Washington Dept Fish & Wildlife/Associated Press

Called the red deer in Europe and the elk in North America, the wapiti is a gregarious species that typically lives in herds of two hundred or more.

The word "wapiti" means "white rump" in Shawnee.


Twenty-three widely distributed subspecies are now recognized, predominantly distinguished by size in addition to range differences.

Europe has the smallest subspecies, North America the largest.

The branched antlers of some North American males are almost six feet (2 m) across.

The males use their antlers in autumn fights to defend territory and get access to females.

Animal Facts

Name: Wapiti (Cervus elaphus)

Family: Cervidae (Deer and Relatives)

Range: Northwestern North America, northwestern Africa, western Europe through Asia to China; introduced in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina

Habitat: Forest and woodland

Diet: Grasses, sedges, forbs, dandelions, clover, mushrooms, and woody plants

Head and Body Length: 5.5 to 9 feet (1.7 to 2.7 m)

Tail Length: 4 to 11 inches (10 to 27 cm)

Shoulder Height: 29 to 59 inches (75 to 150 cm)

Weight: 165 to 750 pounds (75 to 340 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating September to October; gestation 235 to 265 days, one (rarely two) fawns born

Description: Dark brown to reddish-brown coat; long head; large ears; widely branching antlers; dark, shaggy mane; thick body; dark, slender legs; beige rump patch; short tail

Conservation Status: Common



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