Animal of the Issue: Elk


By Jess Megna

Elk (Cervus canadensis) are the largest species within the deer family and the largest mammals in North America. They are also known as wapiti, which is a Native American term that means “light-colored deer”.

Elk are indigenous to Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. They are herbivores that inhabit mountainous regions and heavily wooded areas. Some herds have been reintroduced to the eastern United States (one being in Elk County, Pennsylvania).

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a group of elk is called a gang. They can reach four to five feet in height with a male’s antlers reaching an additional four feet. Throughout the year, the males (bulls) will remain separated from the females (cows).

The mating season for elk is called the rut and occurs in the late summer. During this time, the bulls clash antlers in violent battles that tear away the velvet on the bulls’ antlers.

In some cases, these battles can cause the losing bull to be rejected from the herd as an outcast, and he will have to brave the winter alone.  Ultimately, these battles determine which bull will lead the herd.

Bull elk attract the female elk during the rut with their bugling, which echoes through the meadows and forests for miles. Scientists consider this an environmental adaptation because elk live in open spaces where sound can travel easily.

Elk have one to two offspring. A baby elk is called a calf, and after two week they are able to join the herd. Calves are born spotted and lose their spots by the end of the summer.

The nearest place to spot an elk herd is Elk County Pennsylvania. Along the Elk Scenic Drive there are 23 sites to view elk in the region. This scenic route stretches 127 miles and is found off of I-80.

To learn more about elk in Pennsylvania, visit