Eastern elk
Cervus canadensis canadensis

The eastern elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis ) is an extinct subspecies or distinct population of elk that inhabited the northern and eastern United States, and southern Canada. The last eastern elk was shot in Pennsylvania on September 1, 1877. The subspecies was declared extinct by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1880. Another subspecies of elk, the Merriam's elk, also became extinct at roughly the same time.

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As of 2017, the IUCN has reclassified all North American elk subspecies aside from the tule and Roosevelt elk as C. c. canadensis. If this is accurate, this means that the subspecies is not extinct, and has returned to the eastern U.S. in the form of the Rocky Mountain elk, introduced to the region in the 20th century.

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A full-grown bull could weigh up to 1,000 pounds, stand 50-60 inches tall at the shoulder, and carry a rack of antlers six feet in length.



Not long after the last elk was killed in Pennsylvania, federal officials, worried about mushrooming elk herds in and around Yellowstone National Park, offered the animals to anyone willing to take them. The recently formed Pennsylvania Game Commission took Yellowstone officials up on their offer, and launched a program to reintroduce elk to Pennsylvania. Starting in 1913 and ending in 1926, the Commission released 177 elk in 10 counties, including 50 animals from Yellowstone. Currently, Pennsylvania's elk herd numbers more than 800 and their range covers approximately 800 square miles.

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In 1990, feasibility studies were conducted to determine if wild, free-ranging elk still had a place in some of their former eastern habitats. Once this was complete, healthy source herds of Rocky Mountain elk from Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Alberta’s Elk Island National Park were used to introduce elk back into the former eastern elk range.

Successful elk populations have now been introduced in Arkansas (1991), Wisconsin (1995), Ontario (2001), Kentucky, Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, Michigan in 1919, the Missouri Ozarks (2011), and in 2012 Virginia. In late 2016, elk were reintroduced into southern West Virginia. In addition, feasibility studies have also been completed in Illinois and New York (although these have not yet resulted in any elk restorations).

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Population number

There may be more remaining of the eastern elk than old skeletons. In 1905, 18 elk were introduced to Fiordland National Park in New Zealand—a gift from Theodore Roosevelt. The elk were survivors of an original shipment of 20, half of which came from Yellowstone National Park and half from an Indian game reserve in Brookfield, Massachusetts, owned by H.E. Richardson. The latter are believed to be eastern elk captured in northern Minnesota by Native Americans. The possible eastern elk bloodline might explain some unusual characteristics he has seen in New Zealand elk, such as "bifurcated" antlers in which the dagger, or fourth point, forks at the tip.

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However, the likelihood of a pure bloodline is very low. Even though the animal population had successfully adapted to the harsh terrain, several factors likely contributed to a dilution of the pure gene pool. To wit, removal of protection in 1935; the crossbreeding with red deer that spread into the area; the gazetting of the Fiordland region as a national park in 1952; and the resulting status of the elk and all introduced game species being relegated to that of noxious animals, or pests, by the government agencies of the time has seen the wild herd go into decline. Today, that herd is but a shadow of its former self, being comprised now only of crossbreeds of varying degree that have defied the efforts ofgovernment agencies to exterminate or remove them from Fiordland.

Eastern elk could have also hung on in the extensive forests of Ontario. While evidence is sketchy, numerous people reported seeing a band of elk near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in the early 1980s. These elk could be of eastern origin—and could still exist in the wilds of Ontario.

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Coloring Pages


1. Eastern elk Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_elk

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