University of Illinois Extension

Wildlife Directory

American Elk ( Cervus elaphus )

Cervidae
The American elk (Cervus elaphus) is also known as wapiti, and once had the largest range of any species of deer found in North America. Photo courtesy of Adele Hodde, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Description and Identification

Elk are larger than white-tailed deer. They have a reddish hue to their fur, a buff rump patch, and small tails. Adult males weigh approximately 700 pounds and stand 5 feet at the shoulder. Females are smaller, weighing approximately 500 pounds and stand 4 ½ feet at the shoulder.

Only the males have antlers.

Status in Illinois

Elk were once found throughout the state, but were extirpated from Illinois in the early 1800s. Today, they are held in captivity by landowners in the state and some occasionally escape.

Report a Sighting

If you believe you have seen this animal, please report the sighting to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.