Elk - Wâwâskesiw - Wapiti
Cervus Canadensis (scientific name)
Wâwâskesiw (Indigenous Name - Cree)
Their name vaguely translates to “large deer.” Would you agree with that?
An Elk’s average lifespan in the wild is 10-13 years.
Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitats. They are browsing herbivores. Elk feed on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. They eat about 20 pounds of vegetation every day. How many pounds of food do you think you eat every day?
Elk are often mistaken for Moose… but guess what? Elk are actually a lot smaller than Moose, and their antlers are more long and pointy.
They have a shoulder height of 2.5 - 5 feet. Male Elk (also called “bulls”) weigh between 396 - 1,092 pounds. Female Elk (also called “cows”) weigh between 377 - 644 pounds. Bigger than a Deer, but smaller than a Moose!
Male Elk have antlers, which are made of bone. Velvet covers and protects the antlers as they grow. Elk shed their antlers in the Summer. But don’t worry - they’ll grow back!
During Fall, they grow a thicker coat of hair, which helps keep them nice and warm during Winter. They also grow thin neck manes - kind of like a scarf! By the time Summer rolls around, they shed most of their winter coat. They have different coloured fur based on the seasons and the habitat in which they live! Can you think of reasons why?
Elk have a distinct rump patch, which is the fur that grows around their short tails and is a different colour than the rest of their fur.
Elk are loud! Males produce a loud, high-pitched, whistle-like roar. This is called bugling. It advertises their fitness to the other Elk. Females also make sound, but it is more of a bark which alerts others to danger. There is no other vocal animal of this size with the same ability. You can listen to them here. Can you make an Elk call?
Where can you find them? Elk are currently native to North America (that’s where we are!) as well as Central and East Asia. If you take a trip to the mountains, you may catch sight of an Elk! Be careful of them if you see them though, as both bull and cow elk can be territorial and will be angry if you get too close to them.
Have you ever seen an Elk in the wild?