T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Deer (Wapiti) Cervus canadensis

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Suborder: Ruminantia
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Cervus
Species: C. canadensis
Binomial name: Cervus canadensis
Common names: Wapiti, Elk, American Elk

Cervus canadensis is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, in the world. 
In 1905 20 Cervus canadensis were imported into New Zealand, from parks in the USA. Ten of these were gifted to New Zealand by President Theodore Roosevelt. They were released at the head of George Sound, Fiordland on March 3rd, 1905. They became established and are now common from Bligh Sound and Clinton River in the north to Charles Sound and Doon River in the south. They were protected under law until 1935. 
The Fiordland ‘wapiti’ is a hybrid between Cervus canadensis and red deer (Cervus elaphus). Nowadays in New Zealand, the term Elk applies to pure-breed animals and the term Wapiti applies to the crossbreeds.

Wapiti is the largest round horned deer in the world with a shoulder height of >1500 mm and males weighing >450 kg and females at >270 kg.
The winter colour is a yellowish to brownish grey, underside blackish, head neck and legs dark chestnut brown. The rump patch large and a uniform cream, bordered with dark brown. The summer body coat is more tawny, reddish or light bay with dark legs.
The antlers are only carried by males which they grow and cast annually. 
Wapiti primarily grazing on a range of grasses, herbs, shrubs and other plant material (eg broadleaf, kamahi, silver beech, lancewood grasses, sedges). 
The rut begins in mid-March to end of April. There is a gestation period of 247 to 262 days. The young are born between, late November and mid-December.

A male stag.


A female.


Distribution map of the Wapiti (Pink area)


Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/