The Majestic Elk of Russia

The elk is part of the deer family. The elk is one of the biggest deer, with the largest recorded a male standing at 2.34 meters and weighing about 816 kg. The elk is distinguished from others because of the male’s palmate antlers. They eat shrubs and saplings and that is why in many Algonquian languages this particular breed of deer is named ‘moose’, which means ‘twig eater’.

The male elk’s antlers come out of the side of its head in right angles from the middle line of the skull and look like cylindrical beams. The lower points of the fork can be simple or divide two to three times. The East Siberian race of elk is a good example of this, whereas the Scandinavian species of common elk has a simpler antler. These antlers can reach twenty kilograms and are about 160 cm across. The male elk will lose its antlers after the mating season in order to conserve energy during the winter period. They grow again in spring and take all together three to five months to grow into full antlers.

The elk gets its clumsy appearance because of its long legs, which the elk uses for a ungainly trot, but when pushed they can reach speeds of up to 55 km. The muzzle is particularly long and thickset with a small hairless patch just below the nostrils. The male is noticeable as it has a sac or bell hanging from its neck. The elk’s main food is made up of leaves and young shoots from the willow and birch; in winter it’s tree bark and mast or fallen nuts and water plants in wetlands and swamps.

Their teeth are similar to animals like cows, sheep, deers and goats. On each side of the lower jaw they have three premolars, three molars and four front teeth. The upper jaw contains no teeth but has instead a plate of horn. The female elk weighs about 400 kg, the male is round about 500 kg and the calves weigh 15 kg at birth. The average elk is about 1.9 meters tall at the shoulders. Be sure to look out for elk when exploring Russia's nature reserves.


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