It’s a Wapiti Not an Elk

The animal commonly referred to as an elk in North America should really be called by its proper Algonquin name, Wapiti. The misnomer is the result of early European settlers mistakenly assuming that this largest member of the deer family was related to the European moose which in Europe is called an elk.

The Wapiti resembles the red deer in colour except that it is less reddish in the summer and it has a prominent light rump patch. Wapiti means “white deer” and probably refers to this light patch.

The Wapiti is larger than a red deer, up to 2.7 metres (9 feed) long in head and body, 1.5 metres (5 feet) high at the shoulder and weighing up to 435.5 kg (1000 lbs.). The antlers of a Wapiti may reach 1.7 metres (66 inches) above its head.

The Wapiti at one time was quite abundant on this continent with its members estimated to be around 10 million. Today we may be lucky to find half a million of this particular species. Their numbers dwindled when settlers started slaughtering them indiscriminately. They were found throughout North America from Canada to the Mexican border. Wapiti are still found in the Rocky Mountains, southern Canada and in the vast national parks in the United States.

A herbivore (an animal that eats plants), the Wapiti eats alfalfa hay, corn, oats, barley and also enjoys eating fruits and vegetables. At Marineland, they are also supplied with a salt block and minerals.

The female Wapiti, called hinds, give birth to dappled calves after a gestation period believed to be 249 to 262 days. Calves start feeding themselves at three months old and lose their spots around mating season which is September or October.

So, after riding Dragon Mountain® roller coaster, head to your right so that you can see and admire the stately Wapiti.