Elk(redirected from American elk)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
elk,name applied to several large members of the deer family. It most properly designates the largest member of the family, Alces alces, found in the northern regions of Eurasia and North America. In North America this animal is called moosemoose,
largest member of the deer family, genus Alces, found in the northern parts of Eurasia and North America. The Eurasian species, A. alces, is known in Europe as the elk, a name which in North America is applied to another large deer, the wapiti.
..... Click the link for more information. . The name elk is used in North America to designate a different animal, the wapitiwapiti
, large North American deer, Cervus canadensis, closely related to the Old World red deer. It is commonly called elk in America although the name elk is used in Europe to refer to the moose.
..... Click the link for more information. , closely related to the red deer of Europe. The prehistoric Irish elk, Megaceros giganteus, is still another species, related to the fallow deer. It was found in Europe and W Asia in Pleistocene and early Holocene times and had an 11-ft (3.3-m) antler span, the largest of any deer. All animals called elk are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
..... Click the link for more information. , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Cervidae.
(Alces alces), or European elk, an artiodactyl, the largest species of the family Cervidae. The male has a body length of up to 3 m and measures 2.3 m high at the shoulder and weighs 570 kg. The females are smaller. The legs are long, with narrow, pointed hooves. The head is long with a humped nose and an overhanging fleshy upper lip; the ears are long and mobile. There is a pendulant hairy flap of skin, known as the bell, beneath the throat. The tail is short. The males have palmate antlers that extend sideways; the females have no antlers. The coat is coarse. There is a manelike tuft of long hairs on the top of the neck and shoulders. In the winter the pelage is dark brown, and in the summer it darkens to nearly black; the legs are white.
The elk is widely distributed in the forest zone of Europe (east of Poland) and in Asia, sometimes penetrating into the forested tundra, the forested steppe, and the steppe. In the winter it feeds on the shoots and bark of willows, aspens, mountain ashes, pines, and other trees. In the summer it also feeds on grassy plants, such as willow herbs, cotton grasses, and water lilies. Its long legs enable it to move through snow up to 90 cm deep. The elk is a solitary animal or lives in groups of five to eight individuals, occasionally as many as 20. The animals mate in September or October; the calves, one or two, are born in May or June. The antlers are shed in December and new ones appear in August.
The elk is valued commercially for its meat and its tough hide, which is used to make leather. Since the elk population has been increasing, a controlled hunting program has been enacted. In the USSR experiments are being conducted to domesticate the elk for use as a beast of burden in the taiga.
REFERENCESBiologiia i promysel losia, collections 1-3. Moscow, 1964-67.
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Edited by V. G. Geptnsr and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1961.
I. I. SOKOLOV
a city in northeastern Poland, in Suwalki Województwo. Population, 33,000 (1976). Elk, a railroad junction, has food-processing enterprises and plants for the production of electrical engineering products, veneer, building materials, and linen.