American Elk for Kids

Description/Reproduction: The Wapiti (American Elk) is a large member of the Ungulates family. Mostly brown, the male Wapiti has a shaggy mane and huge antlers with as many as five tines (branches). At 1,000 pounds and over five feet tall, the only member of the family larger than the male Wapiti is the Moose. During the rutting (breeding) season, male Wapiti make a characteristic high-pitched whistling sound. Wapiti live in large winter herds and break into smaller groups in the summer. Older bulls (males) are more solitary, but may live with one or two other individuals. Females give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 249-262 days.

Range/Habitat: Wapiti are found throughout the Rocky Mountain forests of Canada and the United States. Once common across the continent, Wapitis were extirpated in the east and have been reintroduced.

Diet: The Wapiti has an insatiable appetite and consumes large quantities of grasses, leaves and other vegetation. During bad winters, hungry Wapiti may raid haystacks and orchards.

Status: Wapitis have been adversely affected by the clearing of forests for farmlands and may die from starvation during cold winters due to a lack of suitable habitat. The Wapiti is an extremely popular game animal. Game hunters prize the antelered heads of bulls as trophies.

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