completely mineralize in late summer. A soft covering called velvet helps protect the antlers and carries blood to the growing bone tissue.
Did you know this about the Elk?
Elk are a member of the deer family and subspecies of Red Deer.
Elk and wapiti are one and the same. Wapiti, white rump in Shawnee, is the Native American name and term most Canadians use.
Elk live in forested habitats. They are found in North America (western Canada and north central and western U.S.) as well as the high mountains of Central Asia.
Elk are both grazers and browsers meaning they eat grasses (grazers) as well as plants, leaves and bark (browsers).
Elk are ruminants. They have four-chambered stomachs and chew their cud.
Male elk are called bulls; females are called cows.
Bull elk are easily identified by their large antlers and dark shaggy mane as well as the bugling sound they make. All elk have a light colored rump as the name wapiti suggests.
Bull elk shed their antlers once a year. New antlers are covered with velvet, a fuzzy skin that carries oxygen and nutrients to the growing bones. The antlers of a mature bull can weigh as much as 40 pounds.
Cows live, feed and move in large herds up to 50 members in size. Bulls also travel in herds but they are single sex and much smaller in size. Males join female herds during the mating season called the rut.
Elk are prey for wolves, coyotes, cougars, mountain lions and bears both grizzly and black.
Download free Elk wallpapers, click on the image to open the large version.
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Elk Coloring pages
Print free Elk coloring pages, click on the image to open the large version.