Moose6 Poland Karol Zub

Eurasian Elk - Alces alces

Family:
Elk, reindeer, roe deer (Cetartiodactyla Cervidae Capreolinae)
Status:
Least Concern

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Taxonomic status

Scientific name

Alces alces

Common name

Eurasian Elk

Comments on the subspecies

In recognizing Eurasian Elk (Alces alces) and Moose (Alces americanus) as distinct species, Grubb cited sources that documented differences in karyotype, body dimensions and proportions, form of premaxilla, coloration, and structure and dimensions of antlers. There is a broad zone of hybridization between the two forms in central Siberia and northern Outer Mongolia.

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Species information

Physical characteristics

Shoulder Height 180-210 cm
Tail Length very short
Weight males 380-720  kg, female 270-360 kg
Antler size 120-150 cm


Eurasian Elk color ranges from dark brownish to almost black. The hair of newborn calves is generally red-brown fading to a lighter rust color within weeks. Their legs are light grey to white and have the appearance of thin Birch trees. Elk are famouse for their characteristic shape of the head, with a large lobbed nose. On average, an adult moose stands 180 to 210 cm high at the shoulder. Males weigh 380-720 kg and females weigh 270-360 kg. The antlers of a mature animal are between 120 and 150 cm. The Moose of Alaska matches the extinct Irish Elk as the largest deer of all time. Behind only the bison, the Moose is the second largest land animal in both North America and Europe.

The male's antlers grow as cylindrical beams projecting on each side of the head at right angles to the midline of the skull, and then fork. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening.
In the common elk (Alces alces alces) the posterior division of the main fork usually expands into a broad palmation, with one large tine at the base, and a number of smaller snags on the free border. There is, however, a Scandinavian breed of the common elk in which the antlers are simpler, and recall those of the East Siberian animals.
The palmation appears to be more marked in North American moose (Alces alces americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian elk.

The male will drop its antlers after the mating season and conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers will then regrow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest growing animal organs. They initially have a layer of skin, called "velvet," which is shed once the antlers become fully grown. Immature bulls may not shed their antlers for the winter, but retain them until the following spring.

Two elk in the Biebzra forests, Poland

Two elk in the Biebzra forests, Poland

Two subadults in wintertime

Two subadults in wintertime

Habitat, behaviour, food and reproduction

Habitat

Eurasian elk is found in a range of woodland habitats, both coniferous and broadleaved, from the tundra and taiga southwards through boreal to temperate zones. It tends to prefer damp, marshy habitats and areas in close proximity to water. It is also found in open country in the lowlands and mountains, including farmland, if there is forest nearby. Eurasian elk thrives in secondary growth, and its population expansion in Scandinavia has been linked to the replacement of natural taiga forest by secondary woodland after logging.

Elk fouraging in Biebrza, Poland

Elk fouraging in Biebrza, Poland

Sedge marshes and reedlands, typical foraging habitat of elk

Sedge marshes and reedlands, typical foraging habitat of elk

Food

Eurasian elk feeds on vegetative parts of trees, shrubs, dwarf shrubs, herbs, and aquatic plants, and is a pest of agriculture and forestry in at least parts of its range. The species has seasonal movements in parts of its range, particularly in northern Europe.

Elk are so called 'browsers'  eating a lot of buts from trees and bushes

Elk are so called 'browsers' eating a lot of buts from trees and bushes

Reproduction

Eurasian elk are mostly diurnal. They are generally solitary with the strongest bonds between mother and calf. Two individuals can sometimes be found feeding along the same stream.

Mating occurs in September and October. The males are polygamous and will seek several females to breed with. During this times both sexes will call to each other. Males produce heavy grunting sounds that can be heard from up to 500 meters away, while females produce wail-like sounds. Males will fight for access to females. They either assess which is larger, with the smaller bull retreating, or they may engage in battles, usually only involving the antlers.

Female moose have an eight-month gestation period, usually bearing one calf, or twins if food is plentiful, in May or June. Newborn calves have fur with a reddish hue in contrast to the brown appearance of an adult. Newborn calves generally weigh 13 to 16 kg and rarely as much as 22 kg. Calves begin nursing within the first few hours following birth and take solid food a few days later.

The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born

The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born.

During their first 5 months, while suckling and foraging, calves will grow to more than 10 times their birth mass; occasionally weighing more than 227 kg. Calves are generally weaned in the fall at the time the mother is breeding again. The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born.

Gestation Period 230 days
Young per Birth 1-2
Weaning 5 to 6 months
Sexual Maturity female at 28 months
Life Span 16 years

Predation

An Elk in its prime has little to fear from most predators, for few animals apart from man possess the ability to kill it. Wolves (Canis lupus) tend to take either calves separated from their mothers or sick or disabled animals. There are recorded accounts of adult Elk standing their ground and successfully fending off entire packs of wolves. The front feet of an Elk , as well as its hind ones, are lethal weapons that will take their toll on unwary adversaries. Wolves, opportunists by nature, often scavenge on Elk that have died from other causes. In so doing, they often are erroneously blamed for causing the demise of those Elk.

Population size and trends

World population

The global population is in the region of 1,500,000 individuals, and the European population is in the order of 500,000.

It is a widespread and abundant species. Numbers have increased markedy in Scandinavia in recent decades, and the range is expanding in the Caucasus.

European populations show fluctuations over a multi-year cycle.
Population estimates for European countries include the following:

  • Czech Republic maximum of 50 animals
  • Estonia 10,000 individuals
  • Finland at least 110,000 individuals (60-80,000 shot annually)
  • Poland 2,800 individuals
  • Sweden 340,000 individuals

Carpathians

The moose only occurs here as migratory species. There are just a few individuals recorded. In the neighbouring flatlands the moose was increasing until the nineties when the numbers were reduced to almost half through intensive hunting.

Mongolia

The taxonomy of the two existing subspecies in Mongolia is quite unclear: according to Mongolian Red Data Book the subspecies A. a. pfizenmayeri (Zukowski, 1910) is named just Elk or Moose, in other literature Siberian Elk. In the IUCN list the subspecies is not listed.

In the Mongolian Red Data book the other subspecies, A. a. cameloides (Milne-Edwards,1867) is called Ussurian Elk or Ussurian Moose. In the IUCN list this subspecies is called Siberian Elk. In other literature (Cromsigt 2000) both subspecies are called A. a. cameloides, just distinguished by range, body size and antlers.

The exact population sizes are not well known, but estimated at 10,000 A. a. pfizenmayeri (in the 1970`s) and only 70-80 individuals of A. a. cameloides (at the beginning of the 1990`s). Mongolia is the most south-eastern area of their distribution range. A. a. pfizenmayeri occurs in the forested areas of Khentii and Khovsgol mountain range, A. a. cameloides in Hingan Mountain along the rivers Khalkh Gol and Nomrog Gol. The major and only known threat is poaching although the main distribution range is located in the strictly protected areas of Khan Khentii and Nomrog.

AreaNumbersDevelopment
World1,500,000Increasing
Europe500,000Increasing
Czech Republic50?
Estonia10,000?
Finland>110,000?
Poland2,800?
Sweden340,000?
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Distribution: maps, historical and current

Countries

Landscapes

Interactive map



Alces alces - Eurasian Elk: Current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species


Eurasian Elk Show in a larger map

Further map information

Eurasian Elk - current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Snow Sheep - current distribution

Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

 

Snow Sheep - current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Historical distribution

Eurasian moose populations during periods of population depression

Changes in the distribution of Eurasian elk (Alces alces) populations during the Pleistocene and Holocene eras were analyzed from historical and contemporary literature. In the article Fragmentation of Eurasian moose populations during periods of population depression, Taras P. Sipko and Marina V. Kholodova of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences focused on how range boundaries varied, suitable habitat was fragmented, and how local and regional populations were isolated, especially during periods of population depression. We discuss how the occurrence and duration of isolation of local populations likely influenced the genetic structure of Eurasian moose. We question the geographic division of certain subspecies, and suggest that our analysis be used to reinterpret and revise genetic structure of Eurasian moose populations.

Location of 20 described isolated moose populations

 

Current distribution

The Eurasian elk has a range in north Eurasia from Scandinavia, Poland, North Austria, and South Czech Republic (vagrant in Croatia, Hungary, and Romania), east to the Yenisei River (Siberia) and south to Ukraine, North Kazakhstan, North China (North Sinkiang), and possibly adjacent parts of Mongolia.

In Europe, it has a continuous distribution extending through Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Baltic states, Belarus, Poland and northern Ukraine.

There are three isolated subpopulations in southern Czech Republic, and the species is occasionally recorded in Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Romania.

It has been extending its range southwards along the rivers into the northern Caucasus lowlands. It ranges from sea level up to at least 1,500 m in Europe, and up to 2,500 m in the Altai mountains of Central Asia.

 

Re-introduction of a Eurasian Elk in Russia

Re-introduction of a Eurasian Elk in Russia

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Threats

There are no major threats to this species at present. Small threats to the species are as follows:

  • A wasting disease has been reported, and its causes remain poorly understood, but it is not considered to be a serious problem for the species.
  • Overexploitation caused significant population declines and range contractions in the 18th and 19th centuries, but since then populations have recovered.
  • In most European range states, elk populations are controlled to prevent damage to forestry and arable crops.

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Conservation information

IUCN Red List

Least Concern: ver 3.1

EU habitat directive

-

CITES

-

EU Wildlife trade regulation EC Reg. 338/97

-

Bern convention

Appendix III: protected fauna species

Bonn convention

-

Conservation status

Conservation status facts

  • It occurs in a large number of protected areas across its range.
  • The species is subject to intense management in some countries through hunting quotas (e.g. in Finland).
  • It is protected under national legislation in a number of countries (e.g. Germany).

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Library

Articles

Presentations

Reports

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Photos and other pictures to add

Twee-jonge-elanden.jpg

Two subadult Elk in Central Sweden, private elkfarm
Source: Mirte Kruit
Rights: May be used by LHNet

close-up-jonge-eland.jpg

Close-up from a subadult Elk in Central Sweden, private Elkfarm
Source: Mirte Kruit
Rights: May be used by LHNet

Additional photos

Please email photos and figures that may be used in further publications to

To illustrate this webpage (and for the sake of the protection of these animals) we have made use of photos of which it is not always clear who is the possessor of the credits and rights. If you feel yourself infringed in your rights or if you know the source of a photo, please let us know.

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Experts and scientific referees

IUCN SSC

For more detailed information view the 'Eurasian Elk - Alces alces' page on to the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Gruzdev, Alexander

Ecology of organisms, biological diversity
State nature reserve Wrangel island
ostrovwrangelya.org

Kuemmerle, Tobias

Effects of land use and climate change on wildlife; resilience and sustainability of landscapes; large herbivores: European bison, reindeer, moose, saiga antelope and wild boar.
Geography Department, Humboldt-University Berlin
www.hu-berlin.de

Lkhagvasuren, Badamjav

WWF Mongolia

Raczynski, Jan

Ecology of moose (Alces alces) in Biebrza river valley and scientific background of its management in Poland.
Institute of Biology, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, University of Bialystok, Poland

Sipko, Taras

Russian mammals
Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
www.sevin.ru/menues1/index_eng.html

Thulin, Carl-Gustaf

Genetics - Wildlife Management - Restoration Biology - Conservation Biology
Center for Fish and Wildlife Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
www.cfw.nu

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All comments on Eurasian Elk (Alces alces)

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