Serwis poświęcony przyrodzie województwa podkarpackiego

European elk

                                    EUROPEAN ELK Alces alces


The elk is the largest extant species of ungulate mammals of the cervidae family, characterized by unique antlers and exceptionally long limbs. The largest subspecies encountered in Poland – the European elk – is the largest wild game species in Poland. It easily adapts to environmental conditions and although it prefers natural forests, presently it is more and more often encountered in managed forests, even near highly populated areas.



In modern times, the elk has been wiped out in Western Europe, and in the last hundred years in Poland, it was twice driven to the edge of extinction. Presently, Poland is the westernmost boundary of the species range, in populations regenerating after excessive hunting. In Poland, the elk inhabits mostly the north-eastern part of the country. In the forests of Podkarpacie the elk population is estimated to be 340 specimens. In the area 53 4818 ha covered by the project only few specimens reside.


Species Description

  • Body Mass: 250–500 kg
  • Body Length: 2.4–3.2 m
  • Shoulder Height: 1.5–2.3 m
  • Antler span: up to 2 m
  • Sexual Dimorphism: significant, females smaller than males, antlers only on males,
  • Nutrition: herbivore
  • Lifestyle: solitary/small groups
  • Lifespan: 20–25 years


Biology and ecology

The rutting season lasts from September to mid-October. The elk's mating call is not as impressive as in the case of deer. They do not gather a harem. The females remain in heat for about 7 days. Elk calves, quite often twins, are being born from May until the beginning of June. The elk feeds on ca. 250 plant species. In the summer, they eat mostly leaves and sprouts, and in the winter, buds, tops of young trees and bark from trees and shrubs. Bulls sport impressive shovel-like antlers. They are used for defensive purposes, as a deterrent, but also drawing in females. Males start growing antlers around 5 years if age. The Polish population lacks specimens with a fully developed set (or they very rare), only ones with partial antlers. Elks shed their antlers after the mating season. Their diet is supplemented by aquatic and swampy flora. The elk has a keen sense of smell, good hearing and slightly worse eyesight. It seeks out submerged plants using its sense of touch. Their extremely long legs make them well adjusted to wade in water, mud, or snow, as well as to cross obstacles. Elks are excellent swimmers. Water is their preferred element. While feeding on submerged vegetation, they can dive down to 5 m for approximately 30–50 seconds. Elks move similarly to a horse. Usually they move slowly, can also trot at speeds of ca. 30 km/h. Elk maximum activity falls on dawn and dusk. On very windy days, elks are not active, often remaining in their lairs. In their favourite refuges with abundant food and water, elks are usually not very mobile.


Protection and hazards

The elk is a typically forest animal. Elk's most dangerous natural enemy is the wolf, killing the weakest and eldest specimens. Wolves are even able to kill the most powerful bulls.


International law

  • Berne Convention – Appendix II

National legislation

  • permanent protection

IUCN threat category

  • IUCN Red List – LC (least concern)





European elk, fot....

Strona internetowa opracowana w ramach projektu "Zielone Podkarpacie", dzięki wsparciu udzielonemu przez Islandię, Liechtenstein, i Norwegię poprzez dofinansowanie ze środków MF EOG oraz Norweskiego Mechanizmu Finansowego, a także ze środków budżetu RP w ramach Funduszu dla Organizacji Pozarządowych.

Strona została rozbudowana w ramach projektu "Tropem karpackich żubrów" współfinansowanego przez Unię Europejską z Europejskiego Funduszu Rozwoju Regionalnego oraz z budżetu państwa za pośrednictwem Euroregionu Karpackiego w ramach Programu Współpracy Transgranicznej Rzeczpospolita Polska – Republika Słowacka 2007-2013.

Strona została rozbudowana w ramach projektu "Zielone Podkarpacie - popularyzacja różnorodności biologicznej w wymiarze ekosystemowym" który korzysta z dofinansowania w kwocie 896 496 zł pochodzącego z Islandii, Liechtensteinu i Norwegii w ramach funduszy EOG.

Strona została rozbudowana w ramach projektu "Ochrona ostoi karpackiej fauny puszczańskiej - korytarze migracyjne" realizowanego przy wsparciu Szwajcarii w ramach szwajcarskiego programu współpracy z nowymi krajami członkowskimi UE.

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