If you’ve been to the zoo recently, you may have noticed that our male elk is the only one on exhibit in our Big Sky Country. If you’ve looked closely, you may also have noticed that our female elk are in the back section of the exhibit. As fall approaches, our bull elk, Nubs, sheds the velvet off of his antlers. This indicates that his antlers have stopped growing and that he is preparing for the breeding season. Nubs goes through certain hormone changes that make him slightly more aggressive towards the keepers here at ZooAmerica. Because of his large size (over 600 pounds), antlers, and more aggressive behavior, the two females are separated into another section of the exhibit until the end of the mating season for safety purposes.
Elk are the second largest members of the family Cervidae, which includes our native white-tailed deer, moose, and reindeer or caribou. Members of the family Cervidae have a four chambered stomach. All but one species of deer have antlers. Antlers are grown and shed once a year and consist of bone. They are usually used in mating competitions by males. The only species of deer in which females have antlers are the reindeer, which can be seen at Hershey Park during our Christmas Candylane event on select days between November 13 and December 31.
During the winter our elk will be separated for their own safety, but will still be able to see and communicate with one another through their fence. In the early days of spring, Nubs will loose his antlers. This usually signals the end of his breeding period, and we can safely reintroduce our two female elk back into the exhibit with him.
I hope this has cleared up any questions you may have had about our elk. Please feel free to drop us a comment if there is anything else you would like to know.