How big do elk get?

How big do elk get?

admin admin June 11, 2024 0 Comments Elk

Elk (Cervus canadensis), also known as wapiti, are one of the largest species in the deer family. Their size can vary depending on their subspecies and geographic location, but here are some general guidelines on the size of elk:

General Size

  • Adult Males (Bulls):
    • Weight: Typically range from 700 to 1,100 pounds (320 to 500 kg), but some can weigh as much as 1,300 pounds (590 kg) or more.
    • Height: At the shoulder, bulls usually stand between 4.5 to 5 feet (1.3 to 1.5 meters) tall.
    • Length: From nose to tail, they can be about 8 feet (2.4 meters) long.
  • Adult Females (Cows):
    • Weight: Generally range from 500 to 700 pounds (225 to 320 kg).
    • Height: At the shoulder, cows typically stand about 4 to 4.5 feet (1.2 to 1.3 meters) tall.
    • Length: From nose to tail, they can be about 6.5 to 7.5 feet (2 to 2.3 meters) long.


  • Bull Elk Antlers: Bulls grow large antlers, which can be a significant factor in their overall size and weight. Antlers can weigh up to 40 pounds (18 kg) and can span up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in width. Antler growth begins in the spring and they are shed each winter.

Size Variation by Subspecies

  • Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni): One of the largest subspecies, found primarily in the Rocky Mountain region of North America. Bulls can weigh up to 1,100 pounds (500 kg).
  • Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti): The largest subspecies by body mass, found in the coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Bulls can weigh up to 1,300 pounds (590 kg).
  • Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes): The smallest subspecies, found in California. Bulls typically weigh around 400 to 500 pounds (180 to 225 kg).

Factors Influencing Size

  • Diet and Nutrition: The availability of high-quality forage can significantly influence the size and health of elk. Regions with abundant and nutritious food sources tend to support larger individuals.
  • Habitat: Different habitats provide varying levels of food and shelter, which can impact elk size. For example, elk in dense forests may not grow as large as those in open plains with abundant forage.
  • Genetics: Genetic factors play a role in determining the maximum potential size of elk. Selective breeding in managed populations can also influence size.

Importance of Size

  • Survival and Fitness: Larger size in bulls is often advantageous during the rutting season, as it helps them compete for mates. Large antlers are also a display of fitness to potential mates.
  • Hunting and Management: Understanding the size of elk is crucial for wildlife management and conservation efforts. It helps in setting appropriate hunting quotas and managing populations sustainably.

In summary, elk are one of the largest deer species, with significant variation in size depending on subspecies, diet, habitat, and genetics. Bulls are generally larger than cows and grow impressive antlers that are shed and regrown annually.


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