Mammal Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Cervus elaphus


Distinguishing Features - Average length: Male 2.5 m, Female 2.13 m. Weight: Male 240 - 440 kg., Female 165 - 265 kg. Colour: tawny brown in summer; darker on face, belly, neck and legs; prominent lighter patch on rump and buttocks; in winter, darker brown head, neck, belly and legs, contrasting with paler brown back and sides. Males have long, dense mane. Large, widely branched antlers protrude from large burrs high on the head. Each antler is made up of a heavy beam with several tines that sweep up and back from the head over the shoulder.



Woodlands and open areas, mountain meadows and foothills of the Rocky Mountains of North America. Also in swamps and coniferous forests and newly cut areas.


Primarily grasses and herbs, but also bark from shrubs if grasses are not available.


The elk is larger than other Cervus species. They are harem breeders and the male "bugles" to announce his presence to lure females into its harem. After breeding, the male loses its antlers and tends to forage alone. Females are more social and tend to herd living to minimize predation on themselves and their calves.

At one time, the elk ranged freely throughout North America. The advance of civilization and associated pressures greatly diminished its numbers. However, it is being relocated to many of its former habitats by conservationists, including reintroduction in the Kenora and Lake of the Woods district of Northwestern Ontario in large numbers.

The Fallow deer Cervus dama is a relative and can be found throughout parts of Europe, in Scandinavia and Russia.

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