Size: Up to 2 m high, up to 3 m long.
Weight: Up to 500-600 kg
Habitat: Forests of Europe, North America, Asia.
Diet: Juicy branches of deciduous and coniferous trees; aspen, birth, willow bark. Sometimes elks prefer to eat algae found in rivers and lakes.
Predators: Wolf, bear, lynx, puma.
The elk is a forest giant, a real behemoth compared to other deer. Unlike other deer with their neat heads, elks have massive skulls, thick necks, and elongated snouts with a small hump, overhanging upper lips, and wide ears.
They have stiff wavy fur. In winter, hair length reaches 10-12 cm, and even 16-20 cm at the withers and neck. They are usually brown to grayish black, but some elks are light yellow and even white. Elks molt twice a year.
Most elks have a fold of skin under the chin, which is 20 to 40 cm long (dewlap) whose evolutionary purpose is not yet understood.
Elks move their long legs almost vertically, which makes it easier for them to wade through impassable marshes, swampy thickets, and dense snow. Large pointed hooves are narrow and have two dewclaws on their sides to ensure better stability. Elks may appear slow, but they can actually run as fast as 40 kmph.
Elks are solitary animals. Their mating season lasts from August through September, but even at this time they do not form large herds. Female elks have a litter of one or two cubs.
They live for 20-25 years. Elks are easy to tame by feeding them milk, but they are a rare sight in zoos because they are difficult to manage — elks cannot tolerate heat.
Elk antlers have a wide base for flat broad blades which fork into numerous upward points called tines.
Only male deer have antlers which have a lot of valuable micro and macroelements and hormones. It is not much surprise that this luxurious decoration is in high demand in the export market.
In addition to antlers (both calcified and pre-calcified), people also benefit from elk meat and milk. Elk meat is very tasty and resembles beef. Foodies especially love dishes of thick fleshy lips of this species. Elk milk is much fatter than cow milk and has healing properties. In some regions, people still use elks as draft animals.
Size: About 1.2 m high, 1.5-1.8 m long
Weight: 100-130 kg
Habitat: Southern Primorye, midland regions of European Russia, Caucasus. Sika deer used to dwell in the north-east of China, Taiwan, Northern Vietnam, Korea, Japan but are virtually extinct in these areas.
Diet: Sika deer eat grass, fallen acorns, nuts, fruit, leaves of trees and shrubs, mushrooms, berries; in winter, they also eat bark and young branches.
Predators: Large carnivores from leopards and wolves to martens and lynx.
Compared to other members of the Deer family, sika deer are rather small. They are distinguished by pretty bright spots on their fur. Sika deer have graceful slender legs, fine bodies, small heads with large wiggly ears, and a slim neck. Their fur is stiff and short and has a red to pale brown colour with white spots on the sides. The rump patch can be yellow or white. Bucks have distinct manes.
Thanks to their stately posture, agility, and distinctive coats, sika deer are a character of a large number of myths and legends. Sika deer live in deciduous forests with dense tall grass (usually oak, cedar, or alder forests). Rarely, they live in the mountains at the height of up to 500 m. Sometimes they dwell in pine forests. These pack animals have herds of 4 to 9 individuals, the so-called harems which include a buck and a few does.
In the mating season, males fight for the right to continue the race. The winner gets all does of the loser. Does have a litter of one cub. Bucks do not eat during the mating season. After the season, they leave their harems and form herds composed entirely of males (6 to 8 bucks) to replenish their subcutaneous fat.
Sika deer antlers are a good product for export. Their structure is quite different from antlers of other deer — they are rather small, usually with up to 4-5 tines on each beam, with an extra buttress up from the brow. The weight of both antlers tends to be under 6 kg. The first tine of the crown is always very high. Despite their light colour and smaller size, sika deer antlers have a significant share in export of deer products.
Sika deer are a source of precious crude drugs (antlers). Export of deer antlers, blood, hides, meat, and by-products yields huge profits for the state. Sika deer shed their antlers in April and May and regrow velvet antlers in early summer when they are harvested to be exported.
Size: Body length: 1.8-2.2 m; shoulder height: 1-1.4 m
Weight: 100-200 kg
Habitat: Domestic reindeer are bred in the Far East, Siberia, Yakutia, Transbaikal. Wild herds live in the Krasnodar Territory, Yakutia, the Tyumen, Arkhangelsk and Irkutsk Regions, in the Far East and Transbaikal, islands of the Arctic Ocean. Reindeer rarely dwell in the unprotected steppes of tundra or dense forests. They prefer wooded tundra and taiga, especially forest edges adjacent to rivers and lakes.
Diet: Lichens, wild grasses, the gramineous, young shoots of shrubs and trees, berries, mushrooms, moss. Sometimes they also eat small vertebrates, birds, and eggs. Predators and other enemies: predators, parasites, insects.
Among all the cloven-hoofed animals whose antlers and other deer products are used for exports, reindeer hold a place of honour.
Reindeer have long massive necks with thick manes, slightly arched noses, small ears, distinctive tails, and thick and wide hooves for walking in the snow and getting food. Unlike other cloven-hoofed animals, both males and females have antlers.
Reindeer are brownish black to tan colour with a white rump patch and light mane. In winter, light colours dominate. Reindeer have long monochrome dense coats to protect them from cold weather. There are also multi-coloured reindeer with light and dark patches.
Reindeer are pack migratory animals that form huge herds. Groups of reindeer migrate along their favourite routes crossing rivers.
The mating season is from September through November. Unlike their relatives, reindeer are real “ladies' men” — their harems can include 3 to 13 females.
Reindeer antler export is a profitable business. These animals have a lot to be proud of — a huge curved beam, a large and bulky blade, numerous tines, and broad brow tines that extend forward. The crown is up to 1.4 m long in males and 0.8 m in females. The crown weight in males reaches 20 km, but in females it is much less, up to 6 kg.
Bucks shed their antlers in November and December, and does do it in late spring or early summer. After shedding of one crown, the structure of the next one gets more complicates, the number of tines increases. Reindeer of five years and older, with fully formed crowns, attract breeders that specialize in antler export.
In addition to antlers, people also use reindeer hides, leather, meat, milk, bones, fur, and by-products. They are also bred as agricultural and sled animals. In some regions, domesticated herds include hundreds of thousands individuals (in total, about 3 million individuals).
Size: Body length: 2 m; height: 1.5-1.7 m
Weight: Up to 300 kg
Habitat: Altai, the Krasnoyarsk Region, Crimea, the Tien-Shan, Kyrgyzstan, Transcarpathia; also found in New Zealand. Red deer prefer taiga and deciduous forests in mountainous areas with an abundance of water reservoirs and dense undergrowth.
Diet: Tree and shrub branches, buds, juicy young foliage, over 200 herbs, bark, fir needles. They also love lichens, berries, fallen fruit.
Predators: Lynx, wolverine, bear, wolf.
Red deer feature a large variety of colours from yellowish red to reddish brown. Despite the large size of the body, they have short necks with elongated heads and long wide ears. Red deer have short tails and red yellow or white rump patches. The fur is dense and monochrome, without spots. Colour intensity on legs and body may differ. Cubs are born with small spots and retain them until the first moult.
Red deer have herds of 3 to 6 individuals (the so-called harems which include a buck and a few does). They eat at night, but on cloudy days and in cold weather they also graze during the day. The mating season is September through October.
Red deer are listed as an endangered species, and are almost extinct in the wild (the estimated population is only a few thousand individuals). Red deer antlers, blood, and by-products are harvested almost exclusively on special farms in Altai and Siberia.
Red deer antlers have 5 to 11 pines or more and weigh up to 10-16 kg. The length of their crown reaches 1.2 m. Red deer antlers rest on two large, slightly curved beams; the tines are pointed. The crown has a rounded cup-like shape. Unlike elks, red deer don’t have blades between the tines and the beam.
Antlers are not only the pride of every adult stag but also have a great value for people — they are exported and used in the food industry. Red deer hides, leather, and meat are also highly prized. Red deer blood contains large amounts of iron and is used for medicines.