|Elk or Wapiti
In 1673, Pere Marquette's party saw many elk as they explored the Illinois River. Early Euro-American settlers of the 1800s hunted elk for food. They also decreased the food supply of the elk by turning grasslands into farms. The last verified sighting of an elk was in 1855. Most areas of Illinois had no elk by the 1830s. There are no free-ranging elk in Illinois today.
An elk is a hooved animal of the deer family. An elk has dark brown hair on the head, neck, and legs. The body is lighter brown, and the rump is cream-colored. Mature males have branched antlers; the healthier the male, the more branches it has. Males weigh from 500 to 800 pounds. Females weigh from 450 to 550 pounds. They mate in the fall and the calves are born in the spring. One male may mate with several females.
Habitat and behavior:
Elk are mainly grazers. They live on grasslands or prairies.
Elk eat grass and wildflowers as they graze at dawn and dusk. They also eat woody shrubs and saplings.
Distribution and status:
Elk were extirpated from the wild in Illinois.