Much of the following information will focus on the elk herd within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, you can check on the internet or in your local library for information on the Elk in other parts of the United States.
The Eastern elk is the elk common within our state and they have lived here long before the white settlers arrived. At some point, the animal became extinct throughout its range which had included New York and New England. Today, we have a small herd of elk in north central Pennsylvania. They are descendents of the Rocky Mountain elk which were brought into the area by the Pennsylvania Game Commission between 1913 and 1926.
The elk is a member of the deer family and is the second largest within that family. The only larger animal is the moose. The elk is a popular big game animal for hunting and is extremely good eating--tasty and healthy. Yahweh sure knew what He was doing in His creation, didn't He? The average mature male elk stands 50-60 inches at the shoulder and weighs 600 to 1000 pounds. The female (or "cow") weighs an average of 500 to 600 pounds. That is a lot of meat!
The Elk leaves very large tracks corresponding to its large size. The hoof print left by a fully-grown male Elk is roughly 13 to 16 cm long and 11 to 13 cm in width. The prints left by the females and immature animals is smaller. The front hooves are broader and more strongly imprinted than the hind hooves. The two cleats of the hooves are usually well spread out, an adaptation to the often damp and wet ground on which Elk live, and which helps to prevent it from sinking into soft ground. The dewclaws are often visible on the tracks of the hooves. The Elk walks with a length of step of between 90 and 120 cm. As the Elk walks the hind hooves are placed in the tracks made by the front hooves. When trotting the two cleats are often spread widely apart. Elk rarely gallop.
These are what an elk's hoof prints look like.
Elk can hear and see extremely well and are very muscular, able to trot for miles and run up to 30 miles per hour for short jaunts. The female elk grunt and bark to communicate with their young and the young calves make a squealing sound. The bull's bugling sound is the best elk call, consisting of a low bellow that climbs to a high note held quite long--until the elk runs out of breath. This "bugling" occurs mainly during the mating seasons.
The bulls will actually fight each other to determine the strongest and will join antlers, pushing and shoving. The weaker bull usually will break away from the confrontation before any serious injuries occur. These fights occur primarily during the mating season which is September and October.
Elk eat a variety of grass and in the winter, will actually paw through snow to get to the grass. They will also eat twigs, buds and tree bark. The Pennsylvania elk seem to prefer red maple, fire cherry, aspen and blackberry but will also browse striped maple, black cherry, witch hazel and oak. They drink water from streams and will even eat snow to get water in the winter.
The elk in Pennsylvania die from old age, disease and poaching (which is the illegal killing of animals) and their potential lifespan is about 20 years. Elk, just like so many of Yahweh's creatures, are extremely intelligent and there is a lot of information available both online and in your library on them. One thing we do know, is that the Elk did not just happen by chance or "evolve," but was part of Yahweh's divine plan. They are to be observed and appreciated for the role they plays in Yahweh's creation. I am glad that Yahweh made them just the way He did!