Elk have a lot of different names. They are also known as red deer, wapiti and Bactrian deer.
Male elks’ antlers can reach up to 1.2 metres (four feet) over their heads. They lose their antlers every March and they start growing again in May to prepare for the late-summer breeding season. When breeding season arrives, males scrape their new antlers against trees to strip off the velvet.
Elk are not endangered, but excessive hunting and changes to their habitat have led to declines in their distribution and abundance. Most populations were driven close to extinction in the 1800s. Conservation measures are helping increase numbers of wild elk.
In late summer, the bugles of male elk echo through the mountains. They use their new antlers in violent clashes between males to determine which males mate with which females. Elk moms give birth to single calves. A cow and a calf will live alone for several weeks after birth, then join the herd.
Babies are called calves and groups are called gangs.
At a Glance
Cervus elaphus canadensis
147 - 500 kg (325 – 1,100 lb)
1.2 – 1.5 m (4 – 5 ft)
Woodlands, mountains, grasslands, pastures and meadows through Europe, North Africa, central Asia, Siberia, the Far East and North America.
Herbivore. Elk eat mainly shrub and tree shoots, but will also eat grasses and shrubs depending on where they live. Elk are ruminant animals – they chew their cuds, meaning they regurgitate their food and chew it more than once to help with digestion.