North American elk (Cervus canadensis) were known as waapiti to the Native Americans which means “white rump”—and let us take this opportunity to be grateful for the fact that we are not similarly named for the characteristics of our backsides. Elk are the fourth largest land mammals in North America after bison, moose, and grizzly bears, with adult bulls weighing up to 1,300 pounds. Despite their bulk, elk can run up to 45 miles per hour (over 80% of the speed of the pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere). When European settlers arrived in North America there were approximately 10 million elk from six subspecies on the continent and elk were the most widespread of all hoofed animals. Currently there are only about one million elk from four subspecies in North America.
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