Wapiti

In North America, wapiti are also called elk. Confusingly, in Europe and Asia the name elk is used to describe moose. It is now widely accepted that wapiti are actually an American subspecies of red deer, another large species found in northern Europe and Asia.

Only male wapiti have antlers, which reach up to 1.7m (5.5ft) across, and a shaggy mane around the neck. The males use their antlers during the rut, which takes place in autumn. They fight to establish which males will control the harems of females. Their antlers fall off in winter and regrow in time for the next year’s contests.

Wapiti resemble Old World red deer in many ways, although their coat is more brown, and becomes paler in summer.

Known as the wapiti in North America and the red deer in Britain, this deer is reddish-brown in summer but grayish-brown in winter. Most older males have antlers with two forward-pointing tines near the base, while young males usually have one tine. In autumn and winter, the male has a mane of longer hair on the neck.

A gregarious species, red deer live in herds and are active in the morning and late afternoon or evening, feeding on grass, heather, leaves and buds.

In the autumn, males take part in fierce, antler-clashing fights in order to obtain territories and to gather harems of females to mate with. The males defend their females throughout the breeding season and then return to all male herds in the winter. Females give birth to 1 calf, rarely 2, after a gestation period of about 8 months. The young deer is able to walk a few minutes after birth.

Distribution: Canada to New Mexico, as well as northern Africa, Asia and Europe.

Habitat: Alpine grasslands, forest edges, mountains.

Food: Grass, sedge, forbs, twigs and bark.

Size: 1.6 - 2.6 m (5.25 - 8.5 ft); 75 - 450 kg (165 - 990 lb). Height at shoulder 1.3 - 1.5 m (4.25 - 5 ft).

Maturity: 2 years.

Breeding: 1 fawn born in autumn.

Life span: 20 years.

Status: Common.

Gallery of Wapiti