Fast Facts


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


Animalia [kingdom]

Vertebrata [phylum]

Mammalia [class]

Artiodactyla [order]

Ruminantia [suborder]

Cervidae [family]

Cervus [genus]

Elaphus [species]

Other North American Members of the Deer Family
Moose, caribou, mule deer, white-tailed deer

Varies from deep copper brown to light tan, depending on location and season
Rump Patch: Light beige
Legs and Neck: Often darker than body

Up to 40 pounds for the pair (18 kg)
Purpose: Males grow them annually to display dominance and occasionally for defense



Mate in autumn
Gestation: 8-1/2 months
Birth: Mid-May through early July, depending on location

Social Organization
For most of the year:
Cows, calves and yearlings live in loose herds or groups; and bulls 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.

Elk live in a variety of habitats -- from coastal forests to alpine meadows, from dry desert valleys to snowy mountain ridges -- as long as they find enough food, water, shelter and space.

Varies with season and location. Generally, elk eat grasses and parts of woody plants in winter; grass in spring and fall; grass and forbs (low-growing, soft-stemmed plants) in summer.

Humans, bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes

Elk coexist with predators and a variety of other animals, depending on their specific ecosystem and habitat. Their neighbors include, but are not limited to:

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

Today, elk number about 1 million in North America. This represents roughly 10 percent of the estimated population before European settlement of North America.