Scientific name: Cervus canadensis
Other common names: Wapiti
Elks are the second largest deer in the world (after the moose), and one of the largest mammals in North America and east Asia. Native cultures considered them a spiritual force. They were introduced to various countries around the world, including Argentina and New Zealand, where they have adapted well. Elks are typically considered a game species, hunted for their lean and high-protein meat.
Appearance / health:
A close relative of the cattle, goats, and camels, the Elk is a large ruminant with four stomachs and an even number of toes on each foot. Compared to the moose, the Elk smaller and lighter in color. Compared to the deer, the Elk is bigger and heavier, has a reddish color, rump patches, and a smaller tail. They stand 4-5 ft. at the shoulder and average 6-7 ft. long from nose to tail.
Male Elk have antlers that grow in the spring and shed in the winter. The antlers grow about an inch a day and are covered by “velvet” skin, which is shed in the summer. Elk grow a thick fur in the winter, which is also shed in the summer by rubbing against trees. Calves are born with spots, which are lost at the end of their first summer.
Elks are known to suffer from and spread infectious diseases. Vaccination efforts are said to have mixed results.
Behavior / temperament:
Male elks engage in antler wrestling or sparring as a mating ritual. They also establish dominance and attract females by bugling, which is a loud distinctive call often heard in the wild.
Housing / diet:
Elks are ruminants, foraging and browsing on plants, shoots, branches, and tree bark depending on the season. In the summer, they graze on grass and tree sprouts.
hunting, hunting ranches, large open habitat
close proximity, Mad Cow disease, extreme caution, Charge
Large and in Charge
If you are just getting in to owning elk remember they get big and they eat as much as cattle. In Texas most are bred for hunting ranches these elk are huge as their genetics are weeded out year by year. unless you sepnd time feeding them they will quickly become wild and will become human shy and will travel if not highfenced. They are great to watch and listen too but if you are planning on feeder feeding prepare to spend some money. .
From loveoutdoors Apr 30 2012 10:22PM
Males Can Be Extremely Aggressive
I worked with elk in a zoo setting for a few years. We ran a herd of 4 cows and 1 bull. The females were fairly easy going. They were very shy and skittish, even though we were in close proximity to them on a daily basis for shifting and feeding. They were also older and had been around people their entire lives and never really got accustomed to being so close to people. We received a younger female in towards the end of the time I was working with them. She was a little less skittish so maybe it was our original three that were just set in their ways. The younger female still didn't approach us but at least we didn't have to walk on egg shells when she was in the barn.
For males, however, I would advise extreme caution, especially during rut. As the general description of these animals relays, elk are large, powerful animals, second only to the moose in North American. Add on a set of antlers that are roughly 4 feet long daggers and you have the potential for a very life threatening encounter if you are not aware of your surroundings. We only serviced their area in an enclosed truck and we never went on exhibit with ours during rut. We would have to shift them into the barn, otherwise the male would attack the truck. Before my time working with them he routinely punctured the tires and the call was finally made not to go out with him anymore. If you own a farm or ranch and work a male I would suggest something bigger than a ATV to manage them if you have one that is as aggressive as ours.
You should also use caution when approaching a fence line where an adult male is housed. Our fencing was full of bowed out areas where he had charged at keepers. Once he managed to hit a keeper who had his back turned and sent him flying. Luckily he was okay but it was a good reminder that even through a barrier they can be very dangerous.
Aside from the aggression, they need a large open habitat to live in. Ours shared exhibit space with bison, we had around 11 acres and we never had a problem with the two species together. We fed them a variety of hay, alfalfa, and grain along with fresh browse and grass as available throughout the year. If you're in the U.S. there are some restrictions on moving elk between facilities due to a disease call chronic wasting (basically the equivalent of Mad Cow disease in cervids). Check with your local state regulators before going out of your way to acquire them for your farm or ranch..
From DanaMK Nov 16 2014 11:33AM