Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The elk (sometimes called the wapiti), Cervus canadensis, is a popular big game animal native to North America and eastern Asia. In addition, the species has been introduced to other areas of the world, such as South America. Elk are common in most mountainous regions of Utah, where they can be found in mountain meadows and forests during the summer, and in foothills and valley grasslands during the winter. The seasonal changes in elevation allow elk to avoid deep snow and find food year-round. Elk may be active during both day and night, but most activity occurs at dusk and dawn.

Dominant males gather and protect harems of females during the breeding season, which occurs in the fall of each year. During this time, males emit loud vocalizations, called bugles, which keep the females in a group and warn other males to stay away from the harem. Females typically give birth to one (sometimes two) calves in the late spring. Elk are grazers, primarily eating grasses, but forbs, woody plants, and mushrooms may also be consumed.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Burt, W. H. and R. P. Grossenheider. 1980. A field guide to the mammals. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 289 pp.