ELK

January 21, 2003

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Bugling Elk
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Nothing but the FACTS ABOUT ELK!
BIOLOGY
Taxonomy (how scientists classify living things)

Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
Order:
Suborder:
Family:
Genus:
Species:  

Animalia
Vertebrata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla
Ruminantia
Cervidae
Cervus
Elaphus

Other North American Members of the Deer Family
White-tailed deer, Mule Deer, Moose, Caribou
Average Size
Newborn Calf 35 pounds (16 kg)
Cow 500 pounds (225 kg)
4-1/2 feet (1.3 m) at the shoulder
6-1/2 feet (2 m) from nose to tail
Bull 700 pounds (315 kg)
5 feet (1.5 m) at the shoulder
8 feet (2.4 m) from nose to tail
Coat Color
Body Varies from deep copper brown to light tan, depending on location and season
Rump Patch Light beige
Legs and Neck Often darker than body
Antlers
Weight Up to 40 pounds for the pair (18 kg)
Purpose Males grow them annually to display dominance and occasionally for defense
BEHAVIOR
Communication
Smell
Sound
Sight

Scent, odors
Vocalizations
Body postures

Breeding
Season Mate in autumn
Gestation 8-1/2 months
Birth Mid-May through early July
Social Organization
For most of the year Cows, calves and yearlings live in loose herds or groups. Bulls live in bachelor groups or alone.
During the rut Cows and calves form smaller groups, called "harems," with one or two mature bulls; yearling bulls may form bachelor groups or stay near harems.
HABITAT
Elk live in a variety of habitats that supply food, water, shelter and space. They are found in coastal forests, alpine meadows, dry desert valleys, and snowy mountain ridges.
Food

Elk eat grasses and parts of woody plants in winter; grass in spring and fall; grass and forbs in summer.

Predators
Bears, Mountain lions, Wolves, Coyote,Humans
Range
Prior to the 1800s, elk ranged throughout North America, except Alaska and Florida.
Today, elk live in the following states and Canadian provinces:
United States Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming
Canadian Provinces Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory
POPULATION
Today, elk number about 1 million in North America. This is about 1/10th the population that existed before European settlement of North America.
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Many thanks to Idaho Fish and Game and Project WILD for all of their help in this project. Information for this site was developed from "WILD ABOUT ELK," and is copyrighted by Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Project WILD. Permission has been obtained and granted to use this material for educational purposes. Photographic images were provided by the Department of Fish and Game and various other sources.
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