The Deer Family: Deer, elk, moose and sambar are all from the Cervidae family. This is often referred to as the deer family. They are grazing or browsing ruminants and are found all over the globe. There are various species of animals in the deer family. The deer and elk are part of the family and, they share more similarities than differences. This is true of all species in the deer family. Cervidae range from small deer to very large elk or moose. They weigh between 10 and 900 kg
All animals from the Cervidae family, including the elk and deer, have large four chambered stomachs, filled with bacteria. The bacteria help them to digest nearly all varieties of plant matter.
Both deer and elk, as with other deer species, mate in the fall. Males lose a lot of body weight during mating season, as they try to mate as many females as possible. During the spring males grow impressive antlers that they lose in winter. The antlers are covered with a soft tissue, called antler velvet.
Young deer and elk are born in the spring. They are born with white spots that disappear before their first winter.
Deer: In most parts of the world the term deer refers to the white tailed deer. This is the smallest species in the deer family. They are found all over North America. They weigh between 50 kg and 150 kg. They are about 3 and half feet high but could grow to 7 feet in length. They are adapted to live in all types of habitats. They are found in grasslands, forests and even deserts.
Deer run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and in an emergency can leap a 10 ft. fence. White tailed deer use their white tails to communicate the presence of danger. In summer their coat has a red tinge that dulls to a shade of grey in winter.
Deer leave heart shaped tracks. The toe on each half of the foot meets at a distinct point.
They are not very vocal. When they do communicate by sound they produce a high pitched ‘ooh’. They also make a grunting sound and sometimes bleat. But their most favoured means of communication is non- auditory. They leave scents that tell the story and flash their white tails if they detect danger.
Deer are grazers. They eat legumes as well as leaves, shoots and grass.
Baby deer are called fawn.
Elk: They are much larger than deer. A fully grown male stands at four feet at the shoulders. With the addition of five feet from a fine set of antlers, the male specimen stands at an intimidating 9 feet tall. Elk weigh up to 600 kg and live in all parts of mountainous and forested North America. Despite their bulk they move fast at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Elk move in large herds of about 1000 individuals.
Elk have shaggy necks and shoulders. They have large droopy noses. The shaggy brown coat gets thicker in winter. Baby elk are called calves.
Elk are browsers. They feed on the grasses found on the outer edge of the woods.
Elk are loudly vocal animals. They produce a bugling sound especially in the mornings and evenings. Variations of the bugle call are used for mating or distress.
The elk track looks like a tooth. Both segments of the foot are rounded and the halves lie parallel.