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Range Map

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.

: 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.

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

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.

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