Elk, Moose, Reindeer or Caribou?
Learn to distinguish the various species of deer
You already know the caribou; you have seen 8 of them pulling Santa's sleigh. But most likely, you call them reindeer. Actually, although they’re not flying reindeer, in Lapland, caribous do pull pulks (a kind of toboggan or sled used to carry kids or food).
These deer like to live in herds in the northern latitudes and fare well in cold weather. Artic people hunt caribous for their antlers and meat or domesticate them for transportation and milking.
Humans have been hunting reindeer for at least ten thousand years. Some say the ancient inhabitants of eastern Canada mixed reindeer blood with alcohol as a drink to better tolerate the cold.
• Males (“bulls”) measure about 80 inches in length and weigh between 200 and 650 pounds. Females are smaller.
• Antlers can reach up to 40 inches in width.
• They like to eat lichens, and they often dig through snow to reach them.
The largest deer that survives today, the moose is easily recognizable for its antlers that resemble human palms with the fingers extended. Allegedly, its weird name comes to us from the Algonquian language. Only Americans use this name, Europeans say elk instead of moose. To add to the confusion, in America the name elk refers to another species.
• Female adults weigh 800 pounds and males up to 1500.
• Its meat tastes like veal and has very low fat content.
• You will rarely see more than two moose together. They are solitary individuals.
• Their antlers grow quickly in just four or five months, during spring and summer. Then, they shed them, as a means to conserve energy for the cold season.
• Unless you know what you are doing, do not harass a moose. He or she will not hesitate to charge directly towards you. Especially, avoid walking between a cow moose and her calf.
American elks are also known as wapiti. As in the case of the moose, the name wapiti comes from the Algonquian language of the Shawnees. These deer live in groups, bulls on one side, and cows on the other. During summer, in the mating period (called the rut) males follow female groups and make harems of 15 to 20 cows.
They follow the snow; they migrate during winter to low altitudes, and back during the spring.
Males dig holes; then, they urinate, and roll their bodies in them. Why? Female elks find the urine smell irresistible.
• Males shed their antlers each year. During the rut, they engage in antler wrestling.
• Male elks make high-pitched whistle sounds to attract females. If you pay attention, you can hear their calls within a mile.
The name comes from the characteristic color on the underside of their tails. They are smaller than elk and moose; but have become the most common big game hunting species. Hunters bag about two million specimens each year. You will find these deer in open woodlands and deserts.
• When they feel alarmed, they raise their tails.
• Young white-tailed deer are called fawns and females are called does.
• Fawns have white spots on their coats, which disappear five months after birth.
• They are good swimmers and can run at 40 miles per hour.