Facts about Elks

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1. A light colored deer
Elk is a wild omnivorous animal found mostly in North America. The name elk is a Native American word that means “light colored deer.” Elk is also called Wapiti. Elks are connected to deer and are much larger than most of their relatives.

2. Home for Elks
Elks were common across North America hundreds of years ago but they were killed and forced to take refuge in more distant locations. Today, they live primarily in western North America, mainly in mountainous topography such as Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge. Some Eastern U.S. states have reintroduced few elk herds into heavily wooded wilderness regions.

3. Reproduction
In early summer, elks migrate to high mountain-grazing grounds where the females will give birth. Each female typically has one calf that can stand when it is 20 minutes old. Throughout the late summer breeding season, the bugling of bull elk echoes is heard through the mountains. These powerful males strip the velvet off their new antlers using them in violent clashes that decide who gets to mate with whom. Bulls with bigger antlers, typically older animals, usually win these battles and control small herds.

4. Temporary loss of Antlers
Male elks, known as bulls lose their antlers each March, but they start to grow them back in May in getting ready for the late-summer breeding season. A bull elk’s antlers can grow to reach 4 feet (1.2 meters) above its head so that the animal towers 9 feet (2.7meters) tall.

5. Elks’ family is even toed
Elks belong to the deer family, also known as Cervidae. Other members of the Cervidae family include the moose, caribou, white-tailed deer and mule deer. All these species have the common trait of an even number of toes.

6. Elks products
Elk’s velvet has been in use for traditional remedies for centuries. Thousands of elks had been slaughtered by 1930s for their canine teeth to make jewelry, watch fobs, and other ornaments as well as for decoration. Elk’s meat has long been considered a premier meal. It fits the needs of the present-day consumer because it is lean, low in fat and cholesterol, and delicious. The leather is used to make boots, gloves, and other articles of clothing.

7. Size of the Elks
Adult bulls average 800 to 1,100 pounds, stall at a 5′ to 5’6″ height at shoulder at 7 to 8 years of age. Mature females average 550 to 600 pounds, stand at a height of 4′ to 5′ at the shoulder at three to four years of age.

8. Elk cows
Female elks known as cows can breed at 18 months for up to 15 years of age with some going up to 20 years. Their gestation period is between 245-255 days and some as late as 270 days. Cows do not grow antlers. Cows give birth to calves in May or June with white spots and a tan rump. Twins are very rare.

9. Attracting Cows during Rut
Bulls dig holes in the ground, in which they urinate and roll their body. The urine soaks into their hair and gives them a distinct smell that attracts the cows. The bulls do this during the mating period known as the rut, where mature bulls compete for the attention of the cows and will try to defend females in their harem. A bull with a harem rarely feeds and may lose up to 20 percent of its body weight.

10. Elks’ migration
For many species of deer, mainly those in mountainous regions, elks migrate into areas of higher altitude in the spring. Throughout the winter, they favor wooded areas and sheltered valleys for protection from the wind and availability of tree barks for food. Elks also spend the season pawing into and out of the snow to browse on grass or shrubs that stand clear of the snow cover. Roosevelt elk are non-migratory due to less seasonal variability of food sources.

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