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
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
Weight: Up to 40 pounds for the pair (18 kg)
Purpose: Males grow them annually to display dominance and occasionally for defense
- Body postures
- Vocalizations such as squeals, barks and bugles
Season: Mate in autumn
Gestation: 8-1/2 months
Birth: Mid-May through early July, depending on location
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:
- Mule deer, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bison
- Domestic sheep, cattle
- Chipmunks, squirrels, beaver, other small mammals
- Grouse, eagles, woodpeckers, chickadees, numerous other kinds of birds
- Mosquitoes, dragonflies, numerous other insects and arthropods
- Trout, salmon, other fish
- Salamanders, snakes, other amphibians and reptiles
Prior to the 1800s, elk ranged throughout North America, except Alaska and Florida.
Today, elk live in the following states and Canadian provinces:
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
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.