The elk, or wapiti, is the second largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest mammals in North America and eastern Asia. In the deer family (Cervidae), only the moose, Alces alces (called an “elk” in Europe), is larger. Wapiti are almost identical to red deer found in Europe, of which they were long believed to be a subspecies; they have recently been determined to be a distinct species based on DNA evidence.
Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves and bark. Although native to North America and eastern Asia, they have adapted well to countries where they have been introduced, including New Zealand and Argentina. Their high level of adaptability poses a threat to endemic species and ecosystems where they have been introduced.