American Elk

Cervus elaphus
Bull elk with four female elk feeding on grass.
Bull elk with several females.

Photo: Michael Jeffords

Description & Identification

Elk are larger than white-tailed deer. They have a reddish hue to their fur, a buff rump patch, and small tails. Males have antlers, but females typically do not.

Adult males weigh approximately 700 pounds and stand 5 feet at the shoulder. Females are smaller, weighing approximately 500 pounds and stand 4½ feet at the shoulder.

Legal Status

Elk were once found throughout the state but were gone from Illinois by the early 1800s. Today, they are held in captivity by landowners, and some occasionally escape. There are no wild populations of elk in Illinois.

Report a Sighting

If you have seen a free-ranging elk in Illinois, please report the sighting to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Male elk walking near the woods.

Photo: Illinois Department of Natural Resources