Under Construction May 2011


Cervus elaphus


Length: 70-80mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 67mm max (Moore et al 1974, Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Very long taper at tip (ASM #1) 105-110mm max on bell (ASM #2) 50-80mm neck (ASM #2) 15mm leg (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 357 microns max (Moore et al 1974, Cervus elaphus nelsoni), up to 400 microns on neck (ASM #1) 285 microns on neck, 140 microns on leg fur (ASM #2)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Bubble-pack style with cells forming a honeycomb pattern of polygons.  There seems to be S-shapes and concentric shapes in the overall pattern of lines between the cell boundaries. Hicks (1977) suggests this might be one of the only members of the deer family where we would expect to see some cortex occasionally?  The elk has intermediate hairs with a medulla that has some cortex around it.  A few hairs may even have a medulla that looks like tire tread.

Color: Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) say hair is white at the base, becoming dark brown closer to the tip with a light brown band 20mm wide in the tip third of the hair.  ASM #2 hairs seem banded or bicolor with the tip light colored.  Varying lengths of hair can make it look more banded than it is. 

Scales: Scale pattern does not change much along length.  The big polygon shapes of the medulla should not be mistaken for the scales.  Can have either smooth edges or rough edges to the fish scale-like pattern, sometimes looking like polygons.


Length: 26-30mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969) 10-15mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 17-25 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.4 (ASM #1) 0.7 (ASM #2)

Medulla: Intermediate sized hairs might have an off center or interrupted medulla, but the thinner hairs may be interrupted or have no medulla at all.  Fair to say the finer underfurs often have no medulla. Could the presence of intermediate-sized hairs be a clue?  

Color: Pale.  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) describe as light grey. 

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities:  Much larger than deer or caribou, but not as large as moose.  Yellow rump patch, grayish to brownish body and dark brown legs and neck.  Young may have spotted areas. (ADF&G 2009) Length 8-10feet and weigh 600-1,100 lbs (thesportsglobc.com)

Cultures: For example: Elk hides used to make Tlingit armor, imported from the Southern NW Coast. Henrikson, Steve “Terrifying Visages: War Helmets of the Tlingit Indians.” American Indian Art Magazine. Vol. 19 No. 1 Winter 1993. 

Notes: ASM #1 is from a GPS collar collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Etolin Island in 2009. ASM #2 is from pelt hunted by Sven Haakinson Jr. on Afognak Island circa 2007.  Peak population of elk in 1960’s coincided with liberal hunting seasons that became more restricted in the 1970’s.  (ADF&G 2009)

Troubleshooting:  Could the presence of an intermediate sized underfur hair with a complex medulla may be the feature that distinguishes the elk from the other hoofed Alaskan mammals?  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) provide a detailed description of color change along the length of the guard hair that might be diagnostic, but we need more samples of various hoofed mammals to be certain.  Cross section may be heart-shaped? (Blazej et al 1989)

Range: Found on Afognak and Raspberry Islands (Rearden 1981).  All of the elk currently in Alaska were introduced by man.  Eight calves were captured on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in 1928 and moved to Afognak Island near Kodiak in 1929.  They are also now established on nearby Raspberry Island (ADF&G 2009).  Populations introduced on Etolin Island and Zarembo Island as well.  Apparently, Rocky Mountain Elk were also introduced.  (Matthew Tynan, “20 Years Later, Southeast Elk Population Maintaining.” Juneau Empire Feb 5, 2010) In 1987, Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) were introduced to Etolin Island near Petersburg from capture in Oregon.  They are now also on Zarembo Island.  There is some discussion among biologists about possible interbreeding (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Cervidae (the cervids).  Cervus elaphus roosevelti (Rearden 1981)  Cervus Canadensis Roosevelt. Roosevelt elk are sometimes called Olympic Elk.  Elk are sometimes called “wapiti” in North America, and in the Adorjan and Kolenosky reference, for example (1969).  In Europe, the word “elk” is often used in reference to moose (ADF&G 2008). They are also sometimes called “Eastern Red Deer” (MacDonald and Cook 2009) 

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