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Rocky Mountain Elk
 Rocky Mountain Elk Facts and Information

Rocky Mountain Elk - Bull
Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service - Zahm, Gary

Common Name: Rocky Mountain Elk (American Elk or Wapiti)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Genus: Cervus
Species: Cervus canadensis
Subspecies: Cervus canadensis nelsoni

The Rocky Mountain Elk, also known as American Elk or Wapiti, is grayish-brown in color with a yellowish-tan rump and a darker brown mane from the upper shoulder to the lower chest. The male elk (also called bull) has been known to weigh as much as 1,000 pounds (450 kg), while the female elk (called cow) will usually weigh approximately 500 pounds (225 kg). A mature bull elk stands about 5 feet (150 cm) at the shoulder and will usually have antlers that are 5 points or better on each side.
Rocky Mountain Elk - Front Hoof Print
Front Hoof Print
Rocky Mountain Elk - Rear Hoof Print
Rear Hoof Print

 
Rocky Mountain Elk Distribution/Habitat

Rocky Mountain Elk - Distribution

The Rocky Mountain Elk had been known to be indigenous to most of the United States and southern Canada with a population of upwards to 10 million, but now are typically found only in the Rocky Mountains ranging from New Mexico all the way to British Columbia due to hunting in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Today the biggest herd of approximately 300,000 elk is known to live in Colorado. Elk are usually found in the higher elevations during the summer months then migrate to the lower elevations during the winter months when the snow covers the foliage. Rocky Mountain Elk have also been reintroduced into the eastern region of the United States, primarily North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Currently their range is the Appalachian Mountains which includes Virginia and West Virginia. Rocky Mountain Elk have also been reintroduced to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. There are estimates of 1 million Rocky Mountain Elk in the North American wild, with the majority of about 750,000 in the Rocky Mountains.

 
Rocky Mountain Elk Diet

Rocky Mountain Elk - Bull in Velvet
Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Karges II, Robert

Rocky Mountain Elk primarily eat various grasses that are plentiful during typical years, as well as eating foliage from shrubs, trees and bushes. During years of drought, elk have been known to eat the non-favorable sage brush.

 
Rocky Mountain Elk Reproduction

Rocky Mountain Elk - Spotted Calf

Rocky Mountain Elk calves are usually born from mid-May to mid-June and weigh between 30 to 35 pounds at birth. Calves are born with spots which are gone by the end of summer. The calves are weaned from their mother’s milk at two months of age, leaving the comfort of their mother just before the breeding season begins in the next year.


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