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Hoofed Mammals
Elk
Cervus elaphus
Wapiti

Description

Elk have large antlers, skinny legs, and a thick neck. They are either brown or tan on the upper half of their body, and the lower half of their body is much darker. Their tail and rump are also brown with a tint of yellow, and bucks have dark manes around the throat area.

Bucks have multi-tined antlers, reaching six on each side during full maturity. The main beam can reach up to five feet in length.

Juveniles have spots until they are about three or four months old.

Elk are between 4' 6" to 5' tall, are 6' 7" to 9' 9" long, and weigh anywhere between 600 to 1,089 pounds (male) or 450 to 650 pounds (female) when first born.

Breeding

Elk breed in late August through November, reaching a peak in October and November. One or two young are born after a gestation period of 9 months or so, and they weigh approximately twenty-five to fourty pounds.

Habitat

Elk habitat varies throughout the year. In the summer elk are found in higher elevation mountain pastures, and in the winter, elk prefer lower elevations on wooded slopes in densly populated forests.

Range

Elk range from Eastern British Columbia, Central Alberta, Central Saskatchewan, and Southern Manitoba, south to Central New Mexico and Arizona. A large population of elk live in the following U.S. states:

  • Washington
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Coastline from Vancouver Island to Northern California

More isolated populations are found in the following U.S. states:

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan

Smaller populations can be found in a few Eastern U.S. states, such as Pennsylvania.

Additional Information

  • Elk are primarily nocturnal, but are especially active at dusk and dawn.
  • Elk often move through the forest quickly. For a large animal, they are surprisingly quiet as well.
  • Bull elk can run up to 35 MPH (55 KM/h).
  • Elk are strong swimmers.
  • Elk mark their territory by stripping bark from seedlings.
  • Elk are considered grazers, eating woody vegetation and lichen.
  • Elk vocalize differently depending on their age. Young elk squeal, adults snort and grunt, and cows neigh to their calves.
  • Alarmed elk emit a sharp, barking snort.
  • A bull elk's "bugle" is a challenge to other bulls and a call of domination to cow elk. The bugle starts as a bellow, changes quickly to a high-pitched whistle (which carries the greatest distance), and ends with a series of grunts.
  • The size of the herd varies depending on the amount of resources, terrain, and cover. Herds can be composed of three hundred to four hundred elk.
  • Larger elk herds are usually found in open areas, while smaller herds prefer wooded areas. Although bulls herd separately, they still remain near cow-dominated herds.
  • During the rut, adult bulls join the cow and calf herd. It's during this time that the bull bugles, urinates on vegetation (which he tosses on his back using his antlers), and rolls around in stagnant water.
  • Bulls fight using their antlers. These clashes seldom cause much harm, but could lead to minor injury or death.
  • Mountain lion and bear are the main predators of elk.
  • Although "elk" is the British name for the moose, it was mistakenly given to the "Wapiti" by early settlers. Wapiti actually comes from the Shawnee Indian language and means "white (or pale) deer," and referred to the pale sides and flanks of the Rocky Mountain subspecies (C. e. nelsoni).
  • The Roosevelt subspecies (C. e. roosevelti) is found in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Elk populations that once ranged throughout most of North America dwindled as farms and settlements took over their habitats, while hunting also played a role. Fortunately today's elk herds appear to be very stable.

Track

Elk Track

Cloven hearts, much larger and rounder than those of White-tailed Deer or Mule Deer; somewhat smaller and rounder than those of Moose; 4? 1/2" (100?15 mm) long. When walking, hindprints slightly ahead of and partly overlapping foreprints; stride 30?0" (750?,500 mm). When running and bounding, foreprints and hindprints are separate; stride up to 14' (4.25 m). In snow or mud, dewclaws often print behind lobed main prints.

Sign

During the rut, thrashed saplings and large shrubs; "rubs" on saplings and small trees made as the male polishes his antlers.

Wallows: Depressions dug in ground by hooves and antlers, where copious urine and feces give a strong, musky odor.

Scat: When feeding in lush pastures in summer and early fall, flattened chips similar to dung of domestic cattle; in winter, when chief foods are dried grasses and browse, dark pellets similar to deer scat but larger, sometimes more than 1" (25 mm) long.

 

Hoofed Mammals
Mule Deer
Odocoileus hemionus
Black-tailed Deer

Description

Mule deer are medium in size compared to other deer, with a solidly built body, large ears, and long, lean, sturdy legs. The coat of their upper body is reddish or yellowish brown during the summer, and grayish in color during the winter. Juveniles have spots for several months. The throat, rump, insides of ears, and insides of legs are white, while the lower parts of the body are cream to tan in color. Its tail is white above with a black tip.

A buck’s antlers are usually spread uniformly equal (typical), but there are exceptions (non-typical). Each beam forks into two or more tines, with a typical spread around four feet. In addition to the mule deer, you'll also find the "black-tailed deer" along the Pacific Coast, which earned its name due to its black or brown tail. They are also on average slightly smaller than both mule deer and whitetailed deer.

Mule deer are between 3?to 3?5" tall, 3?10" to 7?6" long, with a 4 1/2" to 9" tail and 4 3/4" to 6" ears. They weigh anywhere between 110 to 475 pounds (male) or 70 to 160 pounds (female).

Breeding

Mule deer breed from October through December. One or two young are born from June through August after a gestation period of six to seven months, and they weigh approximately eight pounds.

Habitat

Mule deer habitat varies from forests, open desert, mountains, and foothills.

Range

Mule deer range from Southern Yukon and Western Northwest Territories (Mackenzie district) south through the Western U.S. to Wisconsin and Western Texas.

Additional Information

  • Mule deer have large ears that move constantly and independent of each other.
  • This animal is most active in the morning, evening, and on moonlit nights. It may also be seen at midday during winter months.
  • Mule deer are good swimmers.
  • Mule deer migrate up and down through mountainous terrain to avoid heavy snows.
  • Summer forage includes herbaceous plants, blackberry, huckleberry, salal, and thimbleberry. Winter forage includes twigs of Douglas fir, cedar, yew, aspen, willow, dogwood, serviceberry, juniper, and sage. Mule deer will also eat acorns and apples.
  • Mule deer often form smaller herds of both sexes in winter.
  • Herds usually consist of a doe with her single fawn or with twin fawns and a pair of yearlings.
  • Does fight quite often during encounters, so they space themselves widely as an avoidance technique. This helps to ensure that there is a good amount of food and cover for the entire herd.
  • Bucks tend to like solitude, but may band together with other bucks before and after the rutting season.
  • The buck's range is larger than the doe. During the rutting season both buck and doe may leave their home range in search of each other.
  • The buck is polygamous and searches for does in estrus, sometimes trying to lure them into a herd. A male may breed with most does in his range, and a doe usually breeds with several bucks.
  • Bucks fight with their antlers, trying to force down each other’s head. While injuries are rare (usually the loser withdraws), both animals may die of starvation if their antlers become locked. However, displays and threats often prevent actual conflict between bucks.
  • A first-year doe produces a single fawn, while older does usually produce twins. The young are hidden away for the first month or two, and their mother visits them regularly to nurse.
  • Mule deer have glands on the hind legs above the hooves. A fawn seems able to recognize its mother by the odor from these glands, and when deer frequently sniff these glands while in herds. The long hairs around the glands usually become erect when aggressive confrontations between bucks begin.
  • Mountain lion and wolves are the main predators of mule deer, while bobcats, bears, and coyotes are also considered predators of this animal.

Track

Mule Deer Track

Foreprint and hindprint like narrow split hearts, with pointed end forward. Male prints 3 1/4" (80 mm) long, female 2 3/8" (60 mm) long; walking stride 22?4" (550?00 mm). Tracks are smaller and narrower than those of Elk or Moose, and not distinguishable from those of White-tailed Deer. Distinctive bounding gait ("stotting"), with all 4 feet coming down together, forefeet printing ahead of hindfeet.

Sign

Browse marks, buck rubs, scrapes, bed, and droppings similar to those of White-tailed Deer. Bucks often strip bark from saplings when rubbing velvet from antlers. Twigs bitten off by these deer lack the neat, clipped-off look of twigs taken by rabbits and rodents.

Bed: Often leaves beds of flattened grass where it has slept. Examination often reveals sex: Both urinate upon rising, but doe first steps to one side; buck urinates in middle of bed.

Scat: Droppings are pellets, 1" (25 mm) or less long. Consistency and shape of scat vary with the season (clumps in spring when forage is moist, cylindrical pellets when moisture content of food is low).

 

The king cat in North America is the mountain lion, also known as puma, panther, or cougar. Some people claim to be able to call this cat at a drop of a hat, don't be fooled. Calling in this guy represents the pinnacle of predator calling, do so and you'll remember it the rest of your life. Calling the big cats takes tons of hard work and patience to boot, but it's worth every single minute you invest.

Throughout the West, the anti-hunting has made claims the lion needs protection. States that jumped on that bandwagon are seeing their deer and other big game herds dwindle in numbers, while the numbers of lion attacks on humans is at an all time record high. The truth is, there are many more lions than people think there are and you'd be surprised where you will find them too.


What makes calling lions so dag-gum hard to call successfully is the fact that the king cats utilize a very large home range. For males, this home range can cover as much as 200 square miles, while the home range of the females is generally less. Also lions are normally very shy creatures that don't like to be around humans. That's why I regard calling lions as the outdoor version of finding the needle in the haystack.

Cold-Calling:

Many callers have tried the concept of "cold-calling". Cold calling is basically where a caller looks for likely looking lion spots and begins calling, hoping a lion is within hearing range. This system sounds like it would work fairly well but the truth is; cold-calling lions is like winning the lottery. Yes, it happens but not very often and the odds of it happening you are next to none. But look at the bright side of things; the reality of predator calling is the fact that the caller never really knows what going to respond to the call. So who knows, maybe you'll be one of the lucky few to call in a lion unexpectedly.

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