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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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:
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.
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.
Alces alces - Eurasian Elk: Current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
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.
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.
There are no major threats to this species at present. Small threats to the species are as follows:
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