Habitat & Range
Although it is native to North America, the elk has been introduced to various countries, including Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Similar to other deer species, elk inhabit forests and forest edges. In mountainous regions, they occupy high elevations in the summer and migrate to lower ground during the winter. Elk are highly adaptable and can sometimes be found in semi-deserts, such as the Great Basin in North America.
Elk have dark brown fur with a red hue and buff colored patches at the rear. As one of the largest land mammals in North America, an average adult male (bull) measures 5 feet tall and 8 feet long and weighs between 710 and 730 pounds. Bulls also have large antlers that can measure up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 40 pounds. The antlers begin growing in the spring and are shed each winter. A female elk (cow) lacks antlers and is approximately 40% smaller than a bull.
Elk are herbivores that graze on a variety of grasses, forbs, and tree sprouts. During the winter, they may consume tree bark when grass is unavailable.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Both males and females are sexually mature at 16 months, although males do not usually mate until they are at least 2 years old and able to compete with fully mature males. Gestation generally lasts between 240 and 262 days and results in a single offspring. Most mating takes place during the fall months, resulting in summer births.
The lifespan of an elk averages 10 to 13 years in the wild but can exceed 20 years in captivity.
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