North American Elk
The North American elk, which is also called Wapiti, from a Shawnee Indian word which means white rump, are animals which have hooves. They are also members of the family of animals known as deer, which are all hooved.
Elk are a great deal larger than deer, but not so large as a moose. Male Elk are called bulls, and the females are called cows.
Young elk are called calves, just as dairy cattle are.
The male elk is fairly tall, and weigh as much as a small car.
They are deep red in color in the summer, while in winter their coats change to a gray brown, and have a tan or white rump with a very short tail.
Male elk are possessed of very large antlers, which are shed each year and then regrown in early spring.
One interesting fact about them is that the antlers have a soft velvety covering in spring and summer of the year, which is rubbed off on trees and growth, to reveal the hard bony antler underneath it.
This is part of the process of their antler growth. Each year that the antlers grow they tend to become a bit larger than they were the year before, Elk live in forests as well as open country, and can be found from Pennsylvania, in the United States, to California, to the Yukon and Saskatchewan in Canada.They are very capable swimmers, and can run for short distances at about 35 miles per hour.
They like to hide in areas of thick brush or forested areas to sleep in mid afternoon, prior to browsing for a meal, which may include plants and leaves, dry grass and twigs, or in the winter grass and leaves which are dug out from under the snow.
The pointed hooves of the elk make it possible for them to dig through even ice encrusted snow to get at the vegetation underneath.
Elk will usually live in herds, or groups of six or more animals, often up to as many as twenty five. The cows are very protective of the smaller animals and even a cow who is not a calfs mother will help to protect it.
Elk breed in late fall, when the males will make a loud call which is known as a bugle.(attach the bugle call wav file here) This alerts the cows that a male is in rut, but will also alert other males who may come in to challenge the bull.
Males will often fight over a group of cows for the right to breed, using hooves and antlers as weapons.
It is not uncommon for a bull to break an antler when fighting in the mating season. Very often the stronger males will have a great many cows to mate with.
The cows have their calves in early spring, usually there is only one, however twins are by no means rare. The calves are born spotted, and retain the spots for one summer.
They are born fairly helpless yet within hours are up and walking on their own. Elk calves nurse for about three months, and then begin to browse on vegetation.
Elk bulls live for about fifteen years, while the females live about 25 years.
Read more about the The North American elk over at Wikipedia »