Photo by Bob Gress
Total Length: 85-110 inches
Tail Length: 5-6 inches
Weight: 460-1025 pounds
The Shawnee Indians called elk wapiti, meaning "pale rump."
They are the largest member of the deer family in Kansas. They are a light brown below and
darker brown across the back. Their rump and tail are straw colored. Mature bulls grow
antlers nearly 5 feet long and 5 feet wide in summer and early fall. The antlers are
carried through winter and are shed in early spring. In early autumn, "bugling"
bulls announce their dominance during the breeding season. The bull's neck and shoulders
swell and sparring bulls may dual over control of a harem of 10-20 cows. Herds congregate
together in winter and cows deliver a single calf, usually weighing about 30 pounds, in
early June. Elk live up to 15 years in the wild.
Elk formerly ranged throughout the North American continent north of Mexico. Today
they are found in prairies, shrublands and woodlands of the Rocky Mountain region of the
United States and Canada and the Pacific Northwest. There are a couple of small,
free-ranging herds in Kansas.
Elk are primarily grazers feeding on grasses and forbs. In the winter they browse
on shrubs, bark and twigs.
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Text: George Potts and Bob Gress
Design: Jim Mason