photo by Andrew McKinlay CC BY-NC


Elk are related to Deer but much larger (4 ft tall, 6-9 ft head to tail) than most of their relatives. They have a dark shaggy mane from neck to chest, a light-colored rump patch, large antlers, and long legs. An Elk's winter coat is 5 times warmer than its summer coat with an outer layer of long guard hairs and a dense woolly undercoat.

Elk can be found in western North America, especially the mountainous regions. They eat grass, plants, leaves, and bark, browsing in large open meadows at dusk and dawn and sheltering in the nearby forest to chew their cud during the day.

Elk are social animals, spending most of the year in single-sex groups. In mountainous areas, they spend winters in valleys moving to higher, cooler elevations in summer.

Male Elk bellow loudly during mating season and use their antlers to fight other males in order to dominate the herd and attract females. Older, more successful males will then protect a small herd of approximately 6 females and their young.

Could it be? Deer are smaller than Elk. Moose are larger, darker-colored, and solitary. Confusingly, European Red Deer are closely related to North American Elk, whereas European Elk are related to North American Moose.

Did you know? Male Elk shed their antlers in March and start growing new ones in May. The antlers grow very quickly - up to 1 inch a day in summer - and may be 4 ft long by summer's end.

See Also: Caribou, Moose