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MAMMALS » LARGE
Elk (Red Deer) Extirpated; Re-Introduced; Hunted

Elk (Red Deer) Extirpated; Re-introduced; Hunted
Cervus elaphus

Historical records indicate Elk were abundant in Tennessee before European settlement, but became extirpated as settlers moved westward. TWRA began re-introducing Elk into North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, in the eastern part of the state, during the late 1990's. A total of 201 Elk were obtained from Elk Island National Park, in Alberta, Canada, and released over a period of 8 years. As of 2009, the population had grown to over 300 Elk.

Description
: A large deer with slender legs, thick neck, large head, and a small tail. The body color is brown or tan with darker under parts and throat. They have a characteristic yellowish rump patch; tail is similar color. The feet are divided into 2 elongated, hoofed toes. Males are larger and have huge spreading antlers.
Length: 6.8 - 9.8 feet
Tail: 3.1 - 8.4 inches
Ears: 8.0 - 9.0 inches
Weight: 450 - 1100 pounds

Similar Species:
White-tailed Deer is smaller and does not have a pale rump patch.

Habitat
: Generally prefers open woodlands or a mixed habitat of meadows and woods. They will also occur in foothills and valleys.

Diet:
Elk are herbivores grazing mostly on grasses, forbs, and woody vegetation. Favorite foods include dandelions, asters, violets, and clovers.

Breeding information:
During the rutting season, which starts in September and proceeds through November, males compete for females and attempt to assemble harems. After breeding, gestation lasts 255-275 days, resulting in 1 calf (sometimes 2) being born in May or June. The young are spotted and able to walk within a few minutes after birth. Calves are dependent upon milk for at least a month, but may nurse up to 9 months.

Status in Tennessee:
Elk are big game animals. The population has grown and is now considered self-sustaining allowing for a hunting season to be opened in 2009.

Fun Facts
:

  • During the rutting season males give a distinctive, high-pitched bugling call that starts with a low note and ends with a few low-toned grunts.
  • Elk are nocturnal, but particularly active at dusk and dawn.

Best places to see in Tennessee: North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

Sources:
Whitaker, Jr., J. O. 1980. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York.