The elk is the largest cervid in Oregon. These heavy-bodied, deer-like mammals have narrow faces tapering to a naked nose pad; relatively small, pointed ears; a heavily maned neck; a back slightly humped at the shoulders, a contrasting rump patch; and a small tail. Pelage color is grayish brown to reddish brown, somewhat lighter among males in winter. The mane is dark brown and the rump patch and tail are cream colored. The underparts (except for a whitish patch between the hind legs) and legs are dark brown to almost blackish.
Adult females, their current offspring, and their female offspring of the previous year form herds that tend to remain within relatively small and distinct areas. Nevertheless, there is considerable overlap in areas used by adjacent herds and there is considerable exchange of individuals among adjacent herds. Leadership of these herds usually is provided by an older female with an offspring, but other females with offspring assume leadership duties at times.
Male elk, especially the larger ones, tend to be solitary most of the year; however, during May and June when antler growth is rapid, males, including larger ones, sometimes form herds. The antlers become polished in July, at which time activity increases as males commence to search for untended females or those tended by less formidable males.
In Oregon, elk occur throughout the state but are most abundant in the Blue and Wallowa mountains and in the northern Coast Range, and least abundant in the southeastern High Desert region. Two of the six recognized races of elk occur in Oregon: Rocky Mountain elk east of the Cascade Range and Roosevelt elk west of the Cascade Range. The former is slightly smaller and lighter colored; it has more slender but longer, less webbed, and more spreading antlers than the latter.
Elk are also known as 'Wapiti.'
Photo by ODFW