Meet the American Elk at Wildwood Zoo
Here at Wildwood Zoo, we have a small elk herd. Our mature bull elk, named Lincoln was born June 1st in 2011 and joined the zoo's herd in 2013. We also have a young bull calf, born on July 2nd of 2019 named Peanut. The rest of the herd is made up of several elk cows (females).
Elk range in color from dark brown in winter to tan in summer and have a characteristic buff-colored rump. The head, neck, belly and legs are darker than both the back and sides. Elk generally have a long head with large ears and widely branching antlers found only on males. A dark shaggy mane hangs from the neck to the chest. Most males are 10 percent larger than females and may weigh twice as much. Elk are related to deer but are much larger than most of their relatives. A bull (male) elk's antlers may reach 4 feet above its head, so that the animal towers 9 feet tall. Bull elk lose their antlers each March, but they begin to grow them back in May in preparation for the late-summer breeding season. In the winter, elk reconvene into larger herds, though males and females typically remain separate. The herds return to lower valley pastures where elk spend the season pawing through snow to browse on grass or settling for shrubs that stand clear of the snow cover.
Elk were once found across much of North America but were killed off and driven to take refuge in more remote locations. Today they live primarily in western North America, especially in mountainous landscapes such as Wyoming's National Elk Refuge and Yellowstone National Park. Some eastern U.S. states have reintroduced small elk herds into heavily wooded wilderness areas.
Elk migrate into higher elevations in the spring. Come winter they will seek lower elevations. During the winter months elk will seek sheltered valleys with wooded areas to protect them from the wind and provide browsing vegetation.
In early summer, elk migrate to high mountain grazing grounds where the cows (females) will give birth. Each cow typically has a single calf, which can stand by the time it is 20 minutes old.
During the late summer breeding season the bugling of bull elk echoes through the mountains. These powerful animals strip the velvet off their new antlers using them in violent clashes that determine who gets to mate with whom. Males with the bigger antlers, typically older animals, usually win these battles and dominate small herds.
In the wild: 10-15 years
In human care: 10-20 years
Elk are ruminants and therefore have four-chambered stomachs. Unlike white-tailed deer and moose which are primarily browsers, elk have a similarity to cattle as they are primarily grazers, but like other deer, they also browse. Elk have a tendency to do most of their feeding in the mornings and evenings, seeking sheltered areas in between feedings to digest. Their diets vary somewhat depending on the season with native grasses being a year round supplement, tree bark being consumed in winter and forbs and tree sprouts during the summer. Elk consume an average of 20 pounds of various vegetation daily. Particularly fond of Aspen sprouts which rise in the spring, elk have had some impact on Aspen groves which have been declining in some regions where elk exist.
|American Elk Range in North America
||For more information, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Meet the Kodiak Bears
Meet the Mountain Lions
Meet the Bobcat & Canada Lynx
Meet the Timber Wolves
Meet the White-tailed Deer
Meet the American Bison
Meet the American Elk
Meet the Bald Eagle
Meet the Great Horned Owl
Meet the Red-tailed Hawk
Meet the Rough-legged Hawk
Meet the Peregrine Falcon
Meet the Ornate Box Turtles
Meet the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
Meet the Fox
Meet the Sandhill Cranes
Meet the Screech Owl
Meet the Non-Resident Animals