Cervus elaphus - Linnaeus, 1758
Elk
Other English Common Names: Red Deer, elk
Synonym(s): Cervus canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Cervus elaphus Linnaeus, 1758 (TSN 180695)
French Common Names: wapiti
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102257
Element Code: AMALC01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Other Mammals
Image 7214

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Artiodactyla Cervidae Cervus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Help
Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. Available online at: http://vertebrates.si.edu/msw/mswcfapp/msw/index.cfm
Concept Reference Code: B05WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Cervus elaphus
Taxonomic Comments: In recent decades, most authors have included Cervus canadensis in C. elaphus; i.e., North American elk has been regarded as conspecific with red deer of western Eurasia. Geist (1998) recommended that C. elaphus and C. canadensis be regarded as distinct species. This is supported by patterns of mtDNA variation as reported by Randi et al. (2001). The 2003 Texas Tech checklist of North American mammals (Baker et al. 2003) adopted this change. Grubb (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) followed here included canadensis in C. elaphus.
Conservation Status
Help

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 19Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Sep1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (05Oct2015)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SX), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (S3), California (SNR), Colorado (S5), Delaware (SX), District of Columbia (SX), Georgia (SX), Idaho (S5), Illinois (SX), Indiana (SX), Iowa (SX), Kansas (S2), Kentucky (SNR), Louisiana (SX), Maine (SX), Maryland (SX), Massachusetts (SX), Michigan (S3), Minnesota (S3), Missouri (SNR), Montana (S5), Navajo Nation (S4), Nebraska (S3), Nevada (S5), New Hampshire (SX), New Mexico (S3), New York (SX), North Carolina (S1), North Dakota (SU), Ohio (SX), Oklahoma (SX), Oregon (S5), Pennsylvania (SX), South Carolina (SX), South Dakota (S5), Tennessee (SX), Texas (S2S3), Utah (S4), Vermont (SX), Virginia (SX), Washington (S5), West Virginia (SH), Wisconsin (S2S3), Wyoming (S5)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5), Manitoba (S4), Northwest Territories (SU), Ontario (S1), Quebec (SX), Saskatchewan (S4), Yukon Territory (SU)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Subspecies bactrianus (Bactrian deer; Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan), subspecies barbarus (Barbary deer; Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria), subspecies corsicanus (Corsican red deer; Corsica, Sardinia), subspecies (macneilii (McNeil's deer; China), subspecies yarkandensis (Yarkand deer; China), subspecies wallichi (shou; Tibet, Bhutan), and subspecies hanglu (Kashmir stag; Kashmir) are listed by USFWS as Endangered.
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Holarctic; Eurasia and North America; Tunisia and northeastern Algeria; introduced in Morroco, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. Formerly widespread in North America, now mostly restricted to the West, with small reintroduced populations elsewhere.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
Help
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Holarctic; Eurasia and North America; Tunisia and northeastern Algeria; introduced in Morroco, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. Formerly widespread in North America, now mostly restricted to the West, with small reintroduced populations elsewhere.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ALextirpated, AR, AZnative and exotic, CA, CO, DCextirpated, DEextirpated, GAextirpated, IAextirpated, ID, ILextirpated, INextirpated, KS, KY, LAextirpated, MAextirpated, MDextirpated, MEextirpated, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NHextirpated, NM, NNnative and exotic, NV, NYextirpated, OHextirpated, OKextirpated, OR, PAextirpatednative and exotic, SCextirpated, SD, TNextirpated, TX, UT, VAextirpated, VTextirpated, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BCnative and exotic, MB, NT, ON, QCextirpated, SK, YTnative and exotic

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MN Sibley (27143)*
MO Carter (29035), Shannon (29203), Taney (29213)
NC Haywood (37087)
PA Sullivan (42113)*
WA Asotin (53003)+, Benton (53005)+, Chelan (53007)+, Clallam (53009)+, Clark (53011)+, Cowlitz (53015)+, Grays Harbor (53027)+, Jefferson (53031)+, King (53033)+, Kittitas (53037)+, Klickitat (53039)+, Lewis (53041)+, Lincoln (53043)+, Mason (53045)+, Pacific (53049)+, Pend Oreille (53051)+, Pierce (53053)+, Skagit (53057)+, Skamania (53059)+, Snohomish (53061)+, Spokane (53063)+, Thurston (53067)+, Wahkiakum (53069)+, Whatcom (53073)+, Whitman (53075)+, Yakima (53077)+
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
17 Lower Columbia-Clatskanie (17080003), Lower Cowlitz (17080005), Lower Columbia (17080006), Hoh-Quillayute (17100101), Queets-Quinault (17100102), Upper Chehalis (17100103), Lower Chehalis (17100104), Grays Harbor (17100105), Willapa Bay (17100106), Skokomish (17110017), Hood Canal (17110018), Puget Sound (17110019), Dungeness-Elwha (17110020), Crescent-Hoko (17110021)
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Help
Reproduction Comments: Mature males defend female herd during rut (September-October). Older dominant males do most of mating. Females breed at 2 years. Most births (late spring) are single, but twins are common. Gestation lasts 249-262 days.
Ecology Comments: Home range of nonmigratory herd 1.8-5.3 sq km. Rarely moves more than 1600 m in one day. Exhibits high fidelity to home range, but may abandon it if excessively disturbed. Gregarious, though some bulls may be solitary. Calf predators include grizzly, black bear, and coyote.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: In mountainous regions, summers in alpine meadows, winters in valleys. On more level terrain, seeks wooded hillsides in summer, open grasslands in winter. Pacific coast populations are more sedentary than are those elsewhere. Migrates from areas with deep snow. Some individuals in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, migrate up to 97 kilometers annually (Adams 1982).
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Alpine, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Variable according to location. Uses open areas such as alpine pastures, marshy meadows, river flats, and aspen parkland, as well as coniferous forests, brushy clear cuts or forest edges, and semi-desert areas (Tule elk).

No special calving ground is used; calves are born in valleys or in areas as high as alpine tundra. Newborn initially may be hidden in rough terrain or dense cover.

Adult Food Habits: Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Much geographic and seasonal variation in diet. Primarily a grazer, but also consumes forbs (in summer, or in fall and winter in northern Great Plains region) and may browse on willow, aspen, oak, etc., where grasses are unavailable. Also commonly feeds on mushrooms, especially in late summer and fall (Great Basin Nat. 52:321).
Adult Phenology: Circadian
Immature Phenology: Circadian
Phenology Comments: Active at night, but most active at dusk and dawn. Diurnal feeding is more common in summer than in winter. Feeding periods are more prolonged in winter, concentrated in morning and evening. Herds may bed down in meadows in afternoon and again after midnight to chew cud.
Length: 297 centimeters
Weight: 495000 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Help
Management Summary
Help
Management Requirements: See Thomas and Toweill (1982).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Help
Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Rutting area, Summer range, Winter range
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: None.
Alternate Separation Procedure: Occurrence separations should be based on populations that exhibit specific migration patterns, or on appropriate resource agency management units, rather than on specific prescribed distances.
Separation Justification: Movement patterns vary considerably among populations. Individuals have home ranges of up to 50 square kilometers in the Rockies (Thomas and Toweill 1982), but only 2.9 square kilometers in coastal California (Franklin et al. 1975) and only 0.4- 0.6 square kilometers in Scotland (Clutton-Brock et al. 1982). Some individuals in Wyoming have annual migrations of up to 97 kilometers (Adams 1982).

Unsuitable habitat includes waters that do not freeze regularly, urban (not suburban) areas, and extremely rugged mountain ridges.

Date: 22Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
Help
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 14Apr1994
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Adams, A. W. 1982. Migration. Pages 301-321 IN Thomas, J. W., and D. E. Toweill. 1982. Elk of North America: ecology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA. 698 pp.

  • Alvo, R. 1998. National status evaluation of 20 selected animal species inhabiting Canada's forests. Final Report prepared for the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Biodiversity Convention Office and the Canadian Forest Service. 328 pp.

  • Aquin, P. 1999. Évaluation de la situation des groupes taxonomiques des mammifères du Québec. Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Faune. 5 pages.

  • Armstrong, D. M. 1975. Rocky Mountain mammals. Rocky Mountain Nature Asscoc., Inc. 174 pp.

  • Baker, R. J., L. C. Bradley, R. D. Bradley, J. W. Dragoo, M. D. Engstrom, R. S. Hoffman, C. A. Jones, F. Reid, D. W. Rice, and C. Jones. 2003a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2003. Museum of Texas Tech University Occasional Papers 229:1-23.

  • Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. 438 pp.

  • Beck, W.H. 1958. A guide to Saskatchewan mammals. Special Publication No. 1. Saskatchewan Natural History Society, Regina, Saskatchewan.

  • Boyce, M.S. and L.D. Hayden-Wing (eds.). 1980. North American Elk: ecology, behavior, and management. 294 pp.

  • Boyce, M.S. and L.D. Hayden-Wing, eds. 1979. North American Elk: Ecology, Behavior, and Management. Univ. Wyoming, Laramie, v+294 pp.

  • Bradley, R.D., L.K. Ammerman, R.J. Baker, L.C. Bradley, J.A. Cook. R.C. Dowler, C. Jones, D.J. Schmidly, F.B. Stangl Jr., R.A. Van den Bussche and B. Würsig. 2014. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2014. Museum of Texas Tech University Occasional Papers 327:1-28. Available at: <http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/publications/opapers/ops/OP327.pdf> (Accessed April 1, 2015)

  • Caire, W., J. D. Tyler, B. P. Glass, and M. A. Mares. 1989. Mammals of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Oklahoma. 567 pp.

  • Clutton-Brock, T. H., F. E. Guinness, and S. D. Albon. 1982. Red deer. Behavior and ecology of two sexes. University of Chicago Press, xxii + 378 pp.

  • Cronin, M. A. 1991a. Mitochondrial-DNA phylogeny of deer (Cervidae). J. Mamm. 72:533-566.

  • Cronin, M. A. 1992. Intraspecific variation in mitochondrial DNA of North American cervids. J. Mammalogy 73:70-82.

  • Franklin, W. L., A. S. Mossman, and M. Dole. 1975. Social organization and home range of Roosevelt elk. Journal of Mammalogy 56:102-118.

  • Geist, V. 1998. Deer of the world: their evolution, behavior, and ecology. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. 421 pp.

  • Glenn, T. C., and D. R. Smith. 1993. Genetic variation and the subspecific relationships of Michigan Elk (CERVUS ELAPHUS). Journal of Mammology 74: 782-792.

  • Harper, J. 1971. Ecology of Roosevelt elk. Oregon. 43 pp.

  • Houston, D. 1982. The North Yellowstone elk: ecology and management. McMillan. 474 pp.

  • Houston, D. B., et al. 1990. Elk in Olympic National Park: will they persist over time? Natural Areas Journal 10:6-11.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.

  • Kraus, F., and M. M. Miyamoto. 1991. Rapid cladogenesis among the pecoran ruminants: evidence from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Systematic Zoology 40:117-130.

  • Lever, C. 1985. Naturalized mammals of the world. Longman Group Limited, England.

  • Maser, C., B. R. Mate, J. F. Franklin, and C. T. Dyrness. 1981. Natural history of Oregon coast mammals. Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Expt. Sta., USDA, Forest Service, Gen Tech. Rep. PNW-133:1-496.

  • Murie, O. J. 1951. The elk of North America. Stackpole Company, Harrisburg, PA. 376 pp.

  • Murie, O.J. 1966. The elk of North America. Harrisburg. 376 pp.

  • Pacheco, V., H. de Macedo, E. Vivar, C. Ascorra, R. Arana-Cardó, and S. Solari. 1995. Lista anotada de los mamíferos peruanos. Conservation International, Washington, DC.

  • Parks Canada. 2000. Vertebrate Species Database. Ecosystems Branch, 25 Eddy St., Hull, PQ, K1A 0M5.

  • Polziehn, R. O., J. Hamr, F.-F. Mallory, and C. Strobeck. 1998. Phylogenetic status of North American wapiti (CERVUS ELAPHUS) subspecies. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76:998-1010.

  • Randi, E., N. Mucci, F. Claro-Hergueta, A. Bonnet, and E.J.P. Douzery. 2001. A mitochondrial DNA control region phylogeny for the Cervidae: speciation in Cervus and its implications for conservation. Animal Conservation 4:1-11.

  • Sealander, J.A. and G.A. Heidt. 1990. Arkansas Mammals: Their Natural History, Classification and Distribution. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 308 pp.

  • Thomas, J. W., and D. E. Toweill. 1982. Elk of North America: ecology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA. 698 pp.

  • Wemmer, C. M., editor. 1987. Biology and management of theCervidae: proceedings of a symposium. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D. C. 1000 pp.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. [Available online at: http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/ ]

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. Available online at: http://vertebrates.si.edu/msw/mswcfapp/msw/index.cfm

  • Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.

Use Guidelines & Citation

Use Guidelines and Citation

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.

Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at http://explorer.natureserve.org were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of November 2016.
Note: This report was printed on

Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: Copyright © 2017 NatureServe, 4600 N. Fairfax Dr., 7th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22203, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit Local Programs).

Feedback Request: NatureServe encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data through (see Contact Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.